One of my favorite aspects of blogging about WVU sports is the opportunity to interact with other fans. I especially love meeting personally folks with whom I've previously interacted over the blog. So you can imagine my delight when I walked into a restaurant in Beckley, West Virginia, earlier this month, looked to my left, and spotted our very own JP Fanshawe. The remarkable part about that is that I had never in my life met JP Fanshawe before. Yes, we are friends on Facebook, so I knew what he looked like, but to randomly run into him like that was just...awesome. Our eyes met, my heart fluttered, we shook hands, introduced our significant others, then spent about an hour bantering back and forth about WVU sports over a couple Jack & Cokes. It was blogger love at first sight.
One thing we decided at the end of that conversation was that we absolutely needed to get together more often to talk Mountaineer sports...and drink whiskey. But mostly to talk Mountaineer sports. The problem is, we don't exactly live in the same area and we both actually have other obligations that prevent us from sitting down on any kind of consistent basis. Thus was born the Country Roads and JP Fanshawe Email/Podcast idea. Basically, instead of sitting down for an hour on the phone, we email our thoughts about last week's game and the upcoming opponent back and forth. Nothing fancy, just two guys chatting football. Thus, we bring you the inaugural Smoking Musket COUNTRY roads and jp FANshawe EMAIL/PODCAST. We hope you enjoy this as much as we did and will join us in the comments as we continue our discussion.
FROM: Country Roads
TO: JP Fanshawe
DATE: Sunday, September 23, 2012 1:46 PM
Well Fanshawe, having started my hangover at approximately 7pm last night, my head is finally clear and I can reflect a bit on yesterday's game. Just like JMU, I'm not sure what to think. Maryland is clearly not a very good team, but they seem to have stepped it up against us for two years in a row now. I'm not even worried about our defense. They created turnovers, got off the field when they needed to, and gave up a few big plans to Stefon Diggs aka Tavon Austin Lite. If they mirror that performance every game from here on out, I promise to personally take Joe DeForest out for dinner at Five Guys. However, I watched Baylor on Friday night and with their quarterback Nick Florence leading the nation in passing, I think my wallet and cholesterol will be safe from that promise. The Bears know how to score, and our offense is going to have to keep up. But with Shawne Alston banged up and the O-line regressing every week, I'm not so sure that's going to happen. What could you take away from watching the game on TV? Is Brian Stewart (who we reportedly tried to hire before bringing in DeForest) that good of a coordinator? I mean, the Terps have played decent defense against William & Mary, Temple, and UConn so far. But I figured Geno would light them up. Not that Geno was bad (what did he have, 338 yards and 3 TD?), but he clearly wasn't himself. He missed a number of throws he usually makes and was bailed out a number of times by Tavon Awesome. I guess at this point it's win and advance, but did anything about the game give you concern going forward?
FROM: JP Fanshawe
TO: Country Roads
DATE: Monday, September 24, 2012 12:05 PM
My man, Country Roads...It may seem true that Maryland isn't a very good team, but that might actually be a photoshop version of reality, you know, like that picture of the great white jumping at the man hanging from a helicopter. I had noticed right before the game that despite Maryland's generally poor offensive numbers, they were ranked 37th in yards per point (top third) and 50th in yards per point allowed (top half), which gave me pause on my pick for the Mountaineers to cover the line of 28. Granted, those numbers came against competition that doesn't look that great, but I would not be surprised to see Maryland take some positives away from this game and wind up snagging a bowl spot in a pretty watered-down ACC. Hills is going to be a star, and Diggs already is...much of what was in your Staring Down The Musket proved true, especially the fact that Maryland has legit talent at the skill positions.
One thing I noticed watching on television, and perhaps this is an effect of the grey uniforms (thumbs up, or thumbs down, for you?...I would have liked them better I think with our traditional blue helmets...), but Maryland's lines, especially the defensive, seemed huge, and without the bruising power of Alston, I think might explain our difficulties at running the ball. Big 12 defenses now are built for speed, to compete with the lightning offenses they see on a regular basis, so I expect us to return to a more balanced offensive attack in conference play.
I would be worried about your cholesterol as well...Baylor can move the ball, but then, so can just about every Big 12 offense, well, maybe not (looking at you Kansas....over/under on Weis' return to NFL coordinator? 3 1/2 years). Despite some of the panic I saw in our base when reading through the thread, DeForest's defense is doing exactly what he said we should expect it to: and that is to prize the turnover over the stop. Consider that Maryland put the ball on the carpet a bunch, and was lucky enough to recover three of the five. If the Mountaineers get those, this game probably goes more to the form we expected, but to the point: I think Mountaineer fans better expect to see opposing offenses score on us with regularity, and get acclimated to the fact that DeForest's kids aren't going to let it phase them, and are going to keep going out with the stated goal of : takeaway.
