The Mountaineer Retweet : Better Late Than Never

Sorry for the late delivery, but first it was a long couple days at work, then I got sick. I know, excuses, excuses. Next blogger up. So I’m up and ready to roll. Better late than never, right?

The trip to Norman didn’t exactly go as planned. A WVU team that had largely looked sharp and well put together got messy and quickly fell apart, but then they pulled it back together……only to fall apart again. We saw some good things and we certainly saw some bad things and #WVUtwitter was fertile ground for all sorts of discussion. So by all means, let’s discuss.

We were in some heady places by Saturday morning. I mean, look at that chart. It’s jarring, right? Those are good teams WVU will be facing and at the time Connelly had us at better than 50% in all but one. We were dreaming big dreams.

(cue The Fall)

Ominous.

And I don’t care how things ended, that’s a nice image. Our West Virginia Mountaineers were taking the field for a conference game against one of college football’s name brands. That’s a big deal and a good thing. Big 12 growin’ on me y’all…..

I also like this carrying in of the state flag thing. Is that new this season or has that been done the last couple years? Feels new and is very, very cool. in 20 years Everett Timothy Priddy will be carrying that bad boy out there and I’ll be the old man bawling.

This was a sign of things to come…….and not in a good way. Because then this happened……

Let’s be very clear – every one of those was a textbook personal foul. There wasn’t a “oh he hit the guy back” or “oh that’s a hold you could call on any play” or “that’s a weak personal foul they’re calling to set the tone early.” These were all by the book blatant penalties, not an ounce of argument to be made about any of them. When the Big 12 puts together their annual video on what does and does not constitute hands to the face or a late hit, these clips will be featured prominently.

I say all that to set the stage for this: I get the concept of make-up calls, I really do. I get that when you look up at the board and see penalties weighted heavily in one direction the natural inclination is to even things out. But you’ve got to use some judgment there. What led to the disparity? Was it a ticky tack hold? A weak pass interference? If that’s the case then by all rights, even things out. But there is no reason to “even the score” when one team is blatantly breaking rules over and over again. And make no mistake, that’s exactly what these refs were doing, going so far as to invent things that didn’t happen like the roughing the passer call and offensive pass interference. That was a zebra going out of his way to find a penalty and it was unnecessary.

Yup.

Common thread among officials from these conference games – these guys are absolutely horrible at managing games. Just terrible at it. All too often it feels like they’re playing catchup or a step behind. A conference of this quality deserves better.

I just like the phrase ‘on tilt.’ For the uninitiated, it’s a phrase commonly used when playing poker to describe a player who is rattled. Only it’s more than rattled, it’s second guessing decisions, taking foolish risks you normally wouldn’t take and generally reacting to what the other guy is doing. I like that and I’m going to use it more, I just wish the WVU offense would give me a little more occasion.

Entire Texas football program: on tilt.

I thought the WVU O line was very good in short yardage situations and my only complaint was that they weren’t utilized more in said situations. I never got a chance to re-watch the game and when I watched it I was also on daddy duty, but the sense I got was that WVU was making some hay in short yardage – especially out of the I formation. In a game where they were struggling to find matchups to exploit, the Mountaineer running attack v the OU front was one that seemed to have some juice if they’d squeezed a little.

Red zone stuff is officially no longer a Thing. And that’s a welcome development.

This however, is still a Very Big Thing.

Listen I get that fielding a punt isn’t easy and I get that there’s a lot going on and the punt is in the air and you’re thinking, thinking and maybe you lose track of where you are…….but I watch dozens of college football teams every week who seem to be able to execute this phase of a game (‘side of the ball’ if you will) with no problems. These are the same brain dead plays time after time (remember Squirt fielding a punt against Bama similarly – inside the 10 and actually RUNNING BACKWARDS) by different players. I can think of no common denominator other than coaching and given that special teams are relatively solid in all other aspects this continues to mystify me. TWO DIFFERENT PLAYERS FIELDED PUNTS INSIDE THE 10 YARD LINE. THAT WOULDN’T HAPPEN ON MOST MIDDLE SCHOOL TEAMS.

