MORGANTOWN, W.Va.— How did Paul Millard greet Friday night’s news that he would start the next day’s game against William & Mary?

“I slept like a baby,” he said.

Millard probably slept equally sound Saturday night too, having rallied West Virginia out of a 10-point hole to avoid an embarrassing Week 1 stumble against the second-weakest team on this year’s schedule.

Whether Dana Holgorsen and his staff slept well is less likely, considering this retooled team didn’t wow anyone with its debut performance. Asked what areas need attention as the Mountaineers turn preparations toward Oklahoma, the coach replied, “Where do I start?”

Well, we’ll start with Millard and the quarterbacks in evaluating WVU on the season’s first Monday morning stock report (up, down and neutral grades):

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Millard wasn’t complaining about the atypical run-pass ratio WVU employed against William & Mary. “Handing off makes my job easier,” he joked.
QUARTERBACKS
Millard completed his first six passes and finished 19-of-25 for 237 yards and one crucial touchdown—a 69-yarder to Ronald Carswell that equalized the game late in the third quarter. He also suffered WVU’s lone turnover, failing to protect the football on a sack, which Holgorsen lovingly labeled a “bonehead play.” Clint Trickett’s second-quarter appearance was brief, resulting in consecutive three-and-outs, at which time it became Millard’s game.
“The closer it got to game day, the communication between Paul and me was better,” Holgorsen explained. “I felt more comfortable with Paul out there. I thought his tempo was really good most of the drives, especially the first one where we marched it down and scored.”
RUNNING BACKS
Charles Sims carried 23 times, nearing the career-high 26 he had in a game at Houston last year, and ran for 120. His best rush capped the opening drive, an 11-yard touchdown on which he darted through three potential William & Mary tacklers without being touched.
Dreamius Smith managed 40 yards on 12 tough carries, and freshman Wendell Smallwood ran four times for 22 yards, including a physical 2-yard goal-line run that gave WVU the lead late in the game.
RECEIVERS
Freshman Daikiel Shorts made a team-high seven catches for 63 yards and alertly recovered a downfield fumble by KJ Myers, who had three catches for 30 yards.
Carswell picked up a first down with a 4-yard hitch one play before he burned William & Mary deep. Devonte Mathis (four for 44 yards) and Ivan McCartney (two for 15) saw plenty of reps, the kind of rotation Holgorsen projected to continue. McCartney had the chance to make two diving possession catches but couldn’t hold them.
The group’s makeup could be altered with the return of Kevin White, the junior college transfer who missed the opener with a foot injury.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

WVU left tackle Quinton Spain (67) blocked William & Mary’s Braxton Hicks on this play, but allowed two sacks to the Tribe’s Mike Reilly.
OFFENSIVE LINE
Two sacks might be understandable on a 60-pass day, but when the quarterbacks drop only 29 times, it’s concerning. Made more troubling by the fact William & Mary’s front seven lacks the athleticism WVU will face in the Big 12. Quinton Spain was twice beaten to the quarterback by Mike Reilly, a 265-pound junior making only his second college start.
The running game was functional, though not as productive as hoped against an FCS defense primarily concerned about stopping the pass. (West Virginia averaged a mere 3.9 yards per carry.) There was a clutch bit of power football in the fourth quarter as WVU, on its 50-yard, go-ahead touchdown march, ran it seven times in eight plays.
Another under-appreciated moment was center Tyler Orlosky picking up a blitzing linebacker just long enough for Millard to fling the deep touchdown pass to Carswell.
On the flags front, the versatile Pat Eger drew a holding penalty that WVU overcame on its second series and Mark Glowinski suffered an illegal motion penalty.
DEFENSIVE LINE
This unit produced no sacks, but Will Clarke and Dontrill Hyman each generated a hurry on Tribe quarterback Michael Graham. “We could a lot better in the pass rush, because we really didn’t get much of one,” said Clarke, who had one TFL among his five stops. Hyman has tremendous upside but has yet to turn it loose as he learns his responsibilities. Defensive end Eric Kinsey made three tackles and moved inside to nose on obvious passing downs.
Nose tackle Shaq Rowell was active and led the way with six tackles for a unit that was adequate against the run (31 carries for 102 yards—or 3.3 yards per carry).

