WVU football: McCartney happy to be back on field
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia receiver Ivan McCartney spoke to the media Tuesday for the first time since spring practice.
Healthy, academically sound and productive at once for the first time in a long time, McCartney had been repeatedly requested by the media, but was only made available after being targeted three times and catching one pass for 52 yards against Marshall on Sept 1.
"It feels good," said McCartney, a junior from Miami's Miramar High School. "In the beginning, no one thought that I'd be playing this year. I had faith in myself and I knew I'd be out there once again, as I was last year. I just had to fight through it all and push harder."
McCartney was hindered by a hamstring problem throughout spring practice and then, as both Coach Dana Holgorsen and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson have acknowledged, an academic uncertainty during preseason camp. McCartney was relegated to the scout team for a while because WVU didn't want to devote practice snaps to someone who might not be eligible in the fall.
Once cleared academically, McCartney was nevertheless missing from the depth chart after camp and compelled to think about his future with the team. McCartney ended up impressing the Mountaineers with his effort and productivity in practice before the season started.
"It was pretty hard," McCartney said. "First of all, I had to get myself right academically and I had to get myself back to being healthy. But then I had to build trust back with my teammates and coaches. The hardest part was building that trust."
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound McCartney was a high school All-American at Miramar who caught just one pass for four yards and carried once for two yards in 2010. He was a factor early last season, trailed off late and lost his starting spot on the outside to J.D. Woods, but still finished with 49 receptions for 585 yards and three touchdowns.
"When Ivan's healthy, he can be a very huge threat," Stedman Bailey said. "He missed a lot of practice time because he was hurt and he was always on the sideline. The coaches were beginning to think he was acting like he was soft. I know that wasn't the case so he definitely had to come back and prove he was ready to play."
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JAMES MADISON Coach Mickey Matthews hasn't updated the status of starting running back and leading rusher and receiver Dae'Quan Scott for Saturday's game against No. 9 WVU at FedEx Field, to be televised on Root Sports.
Scott sprained an ankle Saturday and Scott said Monday Scott was "very questionable." The Mountaineers are expecting Scott to play.
"We're preparing for all their good players and starters," defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said. "You hear conflicting reports from their camp, but whoever they put out there, we've got to defend and tackle the guy."
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WVU AND 10 other schools have just one sack, the lowest number in the country, though six of those 11 schools have played two games.
The Mountaineers (1-0) aren't expecting a breakout game for sacks against the FCS's fifth-ranked Dukes (2-0) and their doubly dangerous quarterback, Justin Thorpe. A fifth-year senior who has won his last 11 regular-season starts, Thorpe is 29-for-45 for 317 yards and three touchdowns this season. He's also run 20 times for 177 yards and three touchdowns.
The Dukes employ an offense that keeps Thorpe out of danger.
"They run a very quick game. The ball is going to come out quick," WVU co-defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. "He's going to try to make plays with his feet, but we want to try to make this guy make plays with his arm if we can keep him in the pocket and contain him. When he does run, we need to come up and be physical with him."
WVU coaches thought something similar of Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato, who was sacked once, hurried twice and passed for 413 yards. Thorpe isn't as patient with the pass, though, Patterson said.
"Cato had a really good sense for pressure and could get out, but he'd look to make any play available, whether with his arm or his legs," Patterson said. "This guy is going to be a little different. If that first look isn't there, he's going to pull the ball down and go."
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WVU CORNERBACKS coach Daron Roberts said last week "nobody, including myself, was pleased with the way we played" against Marshall. Holgorsen was more direct, especially with starting cornerbacks Brodrick Jenkins and Pat Miller.
"If Pat and Brodrick don't pick it up a little but, they may lose their spot to a freshman," Holgorsen said.
That freshman would be Nana Kyeremeh, who had more interceptions than anyone else in preseason practice. He played fewer than 20 snaps against Marshall, but made three tackles and impressed Roberts to the point that he said he could see Kyeremeh fulfilling Holgorsen's proposition.
"Absolutely," Roberts said. "Nana showed some great things on tape. When he played, whether it was special teams or cornerback, he kept showing flashes.
"I've had conversations with him and I've had conversations with the other guys who are going to figure into the mix. It's the older guys' responsibility to keep their job. It's Nana's responsibility to take somebody's job. That's what we want. We want to foster good competition. As long as you play well, we're going to reward you."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.