#KeysToTheGame: Ground game, defense will be driving force in WVU’s season opener

Gold and Blue Nation

In 2019 West Virginia’s rushing attack was dreadful with an average of just over 73 yards per game, ranked 128th in the country, in fact WVU only had seven rushing touchdowns all season. That has to improve this season for the Mountaineers to have success.

WVU does return their leading rusher in junior Leddie Brown though he only gained 367 yards a year ago and had only one rushing touchdown. He and redshirt junior Alec Sinkfield will play an important role in the offense. The good news in week one is that Eastern Kentucky allowed Marshall to run for 282 yards and three scores in their meeting last Saturday. A good start this weekend could really help this units’ confidence for the rest of the season. 

The other key to the running game of course is the offensive line and the Mountaineers must replace the Big 12 offensive lineman of the year in Colton McKivitz.  Coach Brown has been pleased by the growth of several linemen who saw significant time last season like red-shirt seniors Chase Behrndt and Mike Brown along with redshirt sophomore James Gmiter.

The running game will also have an effect on the passing attack. Redshirt junior quarterback Jarret Doege seemed to add a spark to the Mountaineer offense when he took over in the final four games of the season, helping lead the Mountaineers to a pair of road wins. His ability to continue to improve and connect with a deep core of receivers will also be key. 

Defensively this unit could be one of the best in the Big 12 led by Big 12 preseason defensive player of the year Darius Stills. He and his younger brother Dante tormented offensive lines and quarterbacks last season combining for 14 sacks while also leading the team in tackles for loss. 

The key for the defensive unit may lie at cornerback with the graduation of Hakeem Bailey and Keith Washington. Nicktroy Fortune who appeared in 11 games and started in two as a freshman does return but he has missed significant time in camp in dealing with the loss of his mother. True freshman Daryl Porter Jr. and junior Dreshun Miller, both have impressed during camp.

Catch Scott’s full Astorg Motors Keys to the Game on Mountaineer GameDay, which goes live Saturday at 9 a.m. on your local Nexstar station.

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