Today’s game with the BYU Cougars will provide West Virginia with many opportunities.
One of those opportunities is to move its record to 3-0 and still be one of just two remaining unbeaten Big 12 teams heading into conference play next Saturday.
The Cougars will provide a stiff test for the Mountaineers and will be looking to improve on what they hope is a possible bid into the Big 12 conference in the near future so the motivation is there in that regard.
The odds makers are projecting a close contest and here are three key matchups the Mountaineers will need to exploit to stay undefeated:
WVU’s Shelton Gibson and Ka’Raun White vs. BYU’s Kai Nacua
After a quiet six catch, 39-yard performance against Missouri, Gibson finally got loose against the Penguins from Youngstown State when he hauled in six catches for 171 yards and two scores. He used his stellar speed to run right past the Youngstown secondary as Skyler Howard put the ball right on the money. Gibson will need another effort like that against a BYU defense that so far has not allowed more than 363 total yards in their first three games.
White is key here for a couple of reasons. One, he is another deep threat that can keep the Cougar defense on its heels, and two, he made some interesting quotes earlier in the week about how BYU’s secondary can’t keep up with the receivers. White will need to back that talk up.
Nacua leads BYU with three interceptions already this season and obviously has been very tough to throw against from his free safety position.
WVU’s Offensive Line vs. BYU Defense
The Cougars have two really good linebackers in Butch Pau’u and Fred Warner. Pau’u has racked up 37 tackles, 5.5 of them for loss and also has a sack. Warner has contributed 20 tackles and 3.5 for loss. BYU’s defense also has five sacks as a team so keeping those two players at bay will be critical for the Mountaineers.
The West Virginia offensive line looked like one of the nation’s best against Missouri when they shut down elite defender Charles Harris, but took a small step back in week two. If they put in the effort they gave against the Tigers, they should be able to have some success with Howard, Rushel Shell, Justin Crawford and their plethora of receivers. Eyes will be on redshirt freshman Colton McKivitz at left tackle and Marcell Lazard on the right side. If those two play well, and the three veterans on the inside (Tony Matteo, Tyler Orlosky and Kyle Bosch) do what they can do, I see this one being in West Virginia’s complete control.
BYU QB, Taysom Hill vs. WVU’s Linebackers
Okay, so the whole defense is important in this one as the Cougars are due for an offensive breakout game after being pretty abysmal the last couple weeks. However, the linebackers will be the most important position based on what the Cougars have done so far this year, and that is feature Hill.
Hill has not thrown the football all that well (58.6 comp %, 2 TD’s, 4 int’s), but is a lethal runner if he can get past the first line of defense. Al Rasheed-Benton, Sean Walters, Justin Arndt, Xavier Preston, David Long and the rest of Tony Gibson’s DAWGS will need to stay in their lanes and not let Hill find running room or it could be a long day for West Virginia. Containing Hill on the ground means he may have to throw more, and you could see some turnovers created if that happens.
Let’s see what happens later today.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 P.M. at FedEx Field and will be televised by ESPN2.
Featured image credit Kelsie Vanderwijst BGS