PRE-GAME RUN THRU: POKE EM IN THE EYE EDITION
By Brandon Priddy
Welcome to the PRE-GAME RUN THRU - not to be confused with a "walk-through." You don't have time for that and neither does Coach Holgorsen! We're hitting you with info as fast as you can take it.....we want TEMPO, TEMPO, TEMPO! Let's get it rolling!!!
It’s been a difficult month for WVU fans, so let’s try something a little different today. Let’s leave the action on the field behind for a quick bit and instead turn our attention to the stands. Well, not literally the stands, but the luxury boxes. The school president’s box to be precise. On a day when so much happened on the field to cause despair, his box was an outpost of happiness and hope.
Many of you have heard the story of Nefeterius McPherson (if you haven’t, I’d recommend you take a moment and read this). The Texas native was the recipient of a life-saving donor liver from Mountaineer fan Taitlyn Huges, a 12 year old girl whose life was tragically cut short by a brain hemorrhage. Upon learning of her donor’s rabid Mountaineer fandom Nefeterius was moved to adopt the gold and blue herself and caught all our attention with a picture of her in Austin at the Texas game wearing the bright gold shirt that had been given to her by Taitlyn’s parents. Here’s the Tweet that started it all:
She declared herself a Mountaineer fan for life and touched a nerve (in a very good way) for a WVU fanbase that was overwhelmed with pride at Taitlyn’s act of love and the deep gratitude of Nefeterius. In the wake of the Austin win she talked about her desire to go take in a WVU game with Taitlyn’s family. She got her wish.
On Saturday she made her first pilgrimage from Texas to Morgantown and received VIP treatment from the entire WVU family. In her words “it was like the kid in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory – I had The Golden Ticket.” Well, maybe the gold and blue ticket. She was taken on a tour of the Mountaineer’s brand new first class basketball facility (“it’s branded so well” she says, “there are flying WVs on everything!”) that included taking in a private practice and meeting Coach Bob Huggins himself. “I was in awe” she says. “I’ve been a fan of Coach Huggins ever since seeing the way he acted in the Final Four with Da’Sean Butler.”
She took in the game from WVU President James Clements’ private box, where she was joined by Taitlyn’s family. “It was very emotional with it being so close to the anniversary of Taitlyn’s death and my transplant (November 6th). When I hugged Nicole (Taitlyn’s mom) that was the first time she had cried.”
At halftime she was recognized as an honorary Mountaineer and was surprised to find herself sharing the field with LITERAL Mountaineers – a collection of mascot alumni had come in for the game as part of the “Mountaineer Day” festivities. “It was so cool to see all of the former Mountaineers” she said “and all doing push-ups!” The surprises continued when one of the former mascots asked her “would you mind if a few of us got a picture with you?” It was the experience of a lifetime. “I’m definitely getting that one framed” she says.
All in all it was an “experience of a lifetime” that she’ll never forget. “Everyone was so nice. It reminded me of how they are in Texas with the hospitality.” Nefeterius was blown away by the generosity of WVU fans, who were willing to give her the shirt off their backs – literally. “I was talking to a woman and noticed she had this bright gold WVU jacket. I told her ‘I love that jacket, where did you get it?’” As they got to talking Nefeterius told this woman, Dr. Debbie Knapp, her story of what she was doing in Morgantown and Dr. Knapp immediately stopped: “Oh, I know who you are!” She took off the jacket and gave it to the visitor, telling her “Don’t worry, I have more.”
It was just another reminder of how proud WVU fans are to have this amazing story associated with their program and how they are willing to do whatever they can to make a new fan feel at home.
“I had read about how people have taken on the characteristics of their donors” Nefeterius says. “For instance they will start to like Mexican food or something. That has to be it. There is no logical reason that I should have as much Mountaineer pride as I do.”
And in talking to her believe me when I say that pride is 100% certified and not going anywhere. She was already talking about her next trip to Morgantown and her hope to take in some tailgating (the festivities didn’t leave much time for parking lots). The Mountaineer Nation is certainly better for having her in our ranks and here’s hoping this was the first of many games for Nefeterius in the friendly confines of Milan Puskar Stadium.