WVU punt return unit: on tilt.

“You guys score yet?”

“Nah, man.”

“Be a lot cooler if you did.”

What can you say here, sometimes Cover Zero doesn’t work. Props to Mike Casazza in his Good and Bad piece (easily my favorite feature of the week) for pointing out the most important piece of that play – the insane route run by Shepard:

Obviously, the Mountaineers did not expect this, but why would they? They’re sending seven and putting everyone else on an the island. It’s true Cover Zero. Mayfield is not supposed to hang onto the ball and wait for a double move to develop. He’s supposed to look for a hot route, which is a quick throw to the first-down line. (Aside: If Shepard does what’s expected and slants inside and stays there, there’s still a home run option on the wheel route, but that’s a difficult throw.) But he does hold it and Shepard runs the quick slant, but it’s merely the first part of an exquisite route against a very sound corner. Mayfield does get hit … after 1.6 seconds. WVU got beat here.

It’s a play that looked awful until you dug a little deeper and honestly I didn’t have a huge problem with it. Sometimes you get beat – the other team makes plays, too.

Second half could not have possibly started out better for WVU. Get a stop, get the ball, and then score on OU in a somewhat dominating fashion. It was impossible to not feel really, really good about things if you’re a WVU fan.  And at this point it was clear WVU had found something with the run game and was exploiting it. I never had a chance to go back and re-watch, but I feel like they did well out of the I formation.

If I had any complaint with Holgorsen’s playcalling, it was that he got too cute at times instead of lining up and pounding it. OU had a lot of speed on defense and running out of the pistol almost played into it, what with the delay in the backfield you get handing off 5 yards deep. Out of the I you’re under center and on top of the line before anyone can crash in. Felt like there was hay to be made there and I didn’t see anywhere near as much of that as I would have liked. Sidenote: there’s a pretty good chance my 7 month old son’s first words will be “pound the [friggin’] rock.”

https://twitter.com/mrkevinwhite/status/650365468465844224

I’m obviously going to talk more about Karl later but for here let’s keep it to just this game. Or maybe even just the mammoth hit he laid down on Samaje Perine in the first half. That’s a large running back who’s made a career out of running over people in the open field with a head of steam, and that’s Karl Joseph not stopping him but jolting him backwards. I sucked at physics, but I know enough to know that the amount of force it took to decelerate something the size of Perine moving at that speed isn’t an amount of force that many humans on the planet could generate. Perine could have literally run into a brick wall and not been knocked back like that. Joseph is special, man. It was a privilege to watch him play for four years. I’m bummed.

And then this happened and the game was entirely WVU’s. They’d just gone on a 17-3 run and silenced one of the nation’s most well-known venues. Then OU raises them with a penalty on the kick that put them back at their own 5 yard line. There’s less than a minute left in the third, Aunt Mo is completely in WVU’s corner and one of the most talked-about defenses in America was taking the field. You could completely taste it and the crime of that final score is it is in no way indicative of where things were at this juncture.

And before we go any further props to Dana Holgorsen for what may be my favorite play call in his time here. I mean that was perfect – you and I could have scored on that play. He got a little too cute for my taste in the 4th quarter, but for a stretch there he was all over it.

That’s what I thought at first, but upon further review:

That seems to happen a lot. Or more accurately it feels like it happens a lot because it happens in big, big spots. Remember TCU last year? For a defense that has the ability to play at such a high level, this seems like a pretty dumb problem to keep having.

But let it be noted that 15 yards of those penalties were NOT for the facemask of Skyler Howard after he scrambled and nearly evaded the rush for a falling-down completely to Wendell Smallwood that had seemingly given WVU a second lease on life after giving up that lightning OU TD to get the lead back out to 10 with nearly the entire 4th quarter left to play. This took the wind out of everyone’s sails and was basically karma flying the Goodyear blimp over the stadium flashing NOT YOUR DAY, WVU. That was disheartening and WVU was pretty much done after that. The Mountaineers didn’t play great, but they sure didn’t get a whole hell of a lot of help – from the fates or the zebras.

