This one had it all. Seemingly every gremlin that has haunted the Mountaineers for the past three months came together on a wildly infuriating night that saw WVU drop their third consecutive game despite allowing a single yard rushing to the Kansas State Wildcats. You want a brain-dead play by a punt-returner? This one had it. How about erratic quarterback play. Got that too. Suspect ball security? Boneheaded special teams play? Cement-footed tackles? Impulsive coaching decisions? Check, check, check. Yes, if you wanted a good overview of the varying bugaboos that have plagued the Mountaineers during the 2014 season, it was all condensed into a neat 60 minute set of miscues, poor decisions and mistakes.....and despite all that nearly enough talent to pull off the win anyway.
So with that glowing introduction let's get this thing started.
Hey you know what's funny? When these weeknight games become a novelty instead of a way of life, they're actually kind of fun. I enjoyed listening to pregame for my last couple hours at work. I liked being the only show in town and having the eyes of the entire nation on WVU for a few hours. Heck, I didn't even mind staying up late on a work night.
Daryl Worley #⃣7⃣ (@dworley7) November 20, 2014
The Mountaineer Retweet cannot endorse getting fired up with pregame Bane quotes strongly enough. This was awesome.
Man I wanted to get this one for those guys. It's been a unique senior class with all the transfers, but it's been a class that came together quickly and allowed WVU to bridge the time it's taken to get acclimated to the talent level required to compete in the Big 12. This could have been a really ugly stretch and although it hasn't been what we hoped, we've had some good times. Thanks, seniors.
You guys know me. I'm not a big alternate uniform guy. In fact if you wanted to shoot those yellow and white helmets in a rocket to the moon, you wouldn't get much argument from me. Having said that I love breaking out the old school look for one big night game a year. Hopefully that becomes a thing...
Bill Snyder on the atmosphere at West Virginia: "I think it will be a vibrant environment, and the fans, their students will get into it."— K-State Athletics (@kstatesports) November 18, 2014
I love how Bill Snyder says things. He's like your grandfather with a really good vocabulary. And the pacing of his speech, so measured, so consistent. It's just soothing to listen to him talk. If Bill Snyder had been sitting next to me on the couch describing Bill Snyder kicking my team's ass, that would have made it better.
#WVU offense looks great when it’s Trickett to Kevin White. Things haven’t been the same since teams decided to neutralize him. Out of sync.— Michael Carvelli (@Carvelli3) November 21, 2014
It's not so much that other teams have been able to neutralize White, it's that WVU has been unable to make them pay for it on the ground. Also, it's got to do with the guy delivering him the ball....but we'll get to that in a bit.
WVU's goal lone fumble is recovered by K-State's Dylan Schnellenberg...the free safety. That position has killed WVU all season. All season.— Mike Casazza (@mikecasazza) November 21, 2014
You know how they keep track of "unforced errors" in tennis? I would like to see those stats for college football. Bad interceptions, bobbled handoffs, muffed punts. I bet WVU has a higher number of unforced errors than any team with a winning record. Because that's what this was, a brutal, brutal unforced error.
I've reached the "indiscriminate cursing at my television" phase of watching WVU football.— Patrick Southern (@patricksouthern) November 21, 2014
That didn't make Patrick unique. Maybe we should watch some basketball.
Not often that you see the round ball and oblong ball bouncing at the same time for WVU. A little too much bouncing of the oblong ball for my taste to be honest with you.
Offense has not looked the same since the 1st Quarter of TCU. Group looks out of sync with turnovers and penalties.— Jeff Culhane (@jeffculhane) November 21, 2014
Boy you could write a book on this tweet. Let's start things out with a little stat comparison:
Clint Trickett before The Illegal Tackle By Facemask That Didn't Get a Penalty: 225/328 (68.6%) for 2,840 yards (12.6 yards per completion average) 18 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.
Clint Trickett since The Illegal Tackle By Facemask That Didn't Get a Penalty: 56/91 (61.5%) for 445 yards (7.9 yards per completion average) 0 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.
That's a helluva drop-off. The big number that jumps out at you is yards per completion - it suffered a nearly 40% drop-off. Also he's thrown as many interceptions since the hit (5) as before in about a quarter of the game time. When you add to that the 2.5 game touchdown drought since the hit (he'd thrown a touchdown in every game before the hit)....it's pretty irrefutable. Something happened.
