MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After leaving the opener with a second-half shoulder injury, Jared Barber wasn’t expected to miss any action this week.
The fifth-year senior Mike linebacker “is fine” after receiving treatment and was expected back for Tuesday afternoon’s practice, said defensive coordinator Tony Gibson.
Barber contributed on two short-yardage stops, playing in his first game since an ACL tear in November 2013.
“He actually looked faster than before,” Gibson said. “I don’t know if they put a little extra metal in his knee or what.”
Barber’s decision to redshirt in 2014—instead of returning midseason—has paid off.
“Looks like he’s stronger, quicker, and more physical. That happens with a lot of guys who have knee injuries if you don’t rush them back,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “And you talk about an ironman in the weight room. Him and (strength coach) Mike Joseph were neck-and-neck for about 14 months.”
No special-teams glitches: West Virginia’s Week 1 performance on special teams didn’t provide any highlight plays—for either side—and no news was essentially good news to Joe DeForest. After giving up four return touchdowns in 2014 and bobbling way too many punts, a quiet opener was considered mostly a success.
Georgia Southern punter Matt Flynn, who averaged 46.4 yards on five punts while benefitting from rolls, forced on fair catch by KJ Dillon.
“Their guy before the game was kicking 45- and 50-yarders, and in the game he’s hitting 35-yarders, so we couldn’t field it,” DeForest said. “We should have fielded one but on the other ones I think we made good decisions on ‘Petering’ and getting away from it.”
The Eagles averaged 19.2 on five kick returns, highlighted by a big second-half hit from Jeremy Tyler that left Montay Crockett undergoing concussion protocols on the GSU sidline.
“Our kickoff cover team, I thought, played with great aggression,” DeForest said. “We’ve got guys running down there being physical.”
Redshirt sophomore Marvin Gross made three kick-return tackles, drawing praise from DeForest (“He showed up.”) and ribbing from Holgorsen.
“I’m just happy to be talking about him because he’s been here three years and hadn’t done anything,” Holgorsen said. “He’s always been able to run, you just never knew which direction he was gonna run. He was the first guy down there overtime, but I think he had his eyes closed half the time, because he ran down there and didn’t know where he was.”
Clay confesses: Breakout games from Shelton Gibson and Jovon Durante made for a we-knew-it-all-along storyline. But tight end Cody Clay admitted to being surprised.
“The deep throws, I didn’t know for sure that we had that,” he said.
After Gibson made three catches for 130 yards and Durante caught three for 121, Clay said, “That’s pretty incredible.”