After interference from Hurricane Florence prompted a cancelation last year, the West Virginia Mountaineers and NC State Wolfpack will play this Saturday for the first time since 2010.
Last season’s would-be game could have played a key role for both teams, as both were experiencing consecutive successful season and were armed with talented, experienced offenses. Safety concerns stemming from Florence put the game on hold and no makeup date was ever announced.
Now in 2019, the matchup has lost a bit of its luster. Both teams lost multiple starters on their aforementioned offenses, and both are expected to be in rebuilding mode this season.
Like WVU, NC State is sporting a new starting quarterback, new starting receivers, two new running backs and three new starting offensive linemen. Unlike West Virginia, the Wolfpack’s new-look offense has been explosive to start the season.
Through its first two games this season, NC State has run roughshod over its home state, defeating East Carolina and Western Carolina by a combined score of 75-6. Everything WVU has struggled with to start the season, the Wolfpack has excelled at.
As a team, the Mountaineers have put up 64 total rushing yards while NC State has three players over that threshold themselves, including two true freshmen. Freshman Zonovan Knight has led the charge, with 161 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Fellow freshman Jordan Houston has 108 rushing yards and sophomore Ricky Person Jr. has 71, both with one touchdown.
WVU’s biggest struggles this season have come along the offensive line, but Brown said everyone is equally to blame for the running game’s struggles.
“Our running backs, our tight ends and our wide receivers have every bit the issue as the O-line in the run game,” Brown said. “We have not blocked well, we have not run the ball hard, we have not been physical on the edge so that’s all involved with the run game.”
The WVU offensive line has also allowed four sacks. First year NC State starter Mathew McKay has been brought down only once, while throwing for 508 yards and totaling four scores. The Wolfpack as a team has yet to turn the football over as well.
Things do not get easier against NC State on the defensive side of the ball either. Opponents are averaging only 187.5 yards per game and Wolfpack has allowed only two redzone trips and zero touchdowns on the year.
Brown said beyond the specifics of each opponent the team faces there are four things his football team will continue to work at.
“Here’s the non-negotiables; we’re going to play hard, which I think we did an OK job of that. We’re going to do what we’re coached to do, which I didn’t think we did a very good job of that. We’re going to be a tougher football team, which I think we did a very poor job of that. And we’re going to be invested in what we’re doing, which I think we’ve been average at that.”
Kickoff from Milan Puskar Stadium will come at noon on Saturday. The game can be watched on Fox Sports 1.