My suspicion is that he suffered a mild concussion that in the immediate aftermath cost him precious fractions of a second in decision making that, in an offense like he's charged with running, represent the difference between success and failure. Since then he's been much more sensitive to the fact that another hit could end his season. Now add to the mix that WVU's tackles beginning their auditions for a Barcelona bullring (ole!). You're left with a completely rattled (understandably) quarterback who is thinking way too much about everything going around him instead of reacting to defensive adjustments and receiver routs and basically making a complex offense run to perfection.
Let me be clear none of this is a reflection on Clint or his toughness or any of that. Hell, if anything he's been too tough, having seemingly played through a concussion for part of a game AGAIN (he admitted to hiding one against Kansas State last year). First of the WVU staff needs to revisit their protocol for identifying and dealing with concussions. Whatever they do is clearly inadequate. Second Clint has carried this team through a season where he was the only option at quarterback. He's given WVU fans a hundred times more than any of us had a reason to expect this season. And as much as it sucks he needs to be on the shelf for the final regular season game against Iowa State. You've got a long life after football Clint.
The red zone numbers suck the last few games. Because as much as people (myself included) want to point at lacking QB play for the struggles, that fumble at the 2 yard line was completely on Wendell Smallwood and Holgorsen has made a few suspicions decisions on fourth down, so it's really been a team effort.
That might be the most remarkable TD catch of the year by WVU. Also, Country Roads call by @timbrando was incredible.— Clay Travis (@ClayTravisBGID) November 21, 2014
I mean wasn't that just a microcosm of the year? An unbelievably spectacular play. A play that will be on every year-end highlight reel. A play that's going to be on highlight reels for years to come. A play that instantly ignites the crowd and gives WVU just the boost it needs to ignite a rally. This will be the turning point.
Until it's not. Until the 4th or 5th replay showing the reverse angle gives SOME evidence that the ball MIGHT have hit the ground. Until the referee informs us that video evidence has overturned the most exciting play of the WVU season.
(sidenote: this whole thing only got more frustrating when you remember that Fox didn't have a camera to cover the reverse angle in the game against Texas the week before when Wendell Smallwood may very well have crossed the goal line for a first-half touchdown that could have significantly changed that game. Not suggesting any conspiracy theories, just pointing out that WVU's been pretty damn unlucky for the last month. Also if you're going to have a close play, do it on Thursday night when they have more cameras than Saturday afternoon games that get lost in the shuffle.)
YOUR FACE IS AN INCOMPLETE PASS— Holly Anderson (@HollyAnderson) November 21, 2014
as @MattRHinton likes to say, there are some things that should just be allowed based on spectacle alone.— Holly Anderson (@HollyAnderson) November 21, 2014
I concur with all of these sentiments.
And Lambert misses the FG wide right. What an unfortunate turn of events.— Ben Kercheval (@BenKercheval) November 21, 2014
It was a bad sequence. And things would only get worse. First a long Kevin White completion was called back on a very suspect offensive pass interference call. So instead of a 1st and 10 near midfield, the Mountaineers were forced to punt.
That might have been the easiest punt return touchdown I've ever seen.— Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247) November 21, 2014
I would have to agree. The old record-holder in my book was Trent Guy's 40 yard return in the 2006 WVU Louisville game, but this one might have been even easier. Man you have to respect that WVU special team's tradition.
Nick O’Toole punted to wrong side of field & Tyler Lockett takes it to the house for #KState. Wildcats take 17-3 lead w/1:12 to go in 2nd.— Greg Madia (@GregMadia) November 21, 2014
Man WVU special teams have just been a hot mess this season. That's 3 punt return touchdowns. Only 9 teams in the entire country have allowed more than 1 and only one other team - Washington State - has allowed 3. Buoyed by those scores, opponents average 14.4 yards per return against the Mountaineers - good for 123rd nationally. Which provides a beautiful symmetry to the other side of the return game where WVU ranks 122nd in return average with 3.7 yards per return. Which frankly seems high.
Listen, we're Mountaineer fans. We're essentially connoisseurs of awful special teams play. But even with our snobby tastes (oh dahling, you call that a PUNT BLOCK? ha, ha) this year has been standout. I'm just saying if I were the guy charged with coordinating the special teams play, I'd probably be updating my LinkedIn profile.
Meanwhile, down in Puerto Rico @WVUhoops is leading by 22 with 2:27 left in the first half ...— John Antonik (@JohnAntonik) November 21, 2014
Maybe we should have all just watched the damn basketball game instead.
"Turn out the lights… this party’s over…" RT @DScottFritchen: K-State is 172-5 when leading at the half since 1990.— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) November 21, 2014
Heavy odds there.
