MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – For the third year in a row, WVU football (0-1) is looking for its first win of the season in Week 2.
On paper, last week’s game against Penn State may have been the toughest test on the WVU schedule. The same data would suggest that the Duquesne (1-0) game is the easiest. Duquesne – a member of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) – is the only opponent on the WVU schedule that is not in a Power-5 FBS conference.
Still, FCS teams can shock the college football world at the most unexpected moments. The Mountaineers hope to avoid a catastrophic upset Saturday evening at Milan Puskar Stadium.
Tuning up the passing game
Now that the question has been answered as to who will lead the Mountaineers from under center, junior quarterback Garrett Greene (16-for-27, 162 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT at Penn State) has plenty of room improve in his second start as the full-time signal caller.
“We got to execute the pass game in critical pass situations,” head coach Neal Brown said. “We’ve got to be able to execute.”
Brown indicated on Monday that Duquesne tends to be a blitz-happy (5+ men blitzing on 60% of plays) team, so there could be chances for Greene to redeem himself from some of the missed downfield shots last weekend in Happy Valley.
With the ground game being the focal point of the WVU offense, Greene might not see as many pass attempts as he did in Week 1, but Brown hopes that the junior can “make layups” in the passing game.
Reps on the table
Based on Penn State’s defensive strengths – and some WVU injuries – a few emerging offensive skill players did not see as much action as some might have hoped in Week 1. Freshman wide receiver Traylon Ray received a handful of targets, but his freshman receiver counterpart Rodney Gallagher III – who is a slot receiver – took the majority of his snaps on special teams.
Brown says that he expects Gallagher’s usage to increase against Duquesne. As is the case for freshman running back Jahiem White, who missed the opener with an injury.
On defense, freshman linebacker Ben Cutter could see playing time with the first-team defense after senior Lee Kpogba and redshirt freshmen Trey Lathan took most of the off-ball linebacker reps. Brown noted on Monday that he “would’ve liked to get another linebacker in the game,” and he hopes to include some of the younger linebackers down the depth chart against Duquesne.
That all comes before potential garbage time reps for backups in the second half. Brown and the Mountaineers are quick to claim they aren’t looking past Duquesne, but FCS opponents often present an opportunity for backups in blowout games.
There may even be an opportunity for redshirt freshman quarterback Nicco Marchiol to take some snaps in a non-trick play setting.
The Dukes took care of business in their season opener against the Edinboro Fighting Scots 49-7 at home in Pittsburgh last weekend. To start the season, they go from playing a Division-II opponent at home to traveling into the house of a Power-5 program.
A win would be a daunting task for any FCS program.
“They’ve got guys that have played in these venues and played in these [types] of games before,” Brown said. “So they’re not going to be intimidated.”
Missouri transfer Taj Butts – a redshirt sophomore running back – is the early-season leader of the Duquesne offense. The former three-star recruit ran for 108 yards on 10 carries in the win over Edinboro.
“[I have] a lot of respect for them, what they’ve done. They’ve been really successful there for a long time. That conference – I coached in that conference for a year – is a competitive league. The league’s gotten better.”
Duquesne most recently beat an FBS team in 2021 when it defeated Ohio 28-26 in Athens.