by Jim Buzzerd
We’re one week closer to the West Virginia University Football Team’s Saturday, September 12 season opener against Eastern Kentucky and the game is still a go. I say it like that because in the midst of this pandemic, one has to consider that the plug on the season, or some games, could be pulled at any moment. Last week athletic director Shane Lyons announced that the home opener would be played with no fans in attendance. It was an unpopular decision, but likely only the first of more unpopular decisions to come.
“We had to finally make a decision,” WVU Director of Athletics Lyons said. “Our drop dead date was (Wednesday) to make a decision. We were prepared to move forward. But ultimately it was decided to not have fans on this Eastern Kentucky game.”
Anticipated attendance capacity, if any, for Big 12 Conference home games, starting on October 3 vs. Baylor will be announced later.
“We are disappointed that we will not be able to allow fans to attend the September 12 home game, but we are working diligently to open our gates for Big 12 Conference play,” Lyons said. “It is our goal to have fans at Milan Puskar Stadium this season, but right now, that is not possible for the EKU game.
Lyons is in a can’t win situation. Even if fans are allowed to attend games this fall, it is almost assured the restrictions will not permit all who purchased season tickets to attend some games. Plus, the language being used now sounds like the October 3 conference opener with Baylor could be without fans as well. I’m no longer a season ticket holder after being one for 40 years, so I’m not vested in the decision, but I empathize with those who are. I mean nobody wants to see the Mountaineers play in an empty stadium, but I’ll take that over not seeing them play at all.
What we’ll see this fall is anyone’s guess. The Mountaineers had their first scrimmage of fall camp Saturday and head coach Neal Brown was not impressed. “This was a good day because for the first time since March 12, we had our entire team in a team meeting,” Brown said. “Now it was spread out in the IPF (indoor practice facility), and then we practiced as a whole unit today.
“To be honest, it was sloppy as hell. It wasn’t good football. There were some good individual performances on offense and defense but it wasn’t good enough. If you watched us practice today, it was not impressive. There were too many guys on the ground and it looked like we hadn’t practiced very much in a physical environment,” Brown added.
No stats were found, but running back Leddie Brown and receiver Bryce Wheaton drew praise. No surprise, but defensive tackle Darius Stills was dominant.
“Leddie was really good today and he is a guy for us to be one of the most improved teams in the country he’s got to be a guy that is consistent for us,” Brown said. “He was more patient today. He finished runs and made guys miss and broke tackles at the second and third levels, which has been a point of emphasis.”
“Bryce has had really good days except for one. He’s got talent. He’s got the size and the speed and he’s just got to put it together,” Brown said. “He’s a little bit further ahead than I thought he’d be and he had some big plays today.”
Stills was named a pre-season All-America last week by CBS Sports and 247 Sports. “I told Darius to prove them right,” Brown said. “If you get accolades you’ve got to prove those people right. And if not picked where you want to be then you’ve got to prove them wrong. I hope our team is really hungry.”