MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – When Neal Brown hinted earlier in the week that some of the younger WVU offensive players would be incorporated into the Duquesne game plan, who came to mind?
There’s a good chance it was four-star freshman receiver Rodney Gallagher III. Coaches and fans alike were clamoring to see the freshman quarterback-turned-receiver make his Milan Puskar debut.
Or maybe it was freshman running back Jahiem White. White made a name for himself in the spring game, and he was cleared to make his debut early in the week.
As it turns out, it was none other than redshirt freshman Hudson Clement – the pride of Martinsburg, West Virginia – that stole the show on Saturday.
It took a little bit of time for a hero to emerge, as WVU probably could not have started Saturday’s game any worse than it did.
Things looked hopeful when the Mountaineers forced a three-and-out on the first Duquesne drive of the game, but the ensuing punt ricocheted off WVU sophomore cornerback Jacolby Spells. Duquesne recovered, and four plays later, the Dukes scored on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Darrius Perrantes to DJ Powell down the left sideline for a 7-0 lead with redshirt sophomore Andrew Wilson-Lamp in coverage.
Enter Hudson Clement.
To establish the setting: Devin Carter – WVU’s leading receiver from Week 1 – and freshman Traylon Ray both did not play in Saturday’s home opener. Right from the jump, it was clear Cortez Braham, Preston Fox, and redshirt sophomore Hudson Clement were going to receive the bulk of Greene’s targets.
Clement established himself as the go-to target early in the game with a physical 14-yard catch-and-run from quarterback Garrett Greene (10-for-18 / 240 yards / 4 TD) for WVU’s first touchdown of the evening to knot the score at 7-7 in the first quarter, and it was probably Clement’s blandest play of the night.
WVU shook off the early game jitters with a clutch Beanie Bishop interception on a deep shot from Perrantes. Greene followed the turnover with a surgical nine-play, 94-yard drive – which included a 39-yard completion to Clement – that was capped off with an 8-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 14-7.
Duquesne responded with a field goal to narrow the deficit to 14-10 just before storms rolled into the Morgantown-area that induced a one-hour and 54-minute delay with 8:14 on the clock in the second quarter.
Teams can come out of multi-hour delays in a slow manner, but the Mountaineers did the opposite. In the span of three minutes on the clock, Greene and Clement connected twice for mammoth scores: a 70-yard score down the right sideline, and a 46-yard connection for a touchdown after broken coverage by the Duquesne secondary on the following drive.
Clement – the 2021-22 Gatorade West Virginia Football Player of the Year – finished the night with 5 catches for 177 yards and 3 touchdowns, all of which came in the first half.
His entrance into WVU lore somewhat mirrors (on a smaller scale) a historic Martinsburg High School game of his in which he set a Super Six record with eight touchdowns in a 62-21 victory over Huntington.
All of a sudden, the Mountaineers held a comfortable 35-10 lead at “halftime,” which was expedited because of the previous delay.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Nicco Marchiol and White – who made his NCAA debut – led the WVU offense in the second half.
White finished as WVU’s leading rusher with 12 rushes for 110 yards and a 19-yard touchdown run. Marchiol also scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak in the fourth quarter.
On defense, redshirt freshman Tomiwa Durojaiye snowballed his impressive performance at Penn State with a 1.5-sack performance against Duquesne. Durojaiye now has a team-high 2.5 sacks on the season.
Bishop and redshirt sophomore safety Avery Wilcox each recorded an interception.
WVU and Pitt will now both enter the Backyard Brawl: Morgantown Edition with 1-1 records next Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium following Pitt’s loss to Cincinnati on Saturday.