When the West Virginia University Mountaineer football teams takes the field Saturday Sept. 3 against SEC opponent Missouri for their first game of the 2016 season, they will be without some key players.
Junior safety Dravon-Askew Henry will miss all of 2016 with an ACL injury. Senior kicker Josh Lambert won’t suit up for the first three games. Budding freshman linebacker Branden Ferns will almost miss the extent of the season with a knee injury.
Add left guard Adam Pankey to the list.
It was announced last Tuesday afternoon by WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen that Pankey, who was arrested and charged with DUI last week, would be suspended for the season opener against Mizzou in light of the incident.
When police arrived on the scene, they found Pankey still in his car, which was flipped upside down. The offensive lineman was pulled from the vehicle with no serious injuries, just a few minor ones. He was then taken into custody and charged, before being released on bail.
Though at least a one-week suspension, it’s another big loss for the Mountaineers before the season even begins.
Pankey, a senior who has started 25 games in his collegiate career, is part of the duo with left tackle Yodny Cajuste that protect quarterback Skyler Howard’s blind side when he drops back in the pocket.
Despite WVU offensive line being ranked the fifth-best in all of college football by FOX Sports, the ‘Eers needed to be at full strength at such a crucial position for Week 1.
Over the past three seasons, Missouri defenses have registered 113 sacks, including back-to-back 40-plus-sack seasons in 2013 and 2014. Add in the fact that Mountaineer quarterbacks have been sacked 91 times over the past three campaigns, and you can see why the suspension is crucial.
Justifiable, appropriate, and applaudable; but crucial.
However, when WVU and Missouri do take the field at noon next Saturday, in spite of the fact that on the other side of the football is a Tiger defense that returned five of its six leading tacklers from a season ago, let’s just be thankful the situation wasn’t much worse.
Holgorsen told media members that the team will revisit Pankey’s suspension following the opener.