It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, then it was the best of times and then it was the worst of times again and then time just ran out. Despite the final result, it's important to focus on the positives of Saturday night - and believe me there were a LOT of positives. Like, a ton. Like I re-watched the game Sunday night and was shocked at all the things we did really, really well. I'm not even 100% sure how we lost that game.
This week's Pregamer is delightful and does the finest job of summarizing where we are with Caseball. http://t.co/E9EleCOORi— @BarkingCarnival (@BarkingCarnival) November 7, 2013
First off playing Texas is really fun because I mean, it's Texas. That's a program with a lot of eyes. They have great bloggers at both Burt Orange Nation and Barking Carnival and the guys at BC were kind enough to include the Musket in their 'Texas Pregamer' article. I contributed our portion and took a look at the budding yet affable rivalry with Horns. Give it a look.
What with it being a pretty big game, I decided it would be a good time to travel from my current home in Nashville to Morgantown for my first game of the year. Huge thanks to my buddy Chad and his family for letting me crash overnight and bum a ride up. And Chad's mom gets the weekend MVP award for making up an outstanding batch of pepperoni rolls. Man I love my home state.
I'm carrying your love with me. West Virginia down to Tennessee.— EERS Nation (@EersNation) November 9, 2013
This is exactly what I was doing. Only, you know, in the other direction.
Prohibit the taking of omens, and do away with superstitious doubts. Then, until death itself comes, no calamity need be feared.— Sun Tzu (@SunTzuSaid) November 9, 2013
Yeah, Sun Tzu is full of crap. I spent 20 minutes tearing apart the house looking for my gold WVU hat on Friday. I have no idea how old that thing is - at least a dozen years - but it's been on my head for basically every big game for the last decade. So we can spend time breaking down pass protections and playcalling but never forget that WVU lost this game because I couldn't find my damn hat. Sorry.
(sidenote, my daughter found it lodged behind her princess castle where it landed after I threw it following the Kansas State game. 'Hat lost behind a princess castle' is the quintessential moment of my adult life.)
It was also a treat to finally get to meet Nefeterius McPhereson. You'll remember her as the Texas native who was the recipient of a life-saving liver donation from the late Taitlyn Hughes, a 12 year old Mountaineer fan. Their story received a ton of attention in the wake of WVU's win at Texas last year and I was privileged to get to know her as I wrote their story over at theSignalCaller.com last year.
The Twitter world is funny in that there are so many people I interact with that I have never met personally and it was a blessing to get to exchange words with Nefeterius unencumbered by a 140 character limit.
Awww heck. I'm flattered ya'd even think about me. In all seriousness this feature has been really fun and it's only possible because you guys tweet smart and interesting things. So keep doing your thing and I'll do mine.
Beautiful day for a tailgating before a night game pic.twitter.com/BZtPm0fpyj— Smoking Musket (@SmokingMusket) November 9, 2013
Man, it really was a perfect day. Just one more thing that contributed to what was one play away from being the perfect WVU football experience.
This made me laugh.
Lots of Twitter pics of empty seats at football stadiums this morning. Take note, commissioners-presidents-ADs.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) November 9, 2013
Not in Morgantown, Pat.
I could write 5,000 words on how much I loved the 1993 squad. Really, I could. I won't, but I could. Just know that was my favorite WVU team of all time and I could tell you the score of every single game right now off the top of my head. Awesome that they had them in town this weekend.....man it was so close to being perfect.
Easy winner for 'bathroom humor zinger of the week.'
You are awesome, Iowa State. And you deserve so much more than what you get. I mean you are fantastic.
ITS GAMEDAY! Tonight we take on the Longhorns of Texas in our 2nd annual stripe the stadium wearing gold-blue-blue pic.twitter.com/KYtZowLO2t— WVU Football EQ Room (@WVUfootballEQ) November 9, 2013
Well isn't that cool! And if the WVU Equipment Room tweeted it, it has to be true, right? You'd never lie to me would you @WVUfootballEQ ?
