Thursday, September 8, 2011

WVU-Norfolk State Preview

West Virginia hosts FCS opponent, Norfolk State this weekend. It should be a nice tuneup for the Mountaineers heading into next weekend's game at Maryland. Look for WVU to end this one early, and allow as many players as possible to get some reps. Let's take a look at the matchup.


West Virginia: The Mountaineers didn't fire on all cylinders in the first game, but did score 34 points in just over three quarters. So, imagine what this offense may look like when its at 100%. Geno Smith had a nice opening game, throwing for nearly 250 yards, with two touchdowns. He also showed his elusiveness in the pocket. Smith will be hard to slow down this season, especially against severely, inferior defenses. The blocking needs major work. The line, running backs, and receivers all failed in that aspect. There may be some changes to the line if it doesn't change. As for the rushing attack, look for carries for Dustin Garrison and Vernard Roberts. This should be a game where all the healthy backs get a chance. Rushing for 40 yards a game will not be tolerated. The receiving corps looked good in route running, but Dana Holgorsen criticized the lack of speed between plays. The offense is certainly still a work in progress, but the potential is definitely there.

Norfolk State: The Spartans play a similar offense, with plenty of spread and speed. Quarterback, Chris Walley is one of the most efficient throwers in the country. His completion percentage in the first game was over 86 percent. They will try to balance the attack as much as possible with Takeem Hedgemen. The tailback averaged over five yards per rush to start the season. Norfolk State has a pretty deep crop of wideouts, so expect the Spartans to sub as much as possible. They will look to keep WVU on their heels as much as possible in this game. It's probably the only chance they have to keep it close.


West Virginia: The younger group did pretty well in week one. In three quarters of play, WVU's defense only allowed six points. However, the Mounties were only able to sack the quarterback once, and lacked a solid pass rush. Look for Jeff Casteel to mix up the blitzes moving forward. WVU will have to tighten up on the tackling as well. It's wasn't bad against Marshall, but by no means was it tight. The defense still looks a bit susceptible to the run, but probably will be until some of the young linebackers get reps. The secondary seemed a bit timid at times, but the bend don't break philosophy did work. Pat Miller established himself as the number two cornerback. Look for Miller to have a break out season. Norfolk State could be in a long day. Julian Miller and Bruce Irvin will probably spend a significant amount of time in the backfield.

Norfolk State: The Spartan defense will be led by a pair of linebackers, Corwin Hammond and DeVonte Reynolds. It's a variation of the 3-4 that actually is influenced by WVU's own Jeff Casteel. Look for outside blitzing on pass downs, and an attempt to clog the middle if possible on early downs. If Norfolk State can make WVU one dimensional than the secondary, led by Jamal Giddens, can play a bit more aggressively. It will still be a tough matchup for the Spartans, but you will certainly see an honest effort.

Special Teams:

West Virginia: It was a mixed bag for WVU in game one. Once again, the kick coverage was a disaster. However, the kick/punt return was solid, which included a 100-yard TD return for Tavon Austin. Tyler Bitencurt and Corey Smith were perfectly fine in the kick game, and the Mountaineers defended an onside kick well. However, kick coverage is still a major issue. WVU gave up a punt return for a TD, and too many yards. Look for some adjustments this week agains Norfolk State. If it continues to be a problem against the lessor opponent, then we have some real problems.

Norfolk State: Ryan Estep is a quality kicker at the FCS level. He had a nice debut, going perfect from the field. Punting duty is handled by Troy Muenzer, who has a 37 yard career average. They have good speed in the return game, which could be an issue for WVU. They will not have the size on special teams, but speed can kill.


WVU shouldn't lose this game. In fact, it shouldn't be much of a game. Dana Holgorsen would certainly love to make a statement after a strange, storm-shrotened game last week. The Mountaineers are far superior in talent, and will also have a solid crowd to help out as well. Will WVU be looking ahead to Maryland and LSU? Possibly. But that still may not be enough for Norfolk State to have a chance. Look for the offense to get closer to the well-oiled machine that all WVU fans are waiting to see.

Prediction: 51-13 West Virginia

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