MORGANTOWN — After scoring 40 points on only 61 plays in its opener, the offense for No.17 West Virginia garnered mostly positive evaluations Sunday. (Those represented the fewest offensive snaps in a Mountaineers victory since Dana Holgorsen’s first season in 2011.)
If beating Tennessee made for a chest-thumping start, the encore against FCS opponent Youngstown State means an opportunity to further clarify position battles. Here’s how three of them look entering Week 2:
Pettaway is the top back
Over the last two weeks the staff saw Martell Pettaway emerge as the starter, and his 56 yards on nine carries did nothing to dissuade that decision. Alec Sinkfield’s string of productive practices — and his home-run speed — made him deserving of the No. 2 role.
The most unforeseen occurrence Saturday involved the most experienced runner, junior Kennedy McKoy, becoming the fourth option behind even true freshman Leddie Brown.
West Virginia planned to establish the 5-11, 215-pound Brown on short-yardage situations but trusted him enough to insert him during the 2-minute drill before the half. Brown wound up with the second-most carries (eight for 33 yards).
McKoy, after producing three 100-yard games over the previous two seasons, didn’t enter the game until the final 90 seconds of the third quarter, promptly catching a 14-yard swing pass for a touchdown. He finished with 18 yards on four carries, on the last of which he lost a fumble and appeared to suffer a right shoulder stinger.
West Virginia wound up with 36 dropbacks against 25 run calls, a product of Tennessee’s defense playing primarily man coverage and loading the box.
Jones leads at center
After a back-and-forth preseason, Matt Jones made his 14th consecutive start at center while Jacob Buccigrossi platooned.
Jones snapped on the first four possessions, before Buccigrossi came in for the end-of-half drive that resulted in a field goal. Buccigrossi also opened the second half in the lineup for two series on which Grier threw touchdowns.
Jones returned for the drive on which McKoy caught the TD pass to make it 33-17. He played center on six of the 10 series.
“It’s the kind of depth we didn’t have last year,” offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said. “It’s very comforting that we can keep rotating them and feel good about both.”
“You can go with Matt based off experience and you keep throwing Bucci in there. He went in and we still had some touchdown drives.”
Brown at right guard
Mammoth transfer Joe Brown remains the top choice at right guard after playing on the first five series and eight of 10 overall. The 364-pounder yielded a sack and needs to continue conditioning, something coaches anticipated with him arriving from junior college this summer.
Chase Berendt appears to have moved into the backup role, playing two full series. Senior Isaiah Hardy appeared on only one play and was knocked flat on his back by bull-rushing Vols defensive lineman Greg Emerson.