Can’t believe Clint Trickett of tonight is same quarterback I saw put up big numbers against Alabama.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) November 21, 2014
It's jarring. He's having the 3rd best yardage season of any WVU quarterback ever and even before he left the game with the injury there was a compelling case to be made that he should be pulled from the game. It makes me ill to type that but it's the truth. When taken in sum alongside a defense that was giving everything it had, there was a strong case to be made that quarterback play was WVU's primary obstacle.
The phrase "Clint Trickett makes a great open field, touchdown-saving tackle" is not one you want to hear. #WVU— WVUPros (@WVUPros) November 21, 2014
And if that pick gets taken back for a score, this team likely folds the tents. Considering what it ended up costing him and considering it ended with KSU getting no points on the trip (after a missed field goal) instead of 7, that was a borderline heroic effort by Trickett. In 5 seconds you got everything you love and hate about the Mountaineer signal caller. First he made an awful throw where the corner sat and baited him into the dump-off and jumped the route. A throw he doesn't make a month ago. But then you get enormous effort to minimize the damage in the form of a diving tackle. When you remember Trickett's contribution to WVU in the coming years, I'd recommend spending more time thinking about the second thing he did there than the first thing.
West Virginia tips the K-State field goal, which is no good. Probably the first good thing to happen to them this half.— Ben Kercheval (@BenKercheval) November 21, 2014
Man these guys just kept fighting. Tooth and friggin' nail. That's admirable and that matters.
Coach Holgorsen with @TheSignalCaller: "We should be winning. That's the fact of the matter. We didn't take advantage of our opportunities."— WVU IMG Sports (@WVUIMGSports) November 21, 2014
You could unfortunately say that about any of the last 3 games.
Both of those WVU safties backed up because they knew that pop pass was coming.— Ben Kercheval (@BenKercheval) November 21, 2014
What if I told you the same guy that coaches WVU's special teams also coaches their safeties. Would your head explode?
KJ Dillon records WVU's seventh tackle for loss of the game to force a K-State 3-and-out.— WVU Football (@WVUfootball) November 21, 2014
This game is half over, and there is a long trail of break lights leading away from Milan Puskar Stadium. No shame. It’s basketball season.— Stephen J. Nesbitt (@stephenjnesbitt) November 21, 2014
You people are pathetic.
Our last game in Milan puskar against sorry ass Pitt we refused to lose! I played with some dawgs though!— Bruce Irvin (@BIrvin_WVU11) November 21, 2014
Sorry ass Pitt. Haha. Bruce is just the best.
This was the most predictable thing ever, right? K State was just giving so much ground keeping WVU from banging them deep. It's their entire defensive M.O. Jed Drenning covered it beautifully in his game preview:
Hayes is very selective about rolling the defensive dice. Unlike a lot of other Big 12 coordinators he doesn’t take a bucket of chances or often sacrifice numbers in an effort to disrupt, as demonstrated by Kansas State’s modest pressure numbers (ninth in the Big 12 in sacks; eighth in Tackles for Loss). Instead, they often sit back and let the game come to them - thriving on your imperfections and betting on the fact that you will miss an assignment before they do.
There was just so much potential for a quarterback to simply sit back and pick his spots. The Wildcats weren't sending a whole lot of blitzes. They weren't taking a whole lot of chances. They were simply sitting back and waiting for WVU to screw up, which they would invariably do. But if a quarterback was willing to take what was given to him, they it was possible to move up and down the field. Very possible.
Howard runs for 16 yards on 3rd-and-6 for a WVU first down at the K-state 7.— WVU Football (@WVUfootball) November 21, 2014
As an added bonus when opposing teams are scared to death of your receivers and constantly drop safeties, the middle of the field opens waaaaay up. If I had to guess on the one thing this staff will attempt to get Skyler Howard to understand in the next few days, it's that running is his friend. There were two instances in particular where Howard bailed out with a throw to his safety valve out in the flats, when simply tucking the ball and running would have yielded him at least 10 yards. That stuff is hard to see in the moment but very easy to understand once you start watching tape. I have a sneaking suspicion this WVU offense has just been given a new weapon.
Bingo! A roughing the punter penalty AND a muffed punt turnover! At long last, WVU has reached its special teams nadir.— Mike Casazza (@mikecasazza) November 21, 2014
This year, #WVU PRs have attempted diving fair catches, over the shoulder grabs in traffic, standing around to let the ball hit them....— Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247) November 21, 2014
West Virginia is combustible.— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) November 21, 2014
I wrote something in the Oklahoma State Retweet that seems prescient in hindsight:
Good lord man. Just stop this maddness. And you know what - this wasn't even the most maddening punt return moment of THAT SERIES. Because right after Thompson's bobbling, cardiac episode-inducing return was negated by a penalty they trotted Vernon Davis out there (returner #3 on the day) who elected to not return the ball and instead let it bounce but then RAN TOWARDS A ROLLING/BOUNCING FOOTBALL. Listen, Vernon FOOTBALLS ARE SHAPED FUNNY AND THERE'S NOT TELLING WHERE IN THE HELL THEY WILL BOUNCE DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE RUN TOWARDS A ROLLING/BOUNCING FOOTBALL IF YOU ARE RETURNING PUNTS.
