Heading into Happy Valley Saturday night, WVU fans are getting their first honest look at the 2023 team. You must shake off all the pre-season hype, the stories you have been reading, the deep dives into the depth charts no one seems to be releasing. This road test is unfavorable to our team in a constant rebuild for the past five seasons. Is this the year that Neal Brown finally starts really singing for his supper? There are a few questions that Game 1, win or lose, must answer.
1 – Who Is the Clear Quarterback?
You would think that this is a simple answer, but with Neal Brown, the fans often disagree with the choice of who leads the team on the field. We don’t have to look far back into our history to see countless disappointing games with Jarrett Doege under center where fans across the country were screaming at their television sets to give Greene a chance. For whatever reason, HC Brown has not been open to that idea, and one should not be overly surprised to see Marchiol getting a fair share of snaps against a Penn State defense on Saturday if anything goes the least bit sideways.
2 – Has the Secondary Improved?
You are not starting out with a small school that the big boys push around. WVU gets its truest test of its defensive mettle under the lights of Beaver Stadium. Will it be a perfect display of pass defense and coverage, probably not. What the fans really want to see, though, is a notable improvement. If viewers see that the defense can hold their own for the conference slate, you can still feel good leaving State College 0-1.
3 – How Did the Offensive Line Perform?
Not going to sugarcoat it, we are hanging our respective hats on the successes of the future NFL prospects across the front of our offense. If they can move bodies on the Penn State defense and create lanes against such a highly regarded and ranked opponent, Mountaineer fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming games – especially one particular non-conference game coming in Week 3.
4 – How Prepared is the Team?
There are factors at play with this game that none of the players on the WV side of the ball have ever experienced. With the expectancy of a full house at Beaver Stadium of roughly 110,000 people, noise and disruption are par for the course. The question becomes: is the team ready with a solid plan to communicate and execute in a hostile environment?
5 – Has the Play Calling Changed at All?
In one of the numerous interviews that Coach Neal Brown conducted through the preseason months, he commented that he intended to regain the team’s strengths – including relying on his play calling once again. The departure of Graham Harrell is something that will be felt, especially if bland playcalling leads to multiple 3-and-out scenarios that leave WVU scrambling to catch up to a growing point deficit. Now is the time to get bold. It is imperative that WVU finds its identity in this game and uses it to set the tone moving forward. Vanilla is no longer a flavor Mountaineer Nation is going to eat.
WVU takes the field against the Penn State Nittany Lions Saturday night at 7:30. Coverage on NBC.
(photo by WVU Sports)