Wait....what is that.....why are they wearing white helmets.....WHAT THE??? THAT'S THE 1979 WHITE FOOTBALL HELMET'S MUSIC!!!!!!
@abpriddy It is a crime against humanity that WBG doesn't wear those helmets every game.— Brian Gilbert (@SECSnob) November 10, 2013
Well, I wouldn't go that far, but they were outstanding. Listen, the Flying WV is the Flying WV and you don't need to mess wtih that. Having said that those helmets were amazing and I'm all for breaking them out once a year as a surprise. Huge kudos to the WVU staff for keeping that one under wraps all week. The effect was magnificent and just one more reason this was nanoseconds away from being the perfect WVU football experience.
Also bonus points to my pal who not only secured the tickets but also provided perhaps the most amazing rally on a night that was never in short supply of them. He was 100% unconsciously asleep maybe 4 minutes before kickoff. He was out. It had been a long day. But damned if he wasn't up and screaming for the kick and the rest of the night. Mountaineer fans came to play on Saturday night.
Linebacker Jewone Snow's punt block safety is the first at WVU since Phil Braxton did the same to Temple in September 2000.— Mike Casazza (@mikecasazza) November 10, 2013
Oh, what's that? You have an insanely keyed up night crowd and you'd like something to blow the roof off? PUNT BLOCK!!!!!
I couldn't believe when this happened. In fact I had just jetted out of my seat for a quick leak (yes I realize it was early but I'd had a few beers and needed to offload) when I heard a roar and turned around just as I stepped into the aisle to see what had happened. So I kinda hung in the aisle for the kick and then that went well. With good things happening, me and the guys I was standing next to decided I was good juju and I stuck around to watch a play. Then one good play turned into another and next thing next thing we knew it was a TD.
Amazingly enough later in the game I made a beer run and damned if the same thing didn't happen again. So I hung out in the aisle getting backslapped and high-fived as the little good luck charm and me and those guys became buddies for a few minutes. That's the random stuff I love about games like that. Man that was a helluva night.
Three straight power runs inside the ten? I don't know who WVU has calling plays this week, but KEEP THEM!!— Charlie Blac (@DJCharlieBlac) November 10, 2013
Loved this as an early tone-setter.
WVU haS kickoff returns of 32 and a season-long 43 yards and a blocked punt safety. Game captains? Punter, kicker, snapper, holder!— Mike Casazza (@mikecasazza) November 10, 2013
I've been pretty hard on old Joe DeForest this year, but special teams were huge on Saturday. Fielded some difficult punts, finally nailed some big returns and then there was the blocked punt. Only problems were with some shanked punts, but I think we all know O'Toole has it in him to be great.
R-O-L-A-I-D-S. Paul Millard steps in for injured Clint Trickett and begins with a tidy 0-for-5 with short and erratic throws.— Mike Casazza (@mikecasazza) November 10, 2013
I say again: I hope every idiot who has been calling for Millard is watching this.— Brandon Priddy (@abpriddy) November 10, 2013
And then this happened. Now I've been a pretty vocal Trickett fan here in this space but I'd have to be pretty stubborn to not acknowledge Millard did a lot of very good things. But first he did some bad things and that arm was on full anti-display, but he recovered nicely and had a great command of the offense. In fact you could even make a good case Millard gave WVU a much better chance to win that game. He was running some tempo, got them into a couple good plays and in general made good, quick decisions to combat the Texas rush. Of course he struggled to not turn the ball over, but I have no reason not to believe Trickett wouldn't have had the same problems.
So maybe I'm the idiot.
@mikecasazza Is there any recipe for WVU pulling this out? If so, now is the time to do it. I think they squandered opportunity— Smart Football (@smartfootball) November 10, 2013
I thought the same thing after those early turnovers. We were wrong.
