Prediction: WVU, 48-21 ... This will be a Tiger beat down.
WVU pass offense vs. Towson pass defense
If the Mountaineers had 365 passing yards on Alabama, look for them to have much more success against Towson’s secondary. The Tigers had two defensive backs — junior safety Christian Carpenter and senior cornerback Tye Smith — earn preseason All-Colonial Athletic Association honors. But the team surrendered 273 passing yards to Central Connecticut. That’s Central Connecticut. WVU’s Clint Trickett completed 29 of 45 passes with no picks against the Crimson Tide. That’s the Crimson Tide. Mountaineer receiver Kevin White looked like a man-child in that game for WVU with 143 yards and nine catches. Wendell Smallwood, Squirt Thompson and Mario Alford all had at least five catches.
Towson pass offense vs. WVU pass defense
Alabama did a nice job picking on WVU’s secondary for 250 passing yards on 24-of-33 passing. The Mountaineers, though, have some nice athletes like Daryl Worley (who had an interception), Karl Joseph and Dravon Henry lurking. If anything, they might get caught off guard here and there by shots taken off Towson’s rushing attack. For the Tigers, junior Connor Frazier made his first career collegiate start at quarterback against Central Connecticut, completing 14 of 26 passes for 125 yards. That should have the WVU defensive backs licking their chops. Towson’s leading receiver from that game, Derrick Joseph, had five catches for 28 yards.
WVU run offense vs. Towson run defense
After losing 17 seniors from last season’s team, Towson fans knew redshirt freshmen would be hitting the field this season. One that’s already had an impact is linebacker James Simms, who led his team with 14 tackles against Central Connecticut. Still, the Tigers allowed 192 yards on the ground, 54th best among FCS teams. WVU had a paltry 28 yards rushing against Alabama, but that’s more a testament to the Crimson Tide’s defense. West Virginia running back Rushel Shell showed a flash of excellence and finished with 38 yards. Expect Dana Holgorsen to run Shell, Dreamius Smith and others right at Towson’s front behind guards Mark Glowinski and Quinton Spain.
Towson run offense vs. WVU run defense
Last season this would have gone to Towson strictly on the strength of back Terrance West. Fortunately for the Mountaineers, West is now with the Cleveland Browns, pushing starter Ben Tate. In West’s place is sophomore Darius Victor, the 2013 CAA Offensive Rookie of the Year. He had 105 yards rushing against Central Connecticut, while QB Connor Frazier added 80. The Tigers had 190 rushing yards on 34 carries compared to 26 pass attempts. WVU is ranked No. 103 in FCS rushing defense after allowing 288 ground yards to Alabama. Towson, though, doesn’t have T.J. Yeldon, Kenyan Drake and Derrick Henry running the ball. Look for Mountaineer nose tackle Kyle Rose to have a big day.
We’ll find out about Towson kicker Sam Hurwitz in a hurry. He has absolutely no stats at the collegiate level, but did transfer from Arizona, where he was playing for Rich Rodriguez. WVU certainly has the edge in punting with Nick O’Toole, averaging 43.8 yards, over Towson’s Jake Ryder, averaging 36. It’s safe to assume WVU has the better kickoff return man since Mario Alford is No. 2 nationally after returning one 100 yards against Alabama. (TU’s Derrick Joseph is, however, averaging 28.5 yards a return.) Towson is allowing but 15.8 yards per kickoff return, while WVU is allowing an average of 38. (So what’s new, right?) Oddly, both teams have only faced one punt return — both successfully.
There’s not much going Towson’s way here except the specter of last season’s success — the Tigers played in the FCS championship game — and the possibility of a WVU letdown. Towson has won 11 straight road games (last loss: Oct. 6, 2012) and beat Connecticut last season, but coach Rob Ambrose’s team graduated 17 seniors, including eight starters on offense and four on defense. The 2012 competitive game against LSU has faded. West Virginia, meanwhile, should be fired up as it opens the home season following an inspired performance against Alabama. Dana Holgorsen’s team showed improvement behind quarterback Clint Trickett and receiver Kevin White. Plus, it’s a night game in Morgantown.