Blurred season gets some focus at WVU
SHEPHERDSTOWN — After so many alterations, forced changes and unforeseen happenings in its football pre-season, West Virginia will finally get to begin its 2020 campaign with little fanfare and little noise when it reaches the opener on Saturday at eerily quiet Puskar Stadium at noon against battered Eastern Kentucky, a team that absorbed a 59-0 lacing in Huntington against Marshall last weekend.
Already missing from the original Mountaineer schedule are Maryland and Florida State and that previewed slate has been pared to 10 games, with the Colonels from Richmond, Kentucky the only non-conference opponent left on what was supposed to be a 12-game schedule.
All nine of the Big 12 games remain. Counting Eastern Kentucky, the Mountaineers will have six home games in Morgantown. None of the remaining dates have an announced starting time.
The crowd for Saturday’s match against Eastern Kentucky will be severely limited, with only relatives of the players being allowed in besides game officials, the media and game-day personnel.
Just nine days before the opener, WVU Coach Neal Brown announced Jarret Doege as his starting quarterback. Doege did start a few games last season, but now-reserve Austin Kendall actually started nine games in 2019.
Doege is a transfer from Bowling Green in Ohio and Kendall is a transfer from Oklahoma.
Doege and Kendall will have outside and slot receivers Ali Jennings, Winston Wright, Bryce Wheaton, T.J. Simmons and Sam James to throw their throws at when the Colonels seem vulnerable to the pass.
The leading lights at running back when the season begins are Leddie Brown and Kennedy McKoy.
The Mountaineer offensive line has some experience to begin things with its familiar faces including Colton McKivitz, Michael Brown and Chase Behrndt along with James Gmiter and Kelby Wickline.
After Marshall accumulated over 600 yards of total against the Colonels, what will WVU do to the Colonels?
Eastern Kentucky had a little more than 160 yards of total offense against a stingy Thundering Herd and the Mountaineers will send out Darius Stills, Dylan Tonkery, Exree Loe, Josh Chandler, Tykee Smith, Hakeem Bailey, Kerry Martin, Sean Malone and Keith Washington to face the staggered Colonels.
No hullabaloo in the empty stands. No “stripe the stadium” color scheme. No rattling of keys by the student body on any opponent’s third down. And little semblance of ordinary college football when the two teams come together to play “some football.”
But it is football — something you won’t find in either the Big 10 or Pac 12 this fall.