Before West Virginia’s season opener against Eastern Kentucky, Neal Brown said “we better be” improved in the run game.
The head coach saw some positive signs Saturday, as WVU racked up 624 yards of total offense — including 329 rushing yards on 51 attempts — in a 56-10 victory over EKU.
“This is just the start,” Brown said. “Just because we did it today doesn’t mean all of a sudden we’ve arrived and we can run the football… but it was a start.”
The Mountaineers set their 2019 season high in rushing yards with 192 vs. Kansas. They nearly met that mark by halftime against the Colonels, netting 170 yards on the ground after just two quarters.
Junior running back Leddie Brown shouldered the load in the ground game early, setting a new career high in rushing yards. He racked up 123 yards on 10 carries — all of them in the first half — and added one reception for 15 yards, which was good for a score.
Leddie Brown accounted for each of West Virginia’s first two touchdowns in the first quarter — the first a 10-yard rush, the next that 15-yard reception on a pass from starting quarterback Jarret Doege — to give the Mountaineers an early 14-0 lead.
After scoring only twice last season, West Virginia’s starting running back scored three times against the Colonels.
“To see him get off to a quick start, I was happy for him and it was well deserved,” Neal Brown said.
Redshirt junior Alec Sinkfield matched Leddie Brown’s rushing output, scampering for 123 yards on 15 carries and two scores.
Doege, who was named West Virginia’s starting quarterback shortly after fall camp concluded, only played one half, but he helped the Mountaineers build a 42-7 lead by the break. The redshirt junior went 19-25 for 228 yards and recorded three passing TDs.
Backup quarterbacks Austin Kendall and Garrett Greene also played a quarter apiece. Kendall went 3-6 for 43 yards, while the true freshman Greene went 3-4 for 24 yards and also rushed for 33 more yards.
Wide receiver Sam James led WVU with five receptions for 72 yards and a score. Bryce Ford-Wheaton also added four catches for 67 yards and a touchdown.
A pair of newcomers also made an impact at wide receiver. True freshmen Sam Brown and Reese Smith combined for eight catches and 75 yards.
Several Mountaineer newcomers also contributed on defense in their gold and blue debuts. Arizona transfer Tony Fields led West Virginia with 10 total tackles, while redshirt senior Alonzo Addae racked up seven stops and intercepted a Parker McKinney pass in the first half.
Coach Brown called Addae’s interception “the play of the game.”
The second-year head coach also noted that it was “surreal” to play a season opener in a nearly empty stadium, and while he is disappointed that no fans could attend the game, he said he is “very grateful” to have an opportunity to coach.
“Just playing college football is a win, and I mean that,” Neal Brown said. “To win and win big is a bonus.”
The Mountaineers (1-0) will enter an open week before they begin Big 12 play Sept. 26 at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys’ opener was postponed to Sept. 19 due to COVID-19 concerns.