Running Wild and Wonderful in West Virginia
Brown, Sinkfield each gain 100 yards rushing in win
MORGANTOWN — College football is back and so is the West Virginia University rushing attack.
Is it too early to tell? Perhaps, but the Mountaineers racked up 329 total rushing yards in Saturday’s season opening 56-10 victory over Eastern Kentucky at Mountaineer Field inside Milan Puskar Stadium, the most rushing yards the team has chalked up in a game since coach Neal Brown took over after the 2018 season.
Last year’s team-high was 192 yards on Sept. 21, 2019 in a 29-24 victory over Kansas.
“We have put a plan together and really it started in that month of November on how we had to get better because you’re not going to be a championship program and win at an elite level in the Big 12 unless you can run the ball and stop the run,” Brown said. “I spent a lot of my quarantine time on that. Our offensive staff, we worked and came up with a plan, and we put that plan into play.
“Now, this is just the start. Just because we did it (Saturday) doesn’t mean that all of a sudden we’ve arrived running the football. We have to go to Stillwater, and we have to do it. We’ve got to do it against Baylor, and we’ve got to do it against people that we are going to have to beat to be competitive in our league, but it was a start.”
Junior running backs Leddie Brown and Alec Sinkfield each ran for career-highs of 123 yards and two touchdowns to lead the West Virginia rushing attack.
It’s the first time the Mountaineers have had two 100-yard rushers in a game since Justin Crawford (125) and Kennedy McKoy (105) accomplished the feat on Sept. 23, 2017 against Kansas and it’s the first time since Nov. 21, 2015 that a pair of WVU tailbacks combined for four touchdown runs (Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood at Kansas).
“Leddie and Sinkfield had nice camps,” Coach Brown said. “I felt like Leddie, over the last two weeks, (has improved) because once we started practicing in a physical nature, he has really risen his game. To see him get off on a quick start and go for 100-plus (Saturday), I was happy for him, and it was well deserved.
“To see (both) of them get rewarded (Saturday) was good.”
The Mountaineers’ longest run from scrimmage during the 2019 campaign was only a 36-yard jaunt. Leddie Brown left that number in the dust on the game’s opening play from scrimmage as he raced 38 yards down the field to set the tone.
He added another 36-yard run in the second quarter for good measure.
“I think in the offseason, I focused on being more lean and getting my joints stronger,” the 5-foot-11, 210 pound tailback said. “I felt a little quicker.
“(I) took it very personally this season. Nobody had faith in us (running the ball) coming into the season and we’re here to prove them wrong.”
Leddie Brown, who had all of his 123 yards rushing by halftime, and Sinkfield each found the end zone in the 28-point second quarter.
WVU hasn’t had a 21-point quarter since November 23, 2018, a 59-56 loss to No. 6 Oklahoma. Redshirt-junior quarterback Jarret Doege got in on the action, as well, helping to make sure that drought came to an end on Saturday as he threw a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter to give the Mountaineers a 42-7 lead into halftime.
Doege fed off the running game, throwing for 228 yards and three touchdowns on 19 of 25 passing.
“When you open up the run game, it allows you to pass the ball, as well,” Doege said.
The Mountaineers’ 56 points, 624 total yards, 31 first downs and 46-point margin of victory are also all team-highs under Coach Brown, while the defense held the Colonels to 75 yards rushing, 131 passing yards and only nine first downs, which are also team-bests in the Coach Brown era.
No fans were permitted into the game. Only family members of players and coaches were allowed in. The total attendance was 976 but Doege was used to it.
“I played at Bowling Green in the MACtion on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. My family was the only people in the stands at the time so this was nothing new to me,” Doege said with a laugh. “I could hear my mom scream. I could see her sitting in the front row.”