First things first, James Madison is an excellent football team. They won the FCS Championship in 2016 and are better than half of the FBS programs out there. Seriously. But they still are out-gunned from a monetary and talent-depth standpoint and still managed to push West Virginia to the limit. We can certainly appreciate being pushed by what is deemed to be an inferior opponent, but (unlike us) the Mountaineers did win. And now they head off on their first road trip to face a Missouri team that should be motivated to make a statement.
Austin Kendall – R-JR: 27-42 (64.3%)/260 yards/2 TDs/0 INTs/1 sack/6.2 ypa
Jack Allison – R-JR: x
Trey Lowe – R-FR: x
The matchup: Kendall vs. Khalil (and Tyree and Joshuah)
Austin Kendall played two years at Oklahoma and one game at West Virginia. Over the 55 career passes he’s thrown, he’s completed 67.9% of them for 525 yards and zero interceptions. In that small sample size he has proven that he will make the safe choice and protect the football. If the d-line can get any sort of pressure on him and have him force some rushed decisions, our safeties need to be there to swat it away or pick it off. Tiger faithful are hungry for turnovers, and if DBs coach David Gibbs’ turnover-enhancing-philosophy actually works, then we need to get at least one interception in this game to start putting some distance between us and the baby Mountaineer offense.
Kennedy McKoy – SR: 11 carries/11 yards/0 TDs
Martell Pettaway – SR: 9 carries/20 yards/0 TDs
Alec Sinkfield – R-SO: 1 carry/3 yards/0 TDs
Logan Thimons – R-JR: x
Jackson Knipper – JR: x
The matchup: McKoy and open space vs. Garrett and Bolton
The Tigers absolutely can not allow Kennedy McKoy to have space to move. Over the years, the senior has shown to be deadly out in space while being merely decent in between the tackles. Over three years, McKoy has averaged 7.2 highlight yards per opportunity, meaning if he can get five yards he’ll probably add another 7 on top of that. That’s true for the ground and in the air, where last year he added another 200+ yards on 17 catches. McKoy was hemmed in by the James Madison defense last week, but is always a threat any time he touches the ball.
Sean Ryan – SO: 2 recs/31 yards/0 TDs
Bryce Wheaton – R-FR: 1 rec/7 yards/0 TDs
Tevin Bush – JR: 4 recs/74 yards/1 TD
T.J. Simmons – R-JR: 5 recs/58 yards/0 TDs
Randy Fields, Jr. – R-FR: 1 rec/6 yards/0 TDs
Sam James – R-FR: 6 recs/32 yards/0 TDs
George Campbell – R-SR: 1 rec/28 yards/1 TD
Jovani Haskins – R-JR: x
Mike O’Laughlin – R-FR: x
T.J. Banks – R-FR: x
The matchup: the slot guys vs. the nickel guys
The West Virginia passing game couldn’t really get anything going unless they were throwing to T.J. Simmons and Tevin Bush in the slot receiver spot. Those two combined for 9 receptions, 132 yards, and 1 touchdown. The other seven guys with a reception: 18 catches, 128 yards, 1 touchdown. You wouldn’t know it because they rarely did it, but both Tiger outside corners did well in coverage. We did, however, struggle with the inside passing from the slot and tight ends. That coverage falls on the third corner (typically Sparks or Ware/Holmes) or the boundary safety (Oliver/Perkins), and in one game, they weren’t super impressive. If West Virginia’s passing game goes off, my guess is it’ll be the inside receivers doing the damage so it’ll be imperative to make sure they don’t.
Colton McKivitz – R-SR: 1 start
Junior Uzebu – R-FR: x
Mike Brown – R-JR: 1 start
James Gmiter – R-FR: x
Josh Sills – R-JR: 1 start
Briason Mays – R-FR: x
Chase Behrndt – R-JR: 1 start
John Hughes – SO: x
Kelby Wickline – R-SR: 1 start
Tyler Thurmond – R-SO: x
The matchup: CAN WE GET A FREAKING PASS RUSH PLEASE
Maybe not the most professional way to cite a matchup, but you get the idea. Against Wyoming, our entire defensive line basically served as an absorption of the o-line blocking scheme, and if our linebackers didn’t get there, no one did. That can’t be the case this week. Too much is expected of Jordan Elliott for him to contribute a single quarterback hurry to his stat line. He needs to be disruptive in the middle to free up Jatorian Hansford and... Chris Turner?... I’ve yet to see this man do anything on the field, but apparently he’s still on the team... to be disruptive off the edge. The Mountaineer line is still new and was only able to get running backs freed for 34 yards on the ground. If that’s the case once again, then the pass will be featured heavily and we need to get some sacks and tipped passes from the four guys up front to start making me feel better about their potential.