Looking to the Past for An Answer on Saturday

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia — There is no mistaking the noise and chatter about how our West Virginia Mountaineers program might fare heading into Happy Valley Saturday night. In a series touted as one of our oldest rivalries, historically, we have not done well against the Nittany Lions on either field. The series record is handily in favor of the boys from Beaver Stadium at 48-9-2. The last time WVU found success was in October of 1988 when Milan Puskar hosted Penn State, leading to a 51-30 win.

So, how does the 2023 squad replicate this unexpected result from 35 years ago? Let’s look at the facts through some stats of that game and what we can glean for success right now:

WVU Rushing Yards: 322

Penn State Rushing Yards: 200

While nowhere near the highest rushing totals that WVU has seen in even some of our Big 12 matchups in the past decade, 322 yards is enough to span the entire field more than three times. Rushing will be a significant component of the Mountaineer attack this weekend and, if successful, can open up options for various passing opportunities.

WVU Passing Yards: 241

Penn State Passing Yards: 193

We have a new group of receivers ready to make some noise and help either quarterback at the helm for WVU look better. Transfer Devin Carter, familiar Senior Cortez Braham, and true freshmen Traylon Ray and Rodney Gallagher, all have an opportunity to pull some big plays that keep the defense from becoming singularly run-focused and provide some breathing room for Greene and the running backs around him to chip away. 

WVU Recovered Fumbles: 1

Penn State Recovered Fumbles: 0 

There is no mistaking that winning the turnover margin can be the decisive factor in winning a football game. In 1988, three fumbles happened, one of which West Virginia walked away with a ball that was not theirs when the play began. Nothing is more disruptive to a rhythm than a blown play that results in the Mountaineers getting the ball back.

WVU Caught Interceptions: 2

Penn State Caught Interceptions: 0

At the time of the 1988 victory against Penn State, the Mountaineers were under the leadership of Major Harris on the field. As one of the most recognizable quarterback names in the school’s history, his effective passing and smart ball control secured the turnover margin.

Learning New Lessons

For Garrett Greene and the offense to capitalize on a stout and formidable Penn State defense, players must look at the past. One of the notable statistics of that game, and a thorn in the side of the Penn State Nittany Lions for the past several seasons, is the mobility of the quarterback position. Major Harris was widely recognized as a true dual threat, some of the acclaim Garrett Greene is currently experiencing. Mobility forces defense adjustment, and young and hungry new receivers, could open up some exciting opportunities for deep ball threats and go lanes.

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Benjamin Gilbert
Benjamin Gilbert here - panhandle resident and enjoyer of Pitt losses. First and foremost, I am a lifelong West Virginia Mountaineer fan and do my best to inspire that passion in my beautiful wife and talented kids. Unfortunately, fandom doesn't always pay the bills. I have been writing for a decade and a half for various professions and multi-faceted franchises, so writing is what I do. Combining my skills with my passion for the WVU teams, I always seek to provide fair and honest takes on our path to finding the top of college athletics. Let's Go.