Joe Sadlek/All-Pro Photography

Senior linebacker Doug Rigg registered WVU’s lone sack in the opener.
LINEBACKERS
Under defensive coordinator Keith Patterson’s aggressive scheme, this group is expected to be disruptive, but their first game didn’t match expectations. Isaiah Bruce, in his first game sliding out to the Spur position, made five tackles and had an assist on a negative-yardage play. At the Buck position, Brandon Golson (five stops) had a solid debut, while backup Dozie Ezemma had one pressure off the edge.
Senior Doug Rigg, after labeling himself a run-stopper during preseason camp, made West Virginia’s only sack and also deflected a pass. His backup Jared Barber made four tackles, but was unable to stop Graham from lunging across the goal line on third-and-5 scramble. On William & Mary’s previous touchdown, both Barber and Rigg ran past Darnell Laws as the running back slipped free for a 1-yard scoring catch.
Making his second career start, sophomore Nick Kwiatkoski made a team-high seven tackles, all but one on running plays.
SECONDARY
Cornerback Icky Banks was outmaneuvered by Tre McBride on a 40-yard catch in the first quarter, and free safety Karl Joseph suffered the same fate on McBride’s 28-yard catch later in the half. Strong safety Darwin Cook bit on a play-fake and was caught playing catchup on McBride’s final grab—another 40-yarder. Travis Bell, making his first start at cornerback, was flagged for pass interference.
Some of those negatives were tempered by Cook’s game-clinching interception with 3:09 left, but William & Mary hit a few too many big plays in throwing for 207 yards. That sounds minuscule compared to the Big 12 offenses WVU will face, but the Tribe was huddling up and ran only 58 plays.
Coming off a 100-tackle freshman season, Joseph had a quiet opening day with three stops, while Bell made four and Banks three. Cook had six tackles, including two in punt-coverage situations that he enjoyed more than the interception. “I felt like Rudy from Notre Dame out there,” Cook said. “I was just running, just feeling like a walk-on.”
As expected, true freshman Daryl Worley and sophomore KJ Dillon played in some packages.

Joe Sadlek/All-Pro Photography

Darwin Cook makes a crunching tackle on a fourth-quarter punt coverage.
SPECIAL TEAMS
Nick O’Toole’s big leg, not to mention his big porn ‘stache, became instantly legendary in Saturday’s debut. His two fourth-quarter punts traveled 56 and 60 yards, helping WVU off its own goal line each time. The sophomore transfer finished with an average of 50.6 per attempt.
“He’s got a big leg,” Holgorsen said. “That’s why I recruited him.”
Redshirt freshman kicker Josh Lambert didn’t come close on a 55-yard try, though Holgorsen said “I have seen Josh make 90 percent of those in practice.” Lambert later drilled a 22-yarder. “He just didn’t hit it,” Holgorsen said of the first attempt, “but he got that out of his system and came back and knocked the next one through.”
WVU’s return units didn’t break anything, and Jordan Thompson’s failure to field a fourth-quarter punt left the offense wedged at its own 6.
The punt-coverage unit was stellar, holding the Tribe to 3 yards on two returns, while the kick-coverage was merely adequate—with McBride averaging 26 yards on three runbacks.

Joe Sadlek/All-Pro Photography

WVU coach Dana Holgorsen leaves the field after Saturday’s victory.
COACHING
Holgorsen took some questions on his decision to try a 55-yard kick after William & Mary followed the miss with a six-play touchdown drive. But the risk wasn’t unsubstantiated, given Lambert’s practice performance and the kicker’s self-evaluation that he feels comfortable from 53 to 54 yards out.
A more crucial decision was to abandon the quarterback rotation after Trickett failed to net a first down in two series. Turning the game over to Millard and letting the offense find its tempo in the second half might have saved WVU from a crushing upset.
However, the coaching receives a minus for the mere fact that this was a tight game throughout. Even with only six starters returning at their 2012 positions, West Virginia was far more physically imposing and expected to handle its FCS opponent handily.
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Comments

  • charlie k

    Offense - D+
    Defense - D+
    Special teams - A
    Coaching staff - D-

  • BigBadJohnHenry

    I'd bet the ranch that the Big-12 is seriously regretting inviting WVU in and not Louisville. Louisville has a top-20 football team, a top-10 basketball program, a top-25 baseball team with an immaculate stadium, and a top-20 womens b-ball program. WVU has....
    not a top-25 program in any sport. WVU has an over-hyped football coach and an over the hill basketball coach.