Unlike the previous two games, I felt this game had a stultifying, almost boring rhythm. Did it feel that way in the stands? It reminded me of a couple of games from the Rod era, where we won, but it was somehow dissatisfying, which, perhaps I shouldn't complain about. When you can play pretty poorly in all three phases of the game, and still win by 10, I think it indicates that you are pretty good as a team. And it also means, your best effort may be elite.A couple of other things:
When 338 and 3 touchdowns looks like a bad day, you know your offense is other-worldly.
Geno's incompletions - I thought could have been a product of him being hit some for the first time this year, and it was windy, wasn't it. Caridi was commenting on gusts, so could some of his passes just sailed a bit on him?
And Brian Stewart...I think he is that good of a coordinator, and let's not forget that he has had a lot of experience in defending just this kind of offense. William and Mary and UConn both play power football, and it isn't like the defense let Maryland down in either of those games, yielding a combined 28 points.
Would it be silly to think that we weren't too focused on Maryland? Baylor's not the kind of team that most would look ahead to, but it's the first Big 12 game, a good team, a great, new conference?
FROM: Country Roads
TO: JP Fanshawe
DATE: Monday, September 24, 2012 2:22 PM
You make some excellent points about Maryland perhaps being better than we thought. I could definitely see them winding up around 7-5 in the ACC if they continue to improve. Is it too early to get nervous about facing Stefon Diggs for the next 3 years?
As for the gray uniforms, definitely a thumbs up for me. I've been immersed in 50 Shades of Gray ever since Pat Beilien, Mike Gansey and Kevin Pittsnogle rode the gray basketball uniforms to an obliteration of Marquette in 2006. I just think the blue and gold contrast well with the gray---and yeah, I think the blue helmets would have looked just as awesome. Hopefully those things are here to stay as another addition to our team wardrobe.
Say what you want about the absence of Alston, or the weather having an effect on Geno's passes, I still expect more out of our offense than that. Maybe you're right and I'm getting spoiled when I should enjoy being able to play down and still win by 10, but I just expect to see some improvement and sustained intensity among our senior-led team, regardless of the opponent or the weather.
As for the atmosphere in the stands, I think Holgorsen even commented in his conference call about the lack of enthusiasm among everyone involved. Don't get me wrong, there were moments when the stadium got a little loud for a big third down, but on the whole, the noon game, the cloudy skies, and a less than intriguing opponent in Maryland created a general malaise among the fan base. Malaise is okay on a ham sandwich, but not among your football team. I trust that will get remedied this week against Baylor.
Did you happen to see Baylor on Friday? I watched bits and pieces of their game against UL-Monroe sandwiched around Jack & Cokes at the Vintage Room and I think we're going to have our hands full. The Bears defense clearly couldn't stop a 17 year old pocket-protector wearing chess team member from scoring, but their offense hasn't dropped off much from the RG3 era. The one glimmer of hope I have is that they turn it over some. Maybe that's why Vegas has us favored by 10+? What do you see from this game statistically? And do you think our fans will be able to color coordinate well enough to pull off this "stripe the stadium" look?
FROM: JP Fanshawe
TO: Country Roads
DATE: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 12:45 PM
Speaking of Vegas...I am writing this to you from that awesome city. Statistics don't bear out West Virginia being favored by 12.5. According to the statistics to which I pay the most attention (Yards Per Point, Yards Per Point Allowed, Yards Per Point Differential and Yards Per Play Differential), this game is pretty even, with both team's offense residing in the top 20, and both teams' defenses in the middle of the pack. Sagarin Schedule Strength is also close, as WVU is ranked 94th while Baylor is 107th. And Sagarin's predictor plus home field advantage reveals that the line ought to be just 6.5. As for turnovers, WVU is 13th in the land in turnover margin. The problem is Baylor is tied with several other schools for 6th, so it would seem their defense is built around the same takeaways-matter-more-than-stops philosophy.
I expect an avalanche of points, as this game pits the top two producers of Total Offense against one another, and would you believe that Florence is ahead of Geno in that regard: 387-379 in yardage per game?
As for the fans successfully striping the stadium? No worries...it's a noon game. We won't have had enough to time to blur our vision badly enough to botch it!
FROM: Country Roads
TO: JP Fanshawe
DATE: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 2:04 PM
I just can't get a very good feeling for how this turns out, other than I think both teams will score a lot of points. That line of -6.5 sounds a lot more like it. I read earlier today where WVU has an awful record against the spread under Holgorsen, which is somewhat surprising. But given his reputation as an offensive genius and the quality of competition he's faced to date, maybe it shouldn't be.
I'm also not surprised that Florence is ahead of Geno in total offense. Baylor is no slouch offensively, Florence runs more, and Geno sat out the fourth quarter of two games while playing sub-par in a third. Maybe that explains why I've been peeing the bed all week?
I'm really excited for the game this week---homecoming crowd, celebrity singing the anthem, first Big XII game, and a ton of offense. Oh, and a good friend turns 30 on Saturday so hopefully my liver can hold up. In the meantime, enjoy Vegas and put your money where it'll be safest - in your pocket. See you next week and Let's GOOOOOOOOO Mountaineers!