OK now we're going to jump ahead a bit. I was a all over the place at the game and wasn't able to do much about tracking tweets, but if you're reading this you know what happened. WVU went up and then Texas surged and then WVU fired back and before you knew it:
Texas / WVU was sort of sedate in the first half... now it's a couch-burner— James Stevenson (@JamesStevenson) November 10, 2013
That was a helluva game. Put aside the heartache and the disappointment and the frustration with missed opportunities and acknowledge how amazing that was. The striped stadium, the lights, the atmosphere, the fact that Texas was making it's first ever trip to Morgantown.....and then we got THAT GAME. If you were there you'll never forget it. That was awesome.
On an unrelated note I loved the playcalling by WVU. For my money it was one of the two or three best called games Dana Holgorsen has had since he arrived. The inside/outside mix was pitch perfect and there were a couple of beautifully called draw plays on 3rd down. Texas sold out and brought a furious rush and WVU made them pay for it a couple times. Paul Millard was a double-edged sword in that he simultaneously opened up the playbook but also presented limitations with his arm strength, but he was utilized very well.
WVU-Texas sprinting toward surpassing OU-Texas Tech as the best Big 12 game of the year.— David Ubben (@davidubben) November 10, 2013
And this was sent with about 10 minutes left.
That "Lets Go.... Mountaineers" cheer was you chill bump moment of the night. God I love this state— Brandon Priddy (@abpriddy) November 10, 2013
I can't remember exactly when this was, but man it was something to experience. It says a lot about Mountaineer fans that with a 4-5 record they brought THAT kind of performance and were able to carry this team for stretches of the second half. That was damn magical, folks.
That's not something everybody can do.
(and just like that my man @WVUIE97 emails me a fantastic video of it - enjoy.)
Another silver lining: Even in a bad (in WVU standards) season, fans still made it an intimidating atmosphere. Florida can’t even say that.— Tony Dobies (@DOBIEST) November 10, 2013
See? We're not normal.
Darwin Cook with the interception, but a penalty flag on the field. Holding on KJ Dillon... completely unncessary penalty that ruins it.— Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247) November 10, 2013
For about 10 seconds I thought we'd won. That was a nice 10 seconds.
So that's what's it's like to play Texas huh?— Brandon Priddy (@abpriddy) November 10, 2013
I was obviously pretty grumpy about that flag, but when I watched it back it was clearly a flag - albeit one that had no effect whatsoever on Cook making the interception. So I can't necessarily say it was a bad call I will say I have a hard time believing that call is made if the rolls are reversed. That stuff just doesn't happen to Texas, you know?
Guess that's how the rich stay rich.
Shaq Rowell is FURIOUS that a hold was not called. He is screaming at the refs.— Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247) November 10, 2013
This was I believe on the final Texas drive of regulation. So yeah. Like I said.
This was fun and I recommend it highly. That Alford TD was one of my alltime top 5 moments at Mountaineer Field. I mean, that stuff just doesn't happen - and it CERTAINLY doesn't happen this year. You have to watch that a few times on TV to completely appreciate the breakaway speed Alford showed. I mean, he had 18 inches of separation and then he had 4 feet and then he was gone. It was like that old clip of Secretariat gobbling up ground as he runs to another planet. I'm excited about watching this kid develop. I think we've only seen the tip of the iceberg.
Game knows game.
"What a great football game! Now, that's what I'm TALKING about! Let's GOOOOOO MOUNTAINEERS!!!"— Eugene Napoleon (@WVU33) November 10, 2013
WVU taking Charles Sims out on 3rd and 1 late in game confounds me. First down there and it's over.— Ted Gangi (@tedgangi) November 10, 2013
He was gassed. And the way Texas rushed to the middle there unless he were 7 feet tall and 400 pounds, that's a hard first down to get - not sure it made any difference who had the ball. Also Sims was gassed. He'd carried the ball on first down for 9 yards and then sprinted to the sideline on 2nd down where he was tripped up just short of the marker, so I think the thought was to get fresh legs in there for the big carry. Didn't seem to matter given that nobody blocked on that play, but I had another problem with what happened here. We'll get back to that in just a moment.
