Youngstown State at West Virginia

The Sports Xchange

September 05, 2018 at 7:46 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, 6 p.m. ET
SITE: Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, W.Va.
TV: AT&T SportsNet
SERIES: West Virginia leads 2-0
RANKINGS: West Virginia No. 14

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Penguins

–RB Tevin McCaster rushed for 166 yards on 29 carries last week, giving him more than 100 yards in a game for the seventh time in his career. The senior was first-team All-Missouri Valley last season, when he rushed for 1,066 yards on 221 carries and scored 13 touchdowns. He enters this week’s game needing 99 yards to hit 2,000 for his career.

–QB Montgomery VanGorder, a graduate transfer from Notre Dame, completed 18 of 27 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns against Butler in his Youngstown State debut. His first touchdown came in the first quarter when he found Miles Joiner on a 3-yard score. He had a pair of touchdown tosses in the third quarter — 28 yards to Samuel St. Surin and 44 yards to Kendric Mallory.

–CB Bryce Gibson, only a sophomore, will be looked upon to lead a new-look secondary. He made a career-high eight tackles and broke up three passes in the opener vs. Butler. Last year, Gibson started all 11 games as a true freshman, finishing with 35 total tackles.

Mountaineers

–QB Will Grier got his season off to a great start in the Mountaineers’ 40-17 win against Tennessee. He completed 25 of 34 (73.5 percent) passes for a career-high 429 yards versus the Volunteers and had a career-high-tying five touchdowns. He connected on passes to 11 different receivers. The Walter Camp Football Foundation National Offensive Player of the Week has thrown for 300 or more yards in nine of his 12 games he has played at WVU and has thrown five touchdown passes a school-record four times. He’s on the short list of legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates for a reason.

–DE Ezekiel Rose played two seasons at the junior college level before transferring to West Virginia in January 2017, but the wait was worth it. After competing for playing time and earning some snaps last year, Rose will be a key fixture in the Mountaineers’ front seven this fall. He led the squad in sacks last season with five, but the senior will need to improve on those numbers to be a real force. He had two tackles, including one for a loss, against Tennessee.

–S Kenny Robinson, who played in 11 games for West Virginia as a true freshman and was sixth on the team in tackles, picked right up where he left off in the season opener, tying for the team-high with nine stops. Stats aren’t the best measure for a college defensive back, but Robinson shows up when you watch the tape, too, routinely making decisive tackles with textbook technique.

KEYS
TO THE GAME

No. 14 West Virginia had its way with Tennessee in its season-opener in Charlotte last weekend but knows it would be foolish to look past FCS powerhouse Youngstown State when the two teams square off on Saturday evening at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia.

The Mountaineers swamped Tennessee 40-14 in a game played at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte behind another standout performance by Heisman Trophy hopeful quarterback Will Grier and a stifling defense that allowed the Volunteers just 301 yards of offense.

“I’m excited about this week, really,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said Tuesday.

“We have a whole bunch of things that we can work on from the game last weekend. You just have to keep improving and practicing. Improving is obviously going to be important each and every week — this week is no different.”

Grier got his season off to a great start, completing 25 of 34 passes for a career-high 429 yards versus the Volunteers and had a career-high-tying five touchdowns. He connected on passes to 11 receivers.

The Walter Camp Football Foundation National Offensive Player of the Week has thrown for 300 or more yards in nine of his 12 games he has played at West Virginia and has thrown five touchdown passes in a game a school-record four times.

Holgorsen expects a dogfight against the Penguins, who are coached by former Nebraska head man Bo Pelini.

“Youngstown State, we know what we’re getting with these guys,” Holgorsen said. “FCS teams beat FBS teams every single week, it happens. It’s going to happen this week. Our goal and our job is to make sure it doesn’t happen to us, so we’re going to take this very, very, very seriously and prepare just like we did last week.”

Youngstown State dropped a 23-21 decision to Butler at home Saturday after leading 21-7 in the fourth quarter. The Penguins had a touchdown called back in the loss because of a penalty, and they missed two field goals.

Tevin McCaster rushed for 166 yards on 29 carries in the loss to Butler while quarterback Montgomery VanGorder completed 18 of 27 passes for 234 yards and three scores in his starting debut. VanGorder connected on scoring tosses to Mile Joiner, Samuel St. Surin and Kendric Mallory, but the Penguins could not hold on.

“West Virginia is a good football team, they are a well-coached football team with a lot of talent and they will be a good challenge for us,” Pelini said. “Our kids are looking forward to going down there and playing in that environment, I know I am. You play games like this against teams like this to be a better football team.

“We are moving forward and trying to control what we can control and taking care of us. This should be a good preparation for some of the games we will play down the road.”

This is the third meeting between the teams, the most recent of which was in 2016 when the Penguins dropped a 38-21 contest to West Virginia in Morgantown. Youngstown State battled to a 14-14 tie at halftime before the Mountaineers scored the first 17 points of the second half.

Youngstown State cut the deficit to 31-21, but a late score made the final 38-21. West Virginia also won the first meeting between the two teams, 27-7, in Morgantown in 1938.