But more than fandom or football, let’s never lose sight of the most important part of this story. Nefeterius and Taitlyn’s family have done so much to highlight the importance of organ donation – please do your small part. If you haven’t already register as an organ donor at donatelife.net and tell a friend to do the same. There was a little Mountaineer fan who wanted to change the world – let’s help her do it.
What The SignalCaller Is Watching
- Oklahoma State is the most well-balanced team on offense that WVU has seen all year. Yes the Mountaineers have seen teams that can run and throw, but nobody who can do both at such a high level and with the ability to explode. The Cowboys are 3rd overall in pass yardage at 355.9 yards a game and 20th in rushing at 220 yards a game. They’ve logged 18 touchdowns through the air and 22 on the ground. Pistol Pete certainly keeps the hardware in both his holsters loaded with the safety off.
- The Pokes are actually averaging MORE yards per game than the team that stormed through the regular season at 11-1 last year (575.9 yards to 549.8) and their defense is doing a much better job, holding teams to 377.5 yards, a vast improvement over the 456.8 they gave up last year. So why the 5-3 record? In a word – turnovers. They led the country last year in turnover margin, forcing 44 and losing only 23 for a net average of +1.62 a game. This season they’re all the way down at 114th, having gained only 9 and lost 18 for an average of -1.13 a game. What a difference 3 possessions a game makes. If WVU wants to mask some of their shortcomings they would do well to increase that margin and capitalize on opportunities offered by the suddenly generous Cowboys.
- Wanna know what REALLY happened on that long TCU touchdown on Saturday night? Conventional wisdom was that safety Cecil Level cheated up when he saw Frogs QB Trevone Boykin look to run the ball and let receiver Josh Boyce get behind him. Not exactly true. A couple things happened simultaneously. First, Boyce was forced out of bounds by Ishmael Banks. Playing cover two, Level seemed unsure how to handle a receiver who was out of bounds and at that same instant, he saw the inside slot receiver (who started on the opposite side of the field) make a deep post cut that seemed to take him across the field and into Level’s territory, diverting the safety’s attention in his moment of uncertainty. The receiver instead made a corner move but by the time Level made the move to recover Boyce was behind him and the ball was in the air. It wasn’t a glaring error, a coaching mistake or really even a lapse in judgment – simply a split second moment of indecisiveness from a guy who had a damn good night.
Stat that Almost Certainly Means Nothing
I was playing around on cfbstats.com and found something interesting. When you break down the WVU rush defense by quarter, there are some glaring differences. In the first quarter they are quite good, allowing 2.68 yards per attempt to rank 10th nationally. The situation deteriorates quickly in the second quarter however, where they give up 4.35 per attempt to rank 70th. The halftime break seemingly does nothing to stop the bleeding as the ‘eers still give up 3.9 per carry to rank 49th. Finally in the 4th they stiffen back up again for a 2.15 average and 8th national ranking.
It’s a bell curve of the most curious kind – most alarming is the difference between the first and second quarters. Whether the fall-off is due to depth, scheme or some other factor is unknown, but keep your eye out for it on Saturday. If WVU can escape quarter number 2 without giving up the farm, maybe they have a fighting chance.
Win Free Stuff
I don’t know about you, but I like free stuff. I like free football tickets, free airfare and free hotels. Particularly all at once. Over at the SmokingMusket.com we’re running a contest through Hyundai that I think could be a lot of fun. Check out my post, add your fan story in the comments section, and you could be chosen for a chance to win a trip to the regular season or bowl game of your choice this year. WVU fans have some of the deepest pride and richest stories of any fanbase around, take a moment to stop by and add yours. Even if you don’t want to enter, I’d recommend you click here to check out the article. Aside from my quick post there are a couple comments that are really great. I think you’ll enjoy them.
Sorry but we’re going to cut things a little short this week – it was a busy time for this writer and I didn’t get to everything I wanted but rest assured I’ve already started getting things together for Monday. Check back in for THE WATER COOLER after the game and we’ll have Tweets, pictures and all that good stuff you’re used to. Hope you have a great weekend and that we can finally get one in the win column.
Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed it. Please feel free to hit me up with ideas or suggestions on how to make these pre and post-game wrap ups better and more informative. We’re here for you. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on Twitter: @abpriddy. I tweet throughout the game and love a little back-and-forth. Also check out some more of my work over at SmokingMusket.com where I was fortunate enough to become one of the newest staff writers.