This shocked me. And it was only their second OT game ever (OT started in 1996). I mean, this is TEXAS. Again - that was a special, special night. Not common.
Back to back OT games for #WVU, first time that has ever happened— WVU IMG Sports (@WVUIMGSports) November 10, 2013
Oh, how wonderful. In a related story:
That's my beautiful wife. Sorry, Sweetie. The good news is I keep the life insurance paid up!
WVU & Texas are combined 12-of-12 in redzone tonight.— Allan Taylor (@AllanTaylorWVU) November 10, 2013
Only I think Texas had 4 field goals. In fact, a look at the stats reveals that Texas started possessions at the WVU 7, 7, 26 and 27 following WVU turnovers. Those possessions ended FG, FG, TD, FG. That's 16 points on 4 possessions starting at the 17 yard line on average. That's damn impressive.
#WVU going to be kicking themselves if they don't win this. No points off turnovers. Texas 9-of-last-12 on 3rd down. Converted 4th-and-7.— Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247) November 10, 2013
Re: second-and-goal fumble by Texas in OT; UT recovered it. MT @davidubben Tough to see live on TV, but the ball shot out about five yards.— Matt Zemek (@MattZemek_CFN) November 10, 2013
Missed opportunity #498
(don't watch that on replay by the way. At least don't do it without a barf bag close by. ugh.)
Sidenote: I talked to someone who watched the end zone feed of the coach's tape and it's evidently a million times worse than what we saw on TV - as in that could happen 50 time and Texas recovers it maybe 5 of those. The ball was knocked loose by Karl Joseph, shot down the line of scrimmage, past Brandon Golson and a host of others and landed right in front of the Texas TE.
You just can't get closer to winning a game than WVU got on Saturday night and not win it. Remember that when you're making grand pronouncements about this team or this record or this coaching staff. If that ball goes an inch one way or the other and Will Clarke scoops it up, we are having an entirely different conversation. So is a coaching staff or group of players really better or worse because a ball goes an inch one way and not the other? I'm just saying, winning and losing are worlds apart on one hand but on the other they are separated by millimeters.
Awesome play call and execution by Texas. West Virginia went all out on the run.— Ben Kercheval (@BenKercheval) November 10, 2013
Remember when I said "we'll get back to that in a second" on that 3rd down playcall? Well, it's been a second. Kudos to Texas for realizing WVU was selling out to the middle and making them pay with a gutsy call. Contrast that with the way WVU handled the aforementioned 3rd and short with just a couple minutes left in regulation. A minute ago I was gushing about the playcalling and I still stand by that - with this one very big exception.
Every single person in the stadium expected a run up the middle including the 11 in white. WVU played to both that expectation and the strength of the UT defense and got nothing to show for it. Run a play action or just a simple bootleg there and WVU almost certainly gets the first down and probably wins the game. Fortune favors the bold. Hard to imagine we're talking about a game Dana Holgorsen coached and saying that about the other guy.
Hell yeah. One of my favorite moments on a night full of them was when one of my buddies I was sitting with (he of the aforementioned kickoff rally), who is normally a glass half empty WVU fan, surveyed a weary fan scene as overtime was about to begin and shocked us all with a rare bolt of positivity.
"I love this shit! This is what we live for. I love this. Look at this game. This place is awesome. This is what we come here for. This is what we want. All year this is what we're begging for. I (firetrucking) LOVE THIS."
End around to Mario Alford and #WVU picks up 20 on the first play. Eers have 1st and goal at the 5-yard line.— Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247) November 10, 2013
From the time WVU went up 9-0 in this game I felt really good. As in irrationally confident that WVU would win the game. Even before the Alford TD, and certainly after. I felt a little bad in the OT and then we won the toss and even when Texas scored I was OK. After this play I was supremely confident. It wasn't until 3rd and goal for the 'eers that I began to entertain the notion that WVU might not win.
