West Virginia football faces Towson in home opener
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) West Virginia went from heavy underdog in the opener to a huge favorite in the second week of the season.
Coach Dana Holgorsen said the Mountaineers are well aware that coasting isn't an option Saturday night in the first-ever meeting with Towson of the Championship Subdivision.
West Virginia is seeking its 11th straight win in a home opener and looks to improve to 15-0 all-time against FCS opponents.
Holgorsen said he jotted down scores from games where a Bowl Subdivision team lost to an FCS school.
He only has to look to last week's win by North Dakota State over Big 12 member Iowa State. Then again, Towson beat Connecticut 33-18 on the road a year ago.
''It happens every year,'' Holgorsen said. ''You have to respect your opponent
With the Big 12 opener two weeks away, West Virginia needs to sort out its sluggish running game and fare better on defense than the 538 yards allowed last week to Alabama. The Mountaineers haven't started a season 0-2 since 1979.
West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett, coming off shoulder surgery in the offseason, threw for a career-high 365 passing yards last week.
But the offense converted only five of 14 third downs against Alabama, and Trickett would like to see that improve along with not settling for field goals inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Among the more than half-dozen dropped passes was one by Elijah Wellman near the goal line in the fourth quarter, although Trickett faulted himself for not throwing a better pass.
Trickett said that's in the past, and he's looking forward to the atmosphere of playing at night.
''The guys are going to be juiced up,'' he said. ''Night games here are special for a reason, and hopefully this Saturday will be just another example of that.''
Towson, the FCS national runner-up last season, brings a 12-game road winning streak dating to 2012. Coach Rob Ambrose said missed tackles and breakdowns in the secondary contributed to a 31-27 home loss last week to Central Connecticut State.
''We didn't finish defensively, and that's something we've got to get corrected in a really short order,'' he said.
Some things to ponder when the Mountaineers and Tigers meet under the lights:
TOUGH SCHEDULE: Playing Towson is the easy part in a tough early schedule for West Virginia, which lost to Alabama 33-23 in Atlanta. West Virginia travels next week to face Maryland, which beat the Mountaineers 37-0 a year ago in Baltimore. On Sept. 20, West Virginia opens the Big 12 schedule at home against No. 4 Oklahoma.
RUNNING ISSUES: West Virginia will get the chance it didn't have last week to get some extensive carries for its group of running backs. Four backs managed just 58 yards on 19 carries against Alabama. Rushel Shell had a team-high 38 yards.
TOWSON'S CHANCES: The Tigers will need a solid performance from junior Connor Frazier. He accounted for three touchdowns in his first career start, including a 49-yard scramble in the fourth quarter, but he was held to 125 yards passing. Darius Victor ran for 105 yards and will match up against a West Virginia defense that surrendered 288 rushing yards to Alabama and didn't get a quarterback sack.
SPECIAL TEAMS: West Virginia's Mario Alford returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown against the Crimson Tide. The last time a Mountaineer scored on a kickoff in consecutive games was Nate Terry in 2000 against Pittsburgh and a month later against Mississippi in the Music City Bowl.
SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER: The last time West Virginia scheduled a home opener at night was in 2005, when it beat Wofford 35-7. That year, West Virginia won the Big East title and went on to defeat Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. West Virginia's 2011 home opener against Marshall was a day game that was delayed for several hours by thunderstorms before being called in the fourth quarter shortly before 11 p.m.