The West Virginia Mountaineers enter the game with a (2-0) record with wins over Liberty & East Carolina. They are coached by 2nd year HC Bill Stewart, who took over the program when Rich Rodriguez left for Michigan. Last season, Auburn traveled up to West Virginia and played a great first half and absolutely got hammered the second half. This is not last season and that goes for both teams. Lets take a closer look at the West Virginia Offense, Defense and Special Teams:
This West Virginia offense lost it's 4-Year starting QB Pat White when he was drafted in the 2nd round by the Miami Dolphins and along with losing their talented QB, they lost the last semblance of the Rich Rodriguez running spread offense. The new offensive attack is led by 5th year Sr Jarrett Brown who has brought true balance to this offensive attack with his precision passing in the first two games. Brown has completed 43 of 57 passes (75.4%) racking up 577 yards thru the air in the first two games while also picking up an additional 142 yards of rushing. Those are some huge numbers for a guy in his first full stint as starting QB and he will look to continue to improve on those numbers this weekend. Not to be lost in the shuffle is a little RB by the name of Noel Devine that just happened to have a field day last year against Auburn when he racked up 207 rushing yards, so the Mountaineers look to be very talented in the backfield. As for the WR's, Jock Sanders is off to a fast start by being Brown's favorite target and catching an eye poping 17 passes in the first two games for 194 yards while the next closest WR is Bradley Starks hauling in 7 catches for 110 yards. The offensive line lost 4 starters from last years squad and remains the big question mark heading into the game for the Mountaineers. They are switching guys around kind of how Auburn did last season, so that causes some confusion when someone is playing one position one week and another one the next. The West Virginia Offense has put up some big numbers in the first two games by averaging 473.5 yards per game, of which 288.5 yards are from the air. I would look for West Virginia to try and air it out early on the Tigers and try to hit some quick hitters and find some situations which they are one on one with the Auburn Linebackers which could open up the running lanes a little bit more with this inexperienced offensive line in order to achieve the balance that they have done so well in the first two games.
The Mountaineers run an unconventional 3-3-5 defensive scheme which involves them trying to bring pressure to the backfield on every play, whether it be a passing play or a rushing play. They thrive on destroying the pocket and getting to the QB. In two games they have already racked up 7 sacks. This defense is led by SR's DT Scooter Berry and LB Reed Williams who were both banged up in the ECU game and are listed as questionable for this weeks game. That is a huge loss for the Mountaineers if those two do not see the field in a meaningful way. When running this type of defense, it puts a lot of pressure on the secondary, and this secondary is led by JR Brandon Hogan who is quickly becoming one of the Big East's best defensive backs. The Mountaineers will look to bring pressure early and often to disrupt the Auburn rushing game and to force Chris Todd into making bad decisions and bad throws. Both teams have the dubious honor of not allowing a sack...West Virginia will be looking hard to change that stat for Auburn.
The West Virginia Special Teams is led by Redshirt Freshman PK Tyler Bitancurt who is a perfect 4/4 in fieldgoals this season with his longest being 45 yards and JR P Scott Kozlowski who is averaging 48 yards per kick on 6 punts. The Return team is led by Punt Returner Jock Sanders who is averaging almost 15 yards per return on 4 returns and Kick Returner Mark Rogers who is averaging just over 25 yards a return on 5 returns. That is the good news for the Mountaineer Special Teams, the not so good news is that they are allowing a 26 yard punt return average on the 2 punts that have been returned while being middle of the road on kickoff returns and allowing to a paltry 22 yard per return. Against Auburn, they will be looking to bring pressure as Mississippi State did and force a block since Auburn's return guys are not scaring anyone with their .2 yards a return average.
KEYS TO THE GAME
- It's simple, Auburn needs to control the line of scrimage on the both sides of the ball, especially with West Virginia looking to bring alot of pressure.
- Auburn needs to play a more disciplined game than they have the past two games and not allow penalties that extend drives.
- Contain the QB. Jarrett Brown is not only making big plays with his arm, but he is also doing it with his feet. If Auburn gets to Brown, they need to make sure they don't let him squeeze out of there and and get the first down, especially on passing situations.
- Auburn needs an overall improvement on Special Teams. They cannot afford to give up scores on Special Teams.
That is my review of the West Virginia Mountaineers, feel free to visit the comment section to share your thoughts.