By Alex Hickey
MORGANTOWN — Youngstown State coach Bo Pelini succeeded at one bit of strategy against West Virginia last Saturday — he kept the ball away from preseason all-American wide receiver David Sills by any means necessary.
The Penguins employed all available resources to prevent Will Grier from going to his go-to guy, holding Sills to a relatively quiet two receptions for 33 yards.
Wherever Sills went Saturday, there were two Penguins nearby, either double-teaming him or blanketing him in bracket coverage.
“It was kind of new for me,” Sills said. “But that just makes me have to go into practice harder to know how to beat brackets and double-teams.”
On that end, Sills has faith in receivers coach Tyron Carrier’s ability to help him find ways to get open.
“The way Coach Carrier moves me around gets me in good position to make plays and stuff,” Sills said. “I think that’s one way of doing it.”
In all likelihood, Sills won’t be facing defenses as determined to keep the ball out of his hands as the Penguins were. Though Youngstown won the battle of keeping passes away from Sills, the war didn’t end quite so well.
Sills’ famine was a feast for Gary Jennings and Marcus Simms, who both recorded career highs at Youngstown’s expense. Jennings scored a career-high three touchdowns, while Simms had single-game career highs in receptions and yardage with eight catches for 119 yards.
Sills expressed no discontent with his quiet game.
“There’s no frustration with it,” he said. “We all have bigger games and not-as-big games. We know when someone else is doing good, it’s all going to come back around. We just want to win. That’s what we’re focused on.”
Thanks to the esprit de corps in West Virginia’s receivers room, Sills actually enjoyed seeing his teammates being the playmakers.
“We have such a good relationship among the receivers in the room that we’re happy when other people make plays,” Sills said. “When Dom [Maiden] scored his first touchdown, you obviously saw the reaction among the receivers.”
The Mountaineers excitement for Maiden’s maiden touchdown went a bit too far over the top — Marcus Simms was flagged for excessive celebration despite being on the sideline — but Sills’ point stands true.
West Virginia’s receivers have a bond. And they also have the talent to keep defenses from focusing their efforts on shutting down just one player.
“I think it’s going to be harder for teams to do that going into conference play because we have so many good receivers who are able to make plays,” Sills said. “It’s hard for them to key in on one guy.”
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