WORSE PLAY CALLING IN THE HISTORY OF WVU. If Charles Sims is putting up numbers why not give him the ball on 2nd and 3rd down.— Andrew (@AndrewMane_) November 10, 2013
OK so let's talk about this.
First off I disagree with that statement completely. Texas had demonstrated on the previous three plays - a loss by Dreamius Smith on the fateful 3rd and 1, the reverse by Alford in the first play of OT and the Sims run up the gut - that they were selling out to stop the run. I just don't think there was going to be success playing to the strength of that Texas front.
Additionally, both those first two passes were there - especially the one to Jordan Thompson. If the rusher doesn't barely get his hand on that ball it's 6. On the next play, if a diving Steve Edmunds doesn't make a fantastic play to get a hand on it falling backwards, Kevin White scores. Even the final play was kinda there and Edmunds again made a great play.
So it's hard for me to look at things that would have worked but for great individual efforts by defenders and say the calls were bad. Also I might be mistaken, but I think Millard checked into that pass on 2nd down - again, a play that should have worked.
Should have won that game. Period.— Jeff Braun™ (@JEFFBRAUN57) November 10, 2013
Hard to walk away and not feel that way. That's about as tough as the losses get.
So we lost, but Virginia Tech at least lost to Miami, right?
Well no way Pitt beat Notre Dame....
And now Pitt WINS!!?? There is no god...— Fake Bob Huggins (@FakeBobHuggins) November 10, 2013
But hey, there were a lot of positives to take away from that game.
You know that depth issue we keep wringing our hands about? Well the answer was sitting there in the stands in the form of a bunch of 16-17 year old kids looking to make the decision on where to spend their formative years. The loss aside, you couldn't have asked for a better setting for college football and I bet that won't be the last trip some of those kids make to Milan Puskar Stadium.
I mean come on, how could you say no to that?
Reading a lot of doom and gloom from the beat writers today. Really? Is that the narrative from a close loss to the B12 leader this year?— Country Roads (@CountryRoadsWV) November 10, 2013
Buncha damn crybabies.
As an #okstate fan I'm really, really glad Texas was involved in an emotional overtime win tonight. That's excellent.— Pistols Firing (@pistolsguy) November 10, 2013
Yeah. Glad we could help, Pokes.
Okay. So. Last night sucked.— SMCMorgantown (@SMCMorgantown) November 10, 2013
Oh, come on. It wasn't that bad.
I hate sports.— Not Dana Holgorsen (@FauxCoachHolgs) November 10, 2013
I'm telling you, it wasn't that bad! We did a lot of good things. Really, we did. Play half that good and you beat Kansas by 30 and probably get by Iowa State (thank God we're not playing them in Ames). That's a bowl game and that's what we've been aiming for all year.
Well, you've stuck with us this far, so how about something to smile about:
No I won't. I was home on my couch watching him shred Oklahoma in the best individual performance college football has seen in the last 30 years.
(I kid, I kid. Loved seeing Tavon finally break out. Needed that.)
OK enough jokes. Time for a serious parting shot:
This gets my nomination to be put on a poster and hung in the WVU locker room for next season.
My travel plans threw off my schedule for the feature this week, so I'm a couple days late on this, but Happy Birthday Marines. Y'all are badasses and you don't need bloggers to tell you that. Thank you for everything you do. While we're at it:
It shouldn't take Veterans Day for us to say thank you pic.twitter.com/0l9jhO7GSA— Country Lyrics (@Quoting_Country) November 13, 2013
Thanks to all our veterans. I read somewhere that West Virginia has the highest percentage of veterans of any state in the union. I'm not sure if that's true but if it's not then dammit it should be. We're able to go to football games and tailgate and write about all that stuff over here because of the sacrifices they've made over there. We owe you a debt we can't repay and thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Keep safe, kick ass and come home.
God Bless West Virginia and God Bless America.
It was a helluva night.