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West Virginia good enough to mow over Missouri

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen hugs Missouri’s Barry Odom after the Mountaineers won 26-11 on Saturday in Morgantown.

 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia sensed it could have scored 40 points, but against punchless Missouri, such an output wasn’t necessary.

Quarterback Skyler Howard returned from an injury scare and West Virginia’s rebuilt defense proved resilient until the final two minutes during a 26-11 win Saturday.

“We’re 1-0 against a quality opponent,” Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen. “We’ll take it, knowing we have a lot of work to do.”

Justin Crawford ran for 101 yards and a score, Rushel Shell ripped off a 23-yard touchdown and Mike Molina was 4-for-4 on field goals in place of suspended All-Big 12 kicker Josh Lambert. The only drawback was how the offense became too reliant on Molina because of red-zone stall-outs.

“The way I approach it is we didn’t have enough points,” Shell said after racking up 90 yards on 16 carries. “When you get in the Big 12 you can’t score 26 points and expect to win the game. You’ve got to make every drive count, especially ones in the red zone.”

Howard finished 23-of-35 passing for 253 yards with an interception. With Missouri focused on containing West Virginia’s deep threats, Daikiel Shorts had a career-best day over the middle, catching eight passes for a 131 yards.

“With that Cover 2 the safeties were playing, the middle was open and we tried to take the advantage of that,” said Shorts, whose previous best was 97 yards in last January’s Cactus Bowl.

Missouri (0-1) dropped its debut under Barry Odom and has lost seven of eight overall.

Among the worst FBS offenses last season, the Tigers posted 462 yards but couldn’t finish its chances under new coordinator Josh Heupel. Four times they netted nothing after moving inside West Virginia’s 30-yard line, low-lighted by Tucker McCann’s missed field goal after a fumble recovery at the Mountaineers’ 7.

“Wasted possessions,” Odom said.

Drew Lock found Chris Black for the Tigers’ lone touchdown with 1:49 left and the stadium half-empty. After a two-point conversion and Missouri’s onside kick recovery, WVU reinserted its first-team defense. That group thwarted the comeback by forcing Lock’s incompletion on fourth-and-goal from the 5.

“I was really happy with our ones,” said West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “They ran (90) plays and gave up three points. Our twos went in and gave up eight points in (10) plays. But as for our starters, I was pretty comfortable with their mindset.”

Lock finished 23-of-51 for 280 yards.

After Howard left with a rib injury late in the first half, West Virginia’s backup quarterbacks committed two turnovers on the next three plays.

William Crest fumbled backward on his passing windup—leading to McCann’s missed chipshot— and Chris Chugunov threw an interception into double-coverage on his first college pass.

Still, West Virginia led 13-3, and when Howard returned to open the second half, a sharp 80-yard drive widened the margin in less than 3 minutes. Crawford converted the drive’s only third down with a 1-yard surge.

“I’ve been impressed with him the last five weeks,” said Holgorsen. “I’ve hinted at it. He’s a good player. I think he’s just getting started. He’s competitive. He’s shifty. He’s got great ball skills.”





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