The Eastern Kentucky Colonels made a stop in the Mountain State to face Marshall in their season opener on Saturday. Football fans across the state had their eyes on that game for a plethora of reasons, including fans of the West Virginia Mountaineers who may have wanted to get a scout in before their Morgantown trip on Sept. 12.
The Colonels will be entering their matchup 0-1 after taking a massive 59-0 loss to the Thundering Herd. Here’s what we learned about WVU’s first opponent from their opener:
Herd pass-catchers had an absolute field day as EKU’s secondary struggled
Marshall wasted no time in turning to the passing game against Eastern Kentucky. Four of their five first half touchdowns came through the air, including their opening drive score just 2:41 into the contest.
Quarterback Grant Wells had a career day on the gridiron, completing 16-of-23 passes for 307 yards and 4 touchdowns — but it seemed that the guys catching the passes had more fun than the guys throwing them. In total, 13 different Marshall pass-catchers had a reception (including three tight ends in the first quarter alone) as the Colonel secondary struggled to keep up with the Thundering Herd.
By the final whistle, Marshall finished with 345 yards and five touchdowns through the air.
Mountaineer defensive backs might not have to work very hard next week
Eastern Kentucky didn’t get much of a chance to run their offense — they ran just 47 plays to Marshall’s 83 — but when they did, seldom did they take to the air.
31 of those 47 plays were ground attempts, amassing a total of 86 yards. Coach Walt Wells opted to give junior Alonzo Booth the bulk of the carries, but Quentin Pringle led the team with 39 yards (including a team-high rush of 23 yards).
Sophomore quarterback Parker McKinney is in his first full season as EKU’s starter — last season as a redshirt freshman, he started in seven of the 10 games he played, averaging 165.1 passing yards in each trip. In his 2020 debut, however, he threw the ball just 10 times, completing seven of those passes for 71 yards — his lowest career mark in games with double-digit pass attempts.
Marshall’s pass rush thundered through the trenches
The Colonels’ decision to lean on the run game might have had something to do with Marshall’s pass rush, which routinely game McKinney a scare when he dropped back to pass. He ended up getting sacked twice and scrambling once, logging -11 rushing yards for the contest. The Thundering Herd also burst through to hurry McKinney three times.
The defense didn’t just mess with the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage. Marshall stopped four ball carriers behind the line for a loss, which contributed to the Colonels’ sub-100 yard game.
The Mountaineers kick off against the Colonels Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium at noon ET. That game will be broadcast on FOX Sports 1, but don’t miss live coverage from GBN in Morgantown!