WVU denies upset bid

Jennings, WVU slam Youngstown State, 52-17

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s Gary Jennings slammed the door on more than just several jokes at his expense about his lack of scoring a year ago.

The senior shut down any thought Youngstown State had of an upset.

Jennings caught three touchdown passes from Will Grier to lead No. 14 West Virginia to a 52-17 victory over Youngstown State on Saturday night.

“It feels great,” Jennings said. “And the win feels even better.”

Jennings led West Virginia with 97 catches for 1,096 yards a year ago, but had just one TD catch the entire season. Grier, meanwhile, threw 18 of his 34 scoring tosses to David Sills in 2017.

During the offseason, Jennings was on the receiving end of ribbing from his coaches.

“We gave him so much crap,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He scored 1 percent of the time he touched the ball. He was tired of hearing it.”

Youngstown State (0-2), which was coming off an embarrassing loss to Butler in Week 1, showed some fight in this one. They trailed 14-7 and were driving near midfield in the second quarter. The drive stalled, and the Penguins were forced to punt. Then it was Jennings’ time to shine again.

Jennings caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Grier with 1 minute left in the first half, and the Penguins never got within 14 points again. After a slow start in the rain, the Mountaineers (2-0) piled up 625 total yards in winning their 15th straight home opener.

“We made in-game adjustments and it worked out for us,” Jennings said.

Jennings had a 33-yard TD catch in the third quarter after scores of 11 and 24 yards in the second. Grier also had a 40-yard scoring toss to Dominique Maiden in the fourth quarter. Grier completed 21 of 26 passes for 332 yards. Marcus Simms had eight catches for 119 yards for the Mountaineers.

YSU coach Bo Pelini said he tried to mix things up in the secondary, but the Mountaineers countered with a power run game.

“If we would have lined up man-to-man on those guys every down with no help … there’s just no way,” Pelini said. “We had to try to steal some things; steal some gaps to try to get our guys more help in the passing game, and that obviously opens you up against the run.”

West Virginia used a rotation of four running backs to balance things out on offense.

Freshman Leddie Brown rushed for 115 yards on 15 carries. Alec Sinkfield started and opened the scoring on a 9-yard run, but left the game in the second quarter with a left leg injury and did not return. Holgorsen said after the game that Sinkfield “should be fine.”

FCS Youngstown State (0-2) was limited to 293 total yards. Notre Dame transfer Montgomery VanGorder was 11 of 24 for 157 yards.

West Virginia converted seven of 11 chances on third down, prompting Youngstown State coach Bo Pelini to bemoan his team’s inability to stop drives.

“I knew our margin for error wasn’t big going in,” Pelini said. “We created enough third downs for ourselves, We just couldn’t get off the field.”

Youngstown State was within 28-14 after Tevin McCaster’s 13-yard scoring run early in the third quarter, but West Virginia scored touchdowns 50 seconds apart late in the period, aided by a Dravon Askew-Henry interception, to put it out of reach.

THE TAKEAWAY

West Virginia: The Mountaineers’ most pressing task was shoring up a defense that has lost three linebackers to injuries since spring practice, including starter Charlie Benton last week. JoVanni Stewart , who had one start last season at safety, was moved into Benton’s place against the Penguins and had two quarterback hurries and a tackle for loss. Starting linebacker David Long had a team-high 10 tackles. West Virginia also rotated plenty of players on the defensive line.

Holgorsen said the decision to start the 5-foot-8, 191-pound Stewart was a matter of “just getting the best 11 out there, more than anything.”

He then joked: “We didn’t want David to be the shortest linebacker in the country anymore.”

Youngstown State: The Penguins have lost six straight to Power Five schools since beating Pittsburgh in 2012. Youngstown State’s inexperienced secondary had a tough task in covering West Virginia’s deep roster of receivers.

JENNINGS ON BROWN

After Brown had eight carries for 33 yards in a 40-14 win over Tennessee last week , he stepped up after Sinkfield left Saturday’s game, leaving his teammates impressed.

“He’s a very hard runner,” Jennings said of the 211-pound Brown. “It’s going to take more than one guy usually to bring him down. He’s going to be very impressive in the future.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

West Virginia will find it tough to move up in the rankings with few upsets in the AP Top 25 this week.

UP NEXT

Youngstown State: Hosts Valparaiso next Saturday.

West Virginia: Travels to North Carolina State next Saturday. The last time the teams met was in the 2010 Champs Sports Bowl, won by the Wolfpack 23-7.

COMMENTS