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Mountaineers targeted on transition from powerful opener to FCS opponent

MORGANTOWN — For the third season in a row, The West Virginia Mountaineers didn’t have a simple introduction to their soccer season.

WVU has began each season since 2021 with a highway recreation in opposition to a Energy 5 opponent. It began with a recreation at Maryland in 2021, continued with final 12 months’s Yard Brawl at Pitt and, most not too long ago, the Mountaineers opened 2023 final Saturday with a recreation in opposition to No. 7 Penn State inside Beaver Stadium. The Mountaineers misplaced all three contests.

“My problem with our schedule just isn’t who we’re taking part in first,” WVU head coach Neal Brown stated Monday. “My problem with our schedule is we’ve opened up on the highway three years in a row. That’s not sensible scheduling.”

Instantly opening the season at a Energy 5 opponent, the Mountaineers returned dwelling to play an FCS group in 2021 and can achieve this once more this 12 months when Duquesne involves Morgantown on Saturday (6 p.m., ESPN+).

Whereas most groups play a simple recreation of their opener and ramp-up to more durable competitors, WVU might be doing the other this week.

“I feel there are execs and cons to each,” Brown stated. “The factor that taking part in the FCS first helps you is you determine some momentum. That’s essential. (This week) is about us making some constructive momentum and getting higher as we get into the meat of our schedule.”

Whereas most groups prefer to open the season with a so-called tune-up recreation, a few of WVU’s gamers stated they most well-liked the week one problem.

“I form of preferred opening it up in opposition to a giant opponent,” receiver Devin Carter stated. “You see the place you’re at and it’s good competitors so that you get a superb gauge on the place you’re group is at.”

In his Mountaineer debut, Carter caught six passes for a team-high 90 yards in opposition to the Nittany Lions.

“It’s totally different, there are execs and cons to each,” tight finish Kole Taylor added. “The professionals to taking part in a non-Energy 5 group first is you form of get to settle in, get warmed up and see what that you must do shifting from week one to week two. However there are a number of execs to taking part in big-time soccer in week one. You possibly can exit and show your self.”

One other professional to scheduling a simple opener is beginning the season with an all-but-guaranteed win. WVU, in the meantime, has began every of the final three seasons with a loss.

“We’re hungry to get a win,” Brown stated. “We’re an 0-1 soccer group till we get a win and we’d like a win. We’ve acquired an essential three-game homestretch that begins right here with Duquesne on Saturday evening.”

The group doesn’t need to enable any form of hangover from the loss to Penn State to have an effect on preparation this week or the sport on Saturday.

“The most important factor is to know that Penn State is over, we are able to’t get that again,” Taylor stated. “It’s going to be on our file eternally, however that’s not the group we’re taking part in this week. The most important factor is trying ahead, it’s a brand new alternative this week.”

“It’s a check of will,” defensive lineman Mike Lockhart added. “I really feel like a recreation like (Penn State) can decide your character. What occurs after this recreation? Do you sink the ship or do you retain constructing and rise from it?

“It goes again to consideration to particulars and approach. You possibly can’t look previous anyone as a result of any given day a group like them may are available in and upset us after which we fall right into a hunch.”

Duquesne opened its season with a 49-7 win over Division-II Edinboro and has performed FBS video games in opposition to Florida State, TCU, Hawaii and Ohio during the last two seasons.

“They’re not a foul group, so we are able to’t take them frivolously. We’ve acquired to place our foot on the fuel and simply go,” Carter stated. “We deal with all the things the identical. That’s what you’ve acquired to do.”

WVU is 23-0 all-time in opposition to FCS competitors. The closest the Mountaineers have come to being upset is a pair of seven-point wins, in opposition to James Madison in 2019 and William & Mary in 2013.

“This group is an efficient group and we are able to’t look previous anybody that we play,” Taylor stated. “They’re from an hour and a half away, they’re going to be taking part in in a giant stadium with lots of people they usually’re going to be taking part in fiery. We’ve simply acquired to be prepared.”