Chuck Landon Grades the Herd … MU 42, Middle Tennessee 14
Quarterback Grant Wells was lights-out good. The redshirt freshman put on a show, completing 25 of 37 passes for 336 yards and five — count ‘em, five — touchdowns.
Joining Wells on the highlight reel was redshirt senior wide receiver Willie Johnson. The fleet senior has been somewhat hobbled with nagging injuries. As a result, Johnson ranked only fourth on the team in catches (15) and fifth in yardage (207). All that changed, however, against the Blue Raiders. Johnson put on a show with eight receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns. Welcome back, Willie.
The only problem with the offense was the usually reliable rushing attack was as impotent as the passing game was spectacular. At halftime, MU had only 50 yards on 14 carries (3.6 yards per carry). Star running back Brenden Knox was limited to 31 yards on 10 attempts. The problem? The offensive line got stuffed. Middle Tennessee’s defensive front dominated MU’s offensive line so thoroughly there was no running room. That problem must be addressed.
MU took care of business, but wasn’t quite as insurmountable as usual. With elusive quarterback Asher O’Hara at the controls, MT had 18 first downs and averaged a solid 4.5 yards per play. In fact, the Blue Raiders actually were more effective on third-down conversions than MU. MT was 6 for 25 (40 percent) while MU was 5 for 13 (38.5 percent).
However, the Herd did its usual superlative job against the run, holding MT to only 56 yards rushing (2.4 per carry). Senior safety Nazeeh Johnson also deserves a shout out for his superb performance. He had a team-high 13 tackles, including nine solo stops, and forced a fumble.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D
Here we go again. It has reached the point where I feel bad for kickoff man Cameron Shirkey. He booted two more kickoffs out of bounds and was replaced by punter Robert LeFevre, who probably will add kicking off to his duties. Besides that problem, punt returner Artie Henry fumbled a punt away. Turnovers on special teams simply aren’t acceptable.
The passing game was showtime. But MU can’t allow an opponent to take away the running game. The Herd never found a way to actually establish the run and that is troubling. Especially since the offensive line is banged up.
The final score was good, but remember, Middle Tennessee has a 2-6 record for a reason. This game was a little tougher than it should have been.
Chuck Landon Grades the Mountaineers … WVU 24, TCU 6
It clicked to the tune of 6.2 yards per play. Three Mountaineers, in particular, came up big. Quarterback Jarret Doege completed 19 of 26 passes for two touchdowns and also had a 1-yard TD plunge. Star running back Leddie Brown bounced back from an injury to ramble for 156 yards on 24 carries (6.5 yards per attempt). Add versatile wide receiver T.J. Simmons to the list, too. Besides catching four passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns, he also had two rushes for 16 yards.
It was a good solid performance and a great way to bounce back from the Texas loss.
It didn’t allow a touchdown. Anytime a defense can accomplish that feat, it’s a job well done. All TCU’s offense could manage was a pair of chip-shot field goals. The defense held the Horned Frogs to 3.9 yards per play. That’s because the Mountaineers kept TCU pesky quarterback Max Duggan in check.
As usual, middle linebacker Tony Fields wreaked havoc with 14 tackles, including eight solo stops. But this time his partner in crime was weak-side linebacker Exree Loe, who had 12 tackles, including five solos.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
Punter Tyler Sumpter averaged 41.0 yards and Winston Wright contributed a 37-yard kickoff return. Place-kicker Casey Legg kicked one field goal, but also missed a 40-yard attempt.
It was a very nice bounce-back effort after the nagging loss at Texas. WVU did a great job of turning the page and moving forward. That’s what coaching staffs have to do.
This was exactly the sort of performance WVU needed after the Texas loss. Now it has a bye week before hosting Oklahoma in a must-see game. What a great job of setting the stage.