    • Charles

      No the big 12 is not. We are a national brand. Check our tv ratings. Hell. Check our tier 3 package. We have 3 bcs titles to u of l's 1. Their not even the favorite team in their own state. Louisville is riding high on what's left of the big east. Their days are numbered.

  • Joe

    Good morning, guys.


    Off topic, but I was out of town this weekend and was wondering how both the IMG game call and the WVRC coverage fared and received by the listensers.

    Take care,

    Joe

  • wvajoker

    Thanks CalEer. Finally an intelligent post

  • mark

    We have the worst student section in the Big 12. They arrive late and leave early--no matter what the score. Must really need to be home studying.

  • WVUDAD

    Since Holgorsen took over the football program, there has been exactly ONE fun to watch game, the Orange Bowl, I do not like blowout losses, which have come in 1/4 of the games he has coached here, I do not like 70-63 or 50-49 games regardless of the outcome. Maryland is the bellweather now????? Hardly a daunting task the last few years. WVU will be staying home for Christmas this year. 4-8, TOPS

  • Douglas

    Actually, considering the fact that Coach Dana has completely changed to a pro set style offense and abandoned the spread offense of the Rich Rod era, I'm happy just to come away with a mark in the W column. I am worried that weary give up a handful of sacks against Oklahoma this week, but I really do think the coaching staff will have out boys ready to give a good game to the Sooners. I don't think it's going to be the blowout ESPN will predict, but Oklahoma State scares worse. Lets face it, guys... We're in the Big 12 now... It's a traditional smash mouth conference... We don't get to sit on our high horse as the 'flagship' of the conference any more... We're the underdogs.. I welcome this role.. Bring on Oklahoma!!

  • Dave

    This year's MVP-Punter O'Toole

  • big tom

    I warned everyone about this game and not being a blowout....8 new starters on offense... we aren't Alabama where their second team could probably beat 99 percent of other teams..
    our def. can't be repaired over night... we simply lack talent..
    we will have to be patient,, imagine that... I know everyone wants to win now... sure, me too... but it's not our time,,, 2015 is our time.
    this isn't the big least.. get a grip

  • RCS

    Hahahaha you gave the O-Line a down, because of 2 sacks, in which both were on the QB for holding on to the ball for way to long? That makes no sense what so ever.

  • littleterry

    We need the voice of reason. Where are you Big Larry?

  • Dennis

    The 55 yard field goal decision was poor. He is too impatient. A punt would allowed the defense to continue to gain confidence and keep momentum. Giving them a short field changed the game. He is now the head coach not a offense coordinator who always think they can score. They were fortunate to win the game.

  • Phil M.

    Listen to CalEer, finally somebody who speaks like they have some sense. I was at WVU when Bowden was hung in effigy in Woodburn Circle. How did that work out for us versus Fla. St.

    This is why we have the image we are portrayed to have by those outside of the great state of WV. Support the team and try in the face of adversity to be positive and show some class.

  • Justin

    Year 3 Dana...next comes year 4 which should be your make or break year. Wouldn't be a big surprise to see us upset Oklahoma being their coach is living off of one title game years ago.

    • big tom

      I don'[t think so,,,. we have several new coaches, and they are good recruiters, we essentially have a young team and I think dana should be ok thru the 2015. if no improvement has occurred at this point, it's time to hire bobby petrino

  • Mountaineer fanatic

    We need to protect the ball better and make less penalties. We played all four quarters and I am very happy with that. I thought Millard was pretty good and he probably will get better each week. He looks strong in the picket.
    I expect we will win this coming week against Oklahoma. They have a lot of problems also. Just need to play every down for four quarters. Love my Mountaineers.
    Lets goooooo