Not Wellman’s best day.

Nor Skyler Howard’s best day, either, but I think he’s got better days ahead. Not a perfect quarterback and I think we’re dangerously close to to “he is what he is” territory when we’re talking throws across the middle, but he can make some throws, too and has done some good things with his legs. Give the kid a little help (like don’t catch wide open passes and fall over at the 5 yard line) and I think good things could happen.

But I think we’ll be back in at some point this season. Book it.

Not a good look for a team that came in ranked #1 nationally in turnover margin (at an average of +3 per game)

See this is why I like Chris. He doesn’t miss the forest for the trees. Even if those trees are crippling lapses. The same Samaje Perine who brutalized WVU for 237 last year was held to 64. They got pressure on Mayfield, sacking him 2 or 3 times. They made plays and got a pair of turnovers – one fumble and one interception. They held OU to a field goal after the Sooners took over at the WVU 20 when the game was all but settled. They played hard, they were very close. The Big 12 isn’t about having a defense that holds someone under 20 points, it’s about having a defense that makes plays. This defense makes plays. I still feel good about them.

And on the other side, that guy was just spectacular. Wish he’d quit saving his A games for WVU.

So they’re due to get some lousy calls, right?

That’s what I’m talking about!

Ahh, 2007. That super duper hot girlfriend we all had for 3 months that was off the charts gorgeous (also completely and utterly insane). We had some good times and and man, did I mention she was smoking friggin’ hot? We wonder if we’ll ever find a girl that insanely hot again and we just never do….but we keep hoping.

Nobody will ever be that hot. She was smokin’.

Because I need something to put me in a better mood before these last tweets.

This completely crushed me. I was in a meeting at work and my phone kept buzzing and after we were done as we got up to head to lunch I glanced down and…..day ruined. It should have been a good day, too. We’d had a good meeting on a big project. But for a guy like THAT who played like THAT to go down in a non-contact practice drill of all ways? Just supremely unfair. And when you consider the impact that this could have on the young man’s draft status and eventual livelihood….it’s downright depressing. Things like this shouldn’t happen.

I have a favorite Pandora station I listen to – My Dr. Dre station. I’ve never had to thumbs-down anything, ever. It constantly spits out great songs from the 90s and early 2000s. Even songs I haven’t heard I like. I can let the thing play for hours as I sit at the computer making buildings. It is among the most reliable things in my life. I don’t have to worry if it will be there or if it will supply me the tunes to let me get into the design zone – it’s always there, man.

That was #8. Always there. Per Casazza, Joseph missed around 25 total snaps on defense combined the last two seasons. Last year he played 947 of 957 snaps. He was always there to deliver a game-changing hit and this season had developed exceptional ball skills that allowed him to make a mind-blowing 5 interceptions in just the first 4 games (with picks in 3 of those games). His season had the look of a burgeoning all-american campaign and it’s a crying shame that we won’t see where things would have ended up. I just hope he did enough in these 4 games for an NFL GM to make an investment.

Does Gibby strike you as the kind of guy to lightly throw around a compliment like that? Yeah me, neither.

I said it earlier and I’ll say it again – Karl Joseph is special, man. For my money he’s on the short list of game-changing defenders we’ve seen come through Morgantown. In the last 25 years I’d say it’s him, Bruce, Pacman Jones and probably Canute Curtis. Maaaybe Gary Stills (but he didn’t have the consistency of the others). And when you consider the arc of Joseph’s career – cutting his teeth as a true freshman on that much-maligned 2012 unit, being a bright spot during a challenging 2013 campaign before seeing his unit break through last year and set up for a potentially great 2015 – it’s hard to find a lot of guys who have left more of a footprint at this place.

I wanna see #8 up in that stadium, criteria be damned.

This absolutely needs to happen.

I usually end this one with the “LET’S GOOOOO!!!” sign-off but I think this week I’m going to shift gears.

Thanks, Karl.

 

 

 

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