More and more I'm convinced there is just a huge gap in communication when this coaching staff attempts to teach these guys how to field punts. At best they just can't give them any confidence, and at worst they're not giving them the foundational knowledge they need to do the job effectively in order to gain confidence. Which is pretty bad because that's basically exactly what a coach is paid to do.
The worst part about this was how predictable it all was. Davis has been doing this crap the entire time he's been out there. Yes, he seem to possess the unique ability to execute a fair catch, which elevates him to near-mythical status among the WVU faithful, but he's also displayed a disturbing penchant for being unwilling to vacate the premises when he can't get to a punt to catch it and the ball starts bouncing.
This is a stupid problem to have. Football fields are very, very, very large areas and relative to that large area the footballs themselves are very, very small. If I were to roll a ball your way, there would be many, many options open to you that would yield the desired result of you and the football never making contact with each other. Given the challenges presented with route trees, throwing progressions, changing defensive personnel, hybrid linebacker/safeties and the countless other variables that must be dealt with during a football game, moving out of the way so a ball doesn't roll into you would appear a relatively simple matter to address.
Let's see if they can take care of that one this week.
Alford. Damn.— Allan Taylor (@AllanTaylorWVU) November 21, 2014
That's about all that can be said for Mario Alford and the otherworldly jets he flashed to get WVU right back in the game. Damn. For my money he's got the best acceleration we've ever seen around here - and that's including Tavon. That play should have been a nice little 15-20 yard completion. No more, no less. Catch the ball, accelerate a little, turn the corner and get shoved out of bounds. Happens all the time.
There might be 4 guys in the entire country who could have made that play. Maybe just two or three. I mean, the kid started from a dead stop after he caught that ball. He's a breathtaking talent to behold and I'm thankful he's been able to put his talents on display all season. I hope some NFL scouts are watching and I hope he gets a chance to flash those afterburners on Sundays.
I just hope someone has the good sense to put together a highlight reel and set it to the fast music from Super Mario Brothers when you get the star. Man is he fast.
Turns out Morgantown is a tough place to play. Crazy.— OurDailyBears (@OurDailyBears) November 21, 2014
I know, right?
Funny thing is that snyder is right: ksu didn't play well. Wvu still outmistaked them. It's uncanny— Allen Kenney (@BlatantHomerism) November 21, 2014
That's the thing. For all the talk about consistent K State and how they wait for you to make the mistake, they were all over the place on Thursday night just begging for WVU to come along and knock them off. They only had one touchdown drive all night. That first one - that was it. After that it was all field goals and field goal misses. Hell they even fumbled a damn kickoff that WVU refused to cash in on (that possession ended with a 40 yard Lambert miss). For the third week in a row WVU out-sloppied their opponent and left a very winnable game on the table. That's difficult to watch and accept.
The most troubling thing to me about the team this year has been their near linear downward trajectory. Starting with an Alabama game that was for my money the most well put-together and executed gameplan of the Holgorsen era we've now descended to a point where red zone drives routinely result in foolish 4th down attempts and no points. The special teams play finds more creative ways to cough up games, the offensive line is a discombobulated mess and the offense as a whole is unreliable at best and self-destructive at worst. The entire team seems to have become more undisciplined as the season has worn on. I don't know where that leaves us other than I find myself asking a lot of questions that I thought had at least been answered for this season when the record stood at 6-2.
That's all depressing stuff, though. Let's end with a laugh:
That was great and that made my entire weekend. I think I want to have it blown up and screen-printed as a mural in my master bedroom. Might kill the mood, though. Sorry Mom and Dad, no more grand-kids.
Well it is what it is and at least we're going bowling. Iowa State won't be any picnic so hopefully this team can turn things around and maybe we'll get a glimpse of the future under center. The good news about how quickly things can turn is it works both ways. If this team can string together a couple solid wins (in a best-case scenario a Liberty Bowl win over a well-known SEC brand name would be huge) then they can erase a lot of the frustration of the past few weeks. We are a short-memoried society, so hopefully we'll head off into the winter on a good note.
No matter what happens we'll be here and we'll be tweeting, so