Holgorsen praises WVU’s special teams play in win

MORGANTOWN -Third-year head coach Dana Holgorsen came into Saturday’s season opener against FCS member William and Mary with more concerns than answers.

Thanks to some outstanding play from his special teams in WVU’s 24-17 victory, hopefully some of those have been removed.

Junior college transfer Nick O’Toole made his Mountaineer debut at punter a successful one, averaging 50.6 yards on his five attempts with a long of 60 yards while redshirt freshman placekicker Josh Lambert made good on all three of his point after attempts and one of two field goals – the only miss coming from 55 yards.

Also making his debut – at another position – was Parkersburg South’s Michael Molinari. The junior, who has been the team’s starting holder for the past two seasons and split the punting chores two years ago, took over the kickoff duties on Saturday.

“I felt comfortable,” Molinari said. “It felt good. I had a little wind behind me on those first two and that helped.

“My next two I got it to the one and that’s fine as long as I have good hang time so our guys can get under it. The only one I’d like to have back is that last one. I tried to kill the ball and just got under it too much.”

For the most part, however, WVU’s special teams play was solid as the Tribe (0-1) found itself having to drive the length of the field against a Mountaineer defense that continued to improve throughout the contest – shutting out the visitors out in the second half.

“That’s what the coaches are expecting us to do,” O’Toole said. “When the offense struggles it’s my job to tilt the field and I thought I did a good job of getting field position back in our favor.”

Something with which the first year player’s head coach agreed.

“He (O’Toole) was big,” said Holgorsen. “There were a couple of times when we were able to win the field position battle and that put our defense in a position to get the ball back to our offense.”

An offense that sputtered, but was able to put 17 points on the board in the second half to pull out the victory.

“We’re obviously excited to get out of the game with a victory,” said the head coach. “Hats off to William and Mary. They were exactly what we thought they were.

“They were very well coached and didn’t make mistakes. I expect these guys will win some games.”

Other players making the most out of their Mountaineer debuts included:

  • Junior quarterback Paul Millard: Last year’s backup, who was locked in a two-way battle with Clint Trickett for the starting job, completed 19-of-25 attempts for 237 yards and one touchdown.
  • Senior running back Charles Sims: The University of Houston transfer showed why many consider him one of the top newcomers in the Big 12 as the six-footer rushed for a game-high 120 yards and scored one touchdown on 22 carries.
  • Sophomore wide receiver Ronald Carswell: The Itawamba Community College transfer made only two catches on Saturday, but the second one was a spectacular 69-yard scoring strike that lifted the Mountaineers to a 17-17 tie.
  • Sophomore Will linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski: Led the team with a career-best seven tackles and his four assisted tackles also were a career best for the 232-pounder.