The 2021 season came to a close for WVU football when it lost a defensive struggle against Minnesota in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. The Mountaineers managed just one score in the game, losing by a final of 18-6.
This ends the year for coach Neal Brown and his squad at a somewhat disappointing 6-7. Despite WVU making it back to another bowl game, the season could have gone a lot better.
Naturally, the defeat was also tough for WVU backers at West Virginia sportsbooks. The Mountaineers were getting around +6 in the point spread before the kickoff.
WVU truly missed running back Leddie Brown in this one, as the senior opted out of the contest to focus on the NFL draft.
Without its 1,000-yard rusher, WVU recorded a total of only 206 yards in the bowl. The defense created some turnovers; however, it gave up a whole lot of yardage on the ground.
Both Ky Thomas and Mar’Keise Irving rushed for more than 125 yards while averaging at least 6.8 yards per carry. They combined for 273 yards on 40 carries and sent WVU home on a negative note.
The team will need to regroup, but numerous changes on the roster are coming shortly.
Quarterback Efforts Fail To Prevent Bowl Game Fall
It was a difficult day for the WVU offense last week. The unit punted seven times overall, including after the first three possessions.
The Mountaineers’ only scoring drive occurred in the second quarter and nearly tied things up.
Quarterback Jarret Doege and the offense traveled 75 yards in 12 plays to get into the end zone.
Doege took it in himself to get WVU on the scoreboard. It failed on the two-point conversion, though, so the score sat at 8-6 in favor of Minnesota.
Throughout the rest of the game, the Mountaineers produced only two more drives that went anywhere.
The first ended when Doege threw an interception in Minnesota territory right before the half. His third-down throw was picked off by Michael Dixon at the 16 and prevented WVU from getting more points.
Then, while down 12 late in the third, the offense turned it over on downs. Doege’s passes on third and fourth down fell incomplete, giving the ball back to Minnesota on its side of the 50.
It was a rough day for the QB, who completed just 58% of his attempts and finished with only 140 yards through the air.
Sophomore Tony Mathis Jr. totaled 80 yards from scrimmage but didn’t get enough opportunity on the ground.
Junior Sam James led the Mountaineers in the passing attack, reaching 40 yards on three receptions.
Defensively, senior Jackie Matthews had a quality showing with two tackles for loss, including a sack. WVU also got a lift from freshman linebacker Lance Dixon, who posted eight solo tackles and 11 tackles total.
Now the attention turns to the offseason, where the transfer portal has changed college football forever.
2022 WVU Football Roster Brings New Faces To Many Positions
There’s no question that next year’s team will look much different than this one. Brown, the Mountaineers’ workhorse, is off to the NFL, and a few others are leaving Morgantown as well.
It was announced a few days after the bowl defeat that Doege and wide receiver Winston Wright Jr. are looking to transfer.
WVU’s signal caller from the last two seasons posted his plans to move on Twitter. Doege said:
“I will forever be grateful for the friendships and memories I’ve made at WVU over the past three years. Thank you to the coaching staff for giving me the opportunity to live out a lifelong dream of mine. West Virginia will always have a special place in my heart. I am excited about the future and will be looking for a new home for the 2022 season.”
Although the quarterback from Lubbock didn’t set any records, he was mostly solid for WVU.
Wright had a reasonably successful career with the program, too.
He led all others in catches and yards, and tied James with five receiving touchdowns. Last season, Wright also contributed a decent amount, putting up 47 receptions for over 550 yards.
The defense will have several new faces in important roles as well.
Linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo, Sean Mahone and Dante Stills have all completed their senior seasons. Each departure leaves some pretty big shoes to fill.
Chandler-Semedo led the Mountaineers with 110 tackles, 29 more than the next defender. That person is Mahone, who tallied 81 tackles from his safety position. Both tied for the lead on the team in interceptions with two.
Stills led WVU in sacks with seven. He reached that mark for the second time at WVU this season, almost doubling his solo-tackle production.
WVU’s Starting Quarterback
The Mountaineers feature good depth in some positions, but it will certainly be interesting to see what happens at quarterback. Freshman Garrett Greene saw plenty of game action in 2021, though most of his usage was on the ground.
Greene completed 16 of 26 passes for 147 yards, whereas he rushed 48 times for nearly 300 yards. He’ll most likely be a part of the offense next year, but who else does that include?
Another freshman, Will Crowder, is on the roster. He got into the tilt against Long Island and completed both of his passes for 28 yards.
There is some incoming talent in Nicco Marchiol, who was named the high school player of the year in Arizona. The lefty has good size and has shown quick release abilities inside the pocket and outside on the move.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that WVU could land someone else from the transfer portal, too. This should be a busy offseason, and we’ll be sure to update you on any impactful movement.