MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A helmet-to-helmet hit from West Virginia safety Josh Norwood to N.C. State wide receiver Thayer Thomas ended Norwood’s day early Saturday against the Wolfpack as the targeting call was upheld after review.
Then a few plays later, cornerback Keith Washington dove at a sliding Wolfpack quarterback Matthew McKay, as flags flew again. This time, though, Washington was able to stay in the game when the targeting call was reversed.
But coach Neal Brown wasn’t upset about the call, he just isn’t quite sure what he’s supposed to tell his defenders.
“This isn’t a knock on the officiating at all, but that targeting rule is so hard to officiate,” he said. “I don’t think Norwood’s intent was bad because if you watch the clip, he really tries to slow up, but it is targeting. He hits him with his helmet. Then we had one later in the game, and this is where I feel for officials. This is not me being negative on officials, but when a quarterback slides and Keith tackles him, I don’t know how you coach that play. If you don’t tackle him and he runs you over… you know what I mean?
“I just think it’s hard to call, I wasn’t necessarily upset.”
On Norwood’s hit, Thomas went up to make the grab across the middle, and Norwood smashed into him without launching his feet. However, he did not aim for the receiver’s midsection between his armpits and knees, which is what defensive coordinator Vic Koenning wants his defenders to do.
“What Josh did is not what we teach them in practice,” he said. “He knows not to go above the armpits. Anybody that’s seen the old Rocky movies where he’s got Apollo Creed in the corner and Mick says, ‘The body, Rock, the body!’ We tell them to tackle through the body, and if you do it between the knees and armpits, there probably isn’t going to be a problem.”
In Norwood’s replacement, Charleston native Kerry Martin got a bulk of the snaps. After an average first half, Brown and Koenning both said Martin’s performance was exceptional, finishing with five tackles.
“Kerry probably knows our stuff better than anybody,” Koenning said. “Kerry did a great job and I’m very proud of him. I went into the locker room and sprayed him with water like we just won the world championship.”
Thimons times punt perfectly
Even Logan Thimons was shocked at how easily he got to N.C. State punter Trenton Gill on his blocked punt in the third quarter.
“It was actually a great adjustment by coach (Al) Pogue – the plan the whole time was for me to be on the other side, but they came out in a different look so he sent me to the other side,” Thimons said.
With the Mountaineers winning 24-21, Thimons went untouched through the Wolfpack protection and got the block, eventually recovered by Exree Loe. Three plays later, West Virginia found the end zone to go up by double-digits for the first time.
The scheme wasn’t even a block call, but with that kind of opening, Thimons saw his opportunity and he took it, nearly overrunning the play because the ball had barely gotten to Gill and he was afraid of getting a roughing the kicker call.
“The first thing I thought when I came free was, ‘Oh man, don’t get another one of those,’” Thimons said. “I did want to slow up and make sure I wasn’t just going to smash right into him. The timing ended up being good and it all worked out.”
Young guns come through
Brown made it clear that it was open competition heading into Saturday’s game, and it showed in the wide receiving corps with a group of freshmen getting their opportunities.
Redshirt freshman Sam James was one of the highlights for West Virginia, catching nine passes for 155 yards and a touchdown. True freshman Winston Wright also earned his first start, catching four passes for 13 yards but played a lot of snaps.
Fellow true freshman Ali Jennings made an appearance in the second half, scoring his first career touchdown on a slant across the middle from Austin Kendall in the fourth quarter.
“This was kind of a test for me,” Brown said. “We got them a ton of reps this week and my philosophy is that I want to put them in and see how they respond. If they don’t play very well, then we’ll go back into redshirt mindset where we’re going to play them in three games and pick and choose where we’re going to use them.
“If they do play well, then it’s gas on the pedal and let’s go, let’s get it and they’ll be factors moving forward.”
Sophomore Sean Ryan caught four passes for 38 yards in the first half, but was banged up and did not play in the second. Junior Tevin Bush was suspended, though the team did not specify for what reason.