Before even attempting to understand a beat-down that will occupy a unique place in Mountaineer lore, it must be first acknowledged that this has a lot more to do with the team across the field than the one we write about on this site. The Baylor Bears are a well-oiled blitzkrieg of murderous efficiency that leaves sorrow, sadness and tired referees in its path. WVU was not the first team to be embarrassed by Baylor and they certainly won't be the last. They are amazing, they are fantastic, and credit must be given.
I say this to underscore the point I want to express here - this is not the end of the world for WVU. This isn't even the end of the season. This is a Mountaineer team that will win more games in the Big 12 and might possibly make a bowl. This is not a conference teeming with talent and WVU already has the 3 best teams they'll play in the Big 12 behind them. The sun will come up tomorrow.
I'm going to purposefully stay away from delving too deeply into the stats from tonight because I just don't think they matter. Baylor is a very unique problem in that their style and personnel magnify problems and make them appear much worse than they are, so wringing hands over them is a pointless exercise. If you want to do that go read Casazza or someone else.
This being a recap however, here's the Cliff's notes of the carnage: The Bears rolled up 73 points, 872 yards of total offense (a record against WVU) which was distributed nicely with 476 rushing and 396 passing. Amazingly they turned the ball over 3 times, 2 of which WVU turned into immediate scores. None of those mattered in the least.
I don't know that this game told us anything new about WVU as much as it accentuated those areas that we knew were questions before. I know that's less than you were expecting but don't let numbers fool you into an overreaction. This offensive line cannot run block. At all. And when they do the running backs don't have enough confidence to hit the rare holes that appear with confidence. Charles Sims is an NFL ready back and he can't find daylight consistently. That's not new.
There's no easy answer there. Line coach Ron Crook has shuffled personnel around quite a bit there and halfway through the season you've entered 'you are who you are' territory. This just isn't a team that will run the ball, which is a damn shame given the talent in the backfield. Also not new.
Clint Trickett may not be the answer. I don't want to say he isn't, because he very well may be against TCU, Kansas and Iowa State. The very nature of the Baylor offense makes you press to an extent that you never would otherwise and it was clear Clint was caught up in it. His strategy of chucking the ball down the field (I counted at least 14 heaves) would have worked great in Tecmo Bowl, but didn't do much to sustain drives. WVU needed to hold and move the ball to keep Baylor's offense on the sideline, and they never approached that. If anything Trickett's 32% passing (9/28) only exacerbated the "Baylor Effect." Incomplete passes stop the clock and lengthen the game. That is the last thing you want to do against the Bears.
The bigger problem is that Trickett seems to still be playing catchup with the system. Holgorsen is consistently frustrated with his execution of the offense and I've got to believe both he and Shannon Dawson are smart enough to have not dialed up all those bombs. The 'take what the defense gives you' element of Holgorsen's offenses that has served him so well up to now was largely gone. If that's still the case against Texas Tech it's a problem. It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall of the Puskar Center during the off week. Clint may still be the best option under center this team has, but adjustments clearly need to be made.
I'm going to leave the defense alone here and assume that they haven't regressed. Up to now 5 games of evidence showed me they were a hard-hitting unit that payed smart and tackled well. Tonight was a regression to the 2012 ways of fan tackling, poor angles and DBs having no idea what the hell was going on. I choose to treat this as an anomaly because the alternative is too frightening to contemplate. I can't handle another 2012, nor do I think I'll have to.
There's plenty more to hit on and we'll do it throughout the week here at the Musket, but I want to reiterate my earlier point. As ugly as tonight was the season is not over - far from it. This is a team that can win more games and will be able to compete with everyone left on the schedule. We knew this was a rebuilding season and the goal needs to be getting things on a positive track to set the stage for a good 2014. Nobody needs to be fired, nobody has lost their team and nobody knows what the next 8 weeks hold.
Reactionary moves are tempting after nights like tonight, but I'd encourage you to step back from the ledge and maintain a balanced opinion. 2013 is only halfway through and the second half of the season is the one you remember - we learned that last year.
Listen to some Tupac and keep ya head up.