by Jim Buzzerd
Great win and ESPN+
After a 38-7 drubbing at Missouri a week earlier who could have predicted that the West Virginia University Football Team would rebound with a healthy 44-27 win over North Carolina State last Saturday in Morgantown? I know I couldn’t have. Odds makers put the Wolfpack at around a touchdown favorite, which I figured to be about right. Perhaps I was giving NC State more credit than deserved for wins over East and Western Carolina, or most likely, I was just lacking much optimism for the Mountaineers after two disappointing performances.
During prep for the Wolfpack last week it was learned that head coach Neal Brown was ramping up practices with more contact and increased intensity. To add to the fire, some starting positions were made up for grabs. Brown’s attempt to fuel the fire seemed to have worked as the Mountaineers were clearly playing with a different edge than in their previous two games.
In the early going it looked like maybe the Mountaineers were amped up too much for their own good with several personal fouls called against them including the ejection of Josh Norwood for targeting. It was disturbing to watch those miscues in real time, but in hindsight; maybe WVU’s aggressiveness sent a message. Whatever, West Virginia shouldn’t plan on making a habit of committing silly personal fouls.
The running game showed some life with 173 yards. It should be noted that while there was improvement with more push along the O-Line much of the yardage came by attacking the perimeter. Heck, wide receiver Sean Ryan ran for 24 yards when WVU ran a play where Ryan was supposed pass, but was forced to run, which he did very well.
Quarterback Austin Kendall threw three touchdown passes and one ill-advised interception. Kendall looked like he is getting more comfortable and showed some running ability on a 25 yard run. Mountaineer fans also got a glimpse of the potential of redshirt freshman receiver Sam James. He caught nine passes for 155 yards and a touchdown that was good enough to earn Big 12 Newcomer of the Week honors. Keep and eye on true freshman receivers Ali Jennings and Winston Wright as each had multiple catches Saturday and may see increased playing time.
Moving forward, next up is a trip to Lawrence, Kansas to meet the Kansas Jayhawks in the Big 12 opener for both teams. WVU’s win over an ACC foe on Saturday was noteworthy, but Kansas’ 48-24 win at the ACC’s Boston College on Friday was one the biggest eye poppers of the weekend. This result is a top entry into the ‘College Football Makes No Sense’ category. A week before traveling to Boston College and dominating the Eagles, the Jayhawks lost 12-7 at home to Coastal Carolina.
Don’t kill the messenger, but this week marks the first game affected by the Big 12’s new agreement with ESPN. From the WVU Sports website: In the spring of 2019, the Big 12 Conference and ESPN agreed to significantly expand their existing rights agreement, which runs through 2024-25. Under the expanded agreement, hundreds of additional Big 12 sports events annually will be distributed on the Big 12 Now on ESPN+ digital platform.
There is neither time, nor space to get into all of what this means here, in a nutshell it means if you want to watch WVU-Kansas at 4:30 p.m. Saturday you’ll have to do so on ESPN+ and this is not a fan friendly arrangement. ESPN+ is a streaming service and not available as a traditional cable or satellite channel. Your only option is to purchase a $5 monthly subscription or a $50 annual subscription. Then you’ll need reliable wifi to stream the game to your phone, notebook, computer, Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV or other streaming devices.