MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Entering the 2023 season, WVU offensive line coach Matt Moore said his expectation for his position group was to be the best in the country.
Moore knew it had the potential to reach that status by the end of the season, but on Saturday, it proved why it should already be in that conversation.
When junior quarterback Garrett Greene left the Backyard Brawl with an ankle injury on WVU’s second drive of the game, the offensive game plan became limited. Head coach Neal Brown and offensive coordinator Chad Scott relied on the running game more than they initially planned, leading to the guys upfront shouldering more of the load than expected.
“What an opportunity for those linemen to go out there in that situation,” Scott said. “That game plan didn’t necessarily call for us to run the ball 51 times, but that’s what it came down to. I thought those guys responded. They were resilient. They were hurting, too. We had some guys banged up and they did not want to come out of that football game.”
The Mountaineers finished the game with 151 rushing yards on 51 attempts. Donaldson and Jaylen Anderson were responsible for a combined 162 yards on 37 carries. Redshirt freshman quarterback Nicco Marchiol only attempted nine passes for 60 yards and one touchdown.
Scott said there were a few instances when they were searching for an easy pass play, but it was the offensive linemen who said to keep the ground game going.
Junior center Zach Frazier was named WVU’s offensive lineman of the week while Donaldson was tabbed the player of the week on offense. According to Brown, Frazier finished with 14 knockdowns.
“Just the way it played out, it wasn’t going to be a throw game,” Brown said. “I told the receivers, I know this isn’t why you came here but enjoy the win. Treylan [Davis] had some really impactful point-of-attack blocks and Kole [Taylor] did a nice job.”
Brown said he thinks Saturday is the best his team has blocked on the perimeter, and that the tight ends, running backs and even receivers played their part in the rushing attack.
“A couple of those knockdowns were about 14 yards downfield, too, so that shows you the type of strain those guys were exhibiting,” Scott said.
According to Brown, Cortez Brahman impressed the head coach in that category, as did redshirt freshman Hudson Clement. Taylor finished as the leading pass catcher with three receptions for 21 yards and a score while Devin Carter, Preston Fox and Clement each record one catch.
“There’s nothing better than running the ball even though they know you are running ball,” senior right tackle Doug Nester said. “It’s the best feeling in the world when they are loading the box and we are still getting yardage.”