WVU hosts William & Mary

MORGANTOWN – It’s almost time for what Dana Holgorsen and the rest of the West Virginia football program have been waiting for since the disappointing bus ride back from New York – the start of a new season.

This year’s slate begins at noon today when coach Jimmye Laycock and the William & Mary Tribe come to Milan Puskar Stadium.

Since Holgorsen has taken over the program, the Mountaineers are 2-0 in their season openers, collecting back-to-back victories against state-rival Marshall.

The third-year coach plans on taking the same approach to this year’s season opener as he has in the past.

”Much like we’ve gone into the last two years, we have to figure out what we do well and what our team is all about,” Holgorsen said.

So what is it the Mountaineers do well?

”No clue. I wouldn’t tell you if I knew anyway. We’re not going to reinvent the wheel here. Everyone knows what we do defensively and offensively; special teams is a bit more of a mystery.”

Holgorsen also pointed out that everyone knows what William & Mary likes to do, too.

”Defensively, they’re very sound,” he said. ”Offensively, they’re going to try to control the clock and get out there and run the ball.”

A reason why Holgorsen stresses the Mountaineers can’t underestimate the FCS school.

”You can’t overlook them or anyone else in that conference. Villanova has won a national championship. Delaware has won a national championship. They’ve beaten a lot of 1-A teams.”

It’s true.

In 2009, W&M opened the season with a 26-14 victory at Virginia, while it led North Carolina by 10 points with less than 10 minutes remaining before two touchdowns helped the Tar Heels escape with a 21-17 win in 2010.

Last season the Tribe held Maryland scoreless until midway through the fourth quarter when Justus Pickett’s 6-yard score won it for the Terrapins.

W&M will lean on junior tailback Keith McBride II to provide much of its offense. McBride, a Navy transfer, was last season’s leading rusher for the Tribe with almost 70 rushing yards per game.

When W&M isn’t looking to grind it out on the ground, senior quarterback Michael Graham will try to get the ball into the hands of 6-foot, 1 inch receiver Tre McBride, who led the Tribe with 1,130 all-purpose yards last season.

One weak spot on the offense is at left tackle, where redshirt freshman Jerry Ugokwe will make his first collegiate start Saturday.

Tackle George Beerhalter and safety Jerome Couplin III will lead a Tribe defense that has allowed just over 18 points per game dating back to 2009 and only 32 passing scores in the past 34 games.

That could prove to be a challenge for Clint Trickett and Paul Millard since both will see action at quarterback for the Mountaineers.

Houston transfer Charles Sims will get the start at running back, while K.J. Myers and Ivan McCartney will be the top two options at receiver.

Safety Karl Joseph and linebacker Isaiah Bruce will lead a Mountaineer’s defense that returned 15 players with starting experience from 2012.

”I just want to see what the kid’s mentalities are like, and to see more than anything which guys get wide-eyed,” Holgorsen said about his expectations for Saturday. ”Nothing gets guys more in position than a game does – you can figure out their mental toughness.

”I think we did a good job in January starting with a challenging offseason and a lot of practice in the spring and in camp. You can’t simulate a game, though. I don’t care who you’re playing. With this many new guys who haven’t taken snaps at all, you’ve got to look at them and see what their state of mind is.”