Just felt like throwing out some quick thoughts after the huge WVU win. No real structure to anything - I've been drinking beer for the last 8 hours so you don't get structure from Midnight Drinking Brandon, but I'd say most of you are thinking thoughts about WVU too and I didn't want to wait until the Retweet Monday to get to all of them. So give it a read but more importantly let's kick it around in the comments - I want to know what you think, too.
The Running Man
So it appears the next evolution of Dana Holgorsen's "Air Raid" (which is a misnomer at this point) is....I-formation? Credit the coach for having a plan and sticking to it. For his entire time here he's talked nonstop about running the football and running the football and even when his quarterback puts up 600 yards he's bitching about not being able to run the football. Or when his offensive line can't run-block for crap he doesn't care he's lining up in that diamond formation on 4th and 1 cause HE WANTS TO RUN THE FOOTBALL and even when it's abundantly clear the team had no ability to do anything on the ground in short yardage he's lining up to go for it on 4th and 2 because HE WANTS TO RUN THE FOOTBALL.
It was maddening and frankly at the time I thought he was just speaking coach platitudes, but then not realizing that just cause he said it didn't mean he needed to actually DO it and failing across the board when he stubbornly kept trying to make his offense do what it simply could not. It turns out he meant what he said and even though it took him 4 years by gawd he's runnin' that damn pigskin. Not that fancy spread-runnin' neither but honest to god load the box and pound you with bodies run the ball. Nick Saban would be damn proud. And wouldn't you know it the team we all thought would be defined by ever-escalating passing records is instead distinguishing itself as one of the more physically imposing members of the conference known for aerial artistry. And that (among other things) is what separates WVU from Baylor.
That is who the Mountaineers are now, and it's OK. In fact it's better than OK - it's the thing that might make them the best team in the conference.
Now some quick hits:
- I like Wendell Smallwood a lot more than Rushel Shell. Shell is a big body and can do some nice things and wears on a defense but he's never going to be able to exploit space and small windows like Smallwood. Kid is fast and kid is STRONG. Look at a couple of those early runs - he puts his head down and drives through the defender. 23 carries is a pretty big load and there are enough good bodies in that backfield to keep that number south of 20, but he really set the tone early with some big runs.
- Speaking of those bodies, I want more Dreamius Smith in my life. It just seems a waste to give your only bona fide 100% home run hitter 5 carries (which he used to get 74 yards and a score). Certainly a fresh Dreamius maximizes the toll on a tired defense (as we saw at the end of the game) but come on - 5 carries on the day when your #1 is hurt? Need to find a way to get him on the field.
- What if I had told you in 2008 that Tony Gibson would be the defensive coordinator in Morgantown and you'd love it?
- Had a couple streaks end on Saturday and that sucked. First Clint Trickett snapped his string of 8 300 yard games stretching back to last season. On top of that Kevin White's 7 game streak of 100 yard games ended as well. Those things suck but they suck less when they're a bi-product of a shift in offensive strategy and not simply a team sucking for a day.
- There was a lot of talk about WVU's aggressive defense in the wake of the Baylor win, and you wonder how much of that Gibby was playing into when he was calling blitzes early. He dialed up 3 straight blitzes to end Oklahoma State's first possession after the Pokes drove to the WVU 47 yard line. After that he picked his spots, but you feel like the threat of that blitz loomed large in Daxx Garman's mind the rest of the day.
- Play of the game - 3rd and 8 for Oklahoma State from the WVU 9. They've scored 10 straight and are poised to take the lead or at least pull within 1. Garman drops back, sees his options covered and waits a beat too long before Edward Muldrow closes on him up the middle and brings him down back at the 20. Kicker misses a much longer field goal and the air is out of the crowd - they never really recovered. If OSU scores 7 or even 3 there who knows where things go. Maybe WVU presses a bit more on offense and makes a mistake. Instead WVU gets to the half with their 4 point lead and the ball to start the second half. That was a big moment.
- That touchdown to Mario Alford was a thing of beauty. Jordan Thompson motions over to Alford's side and the safety help panics and sprints up to cover the swing man. Alford runs his slant to the exact spot the safety vacated and Trickett hits him beautifully in stride. 79 yards later Oklahoma State was going to be keeping that safety back for the rest of the game.
- For two weeks straight we've seen a Mountaineer team enthusiastically deliver the kill shot. Last week against Baylor they entered the final session tied at 24 before scoring on a pair of long touchdown passes to put it away. On Saturday they entered with a 17-0 lead before scoring on Dravon Henry's pick 6 and Dreamius' 40 yard run. The knock on them last year was they couldn't finish. This year they can.
- WVU hasn't had much fumble luck this year as they STILL haven't recovered a fumble, but the luck was there in Stillwater. Two years ago we saw a ball take an insane leap and smack Tavon Austin in the stomach for a game-changing turnover. Today Jaylon Myers was running TOWARDS a bouncing ball that he'd lost in the sun and while it easily could have kicked up and created disaster, it did not. Also Clint Trickett lost a fumble deep in his own territory that Marquis Lucas quickly fell on. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.
- WVU is playing TCU in what might be the featured game of the day. Not in the Big 12 but in America. What if I'd told you that while everyone was writing their hand-wringing "oh the Big 12 made a mistake" columns last year. Write about that Pat Forde.
I'll leave you with this. It was frustrating to see Kevin White largely ignored after his game-opening touchdown, but after pounding my head into the wall for a couple hours, I finally got it around the 3rd quarter. K.I.S.S. - Keep It Simple Stupid. It's no secret that this was a trap game for WVU. There were a million reasons they'd get caught in Stillwater. Guys are starting to get a little banged up and the Mountaineers haven't exactly set the world on fire for the back half of the schedule the last 2 seasons. On top of that the weather was awful with temperatures in the 90s for guys who hadn't seen that type of weather for a couple months. The situation was tailor-made for cramps. OSU was coming off an absolute stinker, which as we all know is often the time that you see a team's best football. On the other side WVU was coming off a huge win over Baylor where they expended an enormous amount of emotion and energy. So again - a lot of reasons this was going to go badly.
So if we all know these things, Holgo knows these things and he realized the best way to combat all of it was shorten and simplify the game - K.I.S.S. A passing attack is dependent on a variety of variables. The quarterback has to throw a good pass, the receiver has to make a good catch and they need to be on the same page. There are a lot of opportunities for things to go wrong. Not to mention if you're having a bad day it hurts more as the clock doesn't move on incompletions. Think of 2012's massacre in Lubbock against Texas Tech.
It made perfect sense to play it safe and move things on the ground - especially after WVU built an early lead they could sit on and Okie State couldn't fill the box for fear of getting beat deep. What you saw wasn't a team winning ugly or backing into a W. It was an intelligent and risk-averse gameplan. EXACTLY the type of gameplan we'd have all killed to be able to execute over the last 12 years. Part of winning in a conference like the Big 12 is learning how to win. You can't beat everyone 50-48. It's been a joy to watch Holgorsen fully come into his own this season and I'm enjoying the ride.
We got a ways to go y'all - hang on.
So that's what I got. What you got? Let's kick it around in the comments.