MORGANTOWN — After dominating Tennessee in its season opener, No. 14 West Virginia could be on letdown alert against Youngstown State.
But coach Dana Holgorsen doesn’t buy it.
He and the Mountaineers upperclassmen recall what transpired two years ago, when the FCS Penguins put up a fight in Morgantown.
“It was 14-14 at halftime,” Holgorsen said. “With Youngstown State, we know what we’re getting with these guys.”
West Virginia ultimately pulled away for a 38-21 victory in 2016 and went on to win 10 games overall. This year’s club figures to be setting their bar higher, with Heisman Trophy contender Will Grier fronting one of college football’s most experienced passing attacks.
While crushing Tennessee 40-14 in Week 1, Grier threw five touchdowns and the offense piled up 547 yards on only 61 snaps. A senior in his second season at West Virginia (1-0), Grier had two other potential scores dropped on pinpoint passes.
“The second year is always a lot easier,” Holgorsen said. “It slows things down, and when you look at things, you have answers. Where in Year One, you look at things and you say, ‘I don’t like that, but I don’t know what else to call, so I snap the ball.’ It’s just experience more than anything.”
Having talented weapons doesn’t hurt.
David Sills and Gary Jennings compiled 140 and 113 receiving yards respectively, while four running backs combined for 111 yards rushing on 25 carries.
“We mainly need to stay consistent and not back off because they’re an FCS school,” said Jennings, who caught a 28-yard touchdown last week. “We have to turn it up.”
Youngstown State (0-1) owns quite the FCS pedigree, which made last week’s 23-21 upset loss to Butler so stunning.
“It was obvious — we didn’t execute and we made a lot of bone-headed plays,” said Youngstown State coach Bo Pelini. “We didn’t do the things we were coached to do and we were undisciplined. It was a perfect storm of mistakes.”
“The lights came on and our fundamentals went to crap.”
The Penguins, after opening the season No. 25 in the FCS poll, are unranked this week. They’ll expect a near sellout crowd at 60,000-seat Milan Puskar Stadium this week for WVU’s home debut.
“You can’t hit rewind. You can only control what happens going forward,” Pelini said. “If you execute the game plan, it doesn’t matter where you play or how many people are in the stands or anything else.”
Tevin McCaster, a 1,000-yard rusher in 2017, ran for 166 against Butler but lost a fumble. Notre Dame graduate transfer Montgomery VanGorder completed 18 of 27 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns in his first game at Youngstown State.
The Mountaineers are 18-0 all-time against FCS programs.
“FCS teams beat FBS teams every single week — it happens. It’s going to happen this week,” Holgorsen said. “Our goal and our job is to make sure it doesn’t happen to us, so we’re going to take this very, very, very seriously.”