I read two SBNation blogs on a regular basis, Smoking Musket and BigBlueView, the New York Giants blog. Over at BBV, one of the writers does a "5 Things I think about the Giants". I'm going to piggy back off that and do that for the Mountaineers. It may not be 5 things, I reserve the right to go over if I so choose.
1. I think Gibson deserves more money.....
The preparedness and tenacity of our defense cannot be understated. Tony Gibson has turned a team that once had the worst defense in the nation into a top unit that absolutely keeps the team in every game. It should be noted that Gibson is working with juniors and seniors who have played 30+ games together but still, his schemes and committment to a unique defense has turned many heads. Whatever we pay Gibson currently, its not enough.
2. I think I'm disappointed in our offensive line.....
An offensive line with Tyler Orlosky, Adam Pankey, Stone Underwood and Kyle Bosch, guys who have started multiple games along the line and led by Ron Crook should not allow our 230 lb running back to lose 7 yards on a critical overtime drive. If Dana is determined to be a running team, this offensive line needs to open more holes. While I understand that Wendell Smallwood is our more dynamic and complete back, there is no reason that Rushel Shell should not have holes to run through. Plenty of times Shell gets a handoff, runs left or right and is met with a wall of defenders.
3. I think you are seeing the fruits of a young offense...
There are currently two seniors receivers on the team: Jordan Thompson and K.J. Myers. There are three juniors: Daikiel Shorts , Vernon Davis and Devonte Mathis. Five receivers who are upperclassmen. Per WVUSports.com there are 14 receivers on the team and half of those 14, seven are freshman/true freshman. When you have such young skill players who are the current producers on your team, they are going to be inconsistent. Durante is a talent but he is still young and he's still only 170 pounds. He will get out muscled for jump balls on occasion. Shelton Gibson will make incorrect reads on slip screens. Gary Jennings will not get as deep as necessary between the zone defenders. All of these mistakes are correctable but they often come as a result of a) making mistakes and b) coaching. Very few, if any players, are polished NFL receivers as 18 year old freshmen.
4. I think Skyler Howard has 2 more quarters to prove he belongs....
I was not in favor of putting William Crest in during or after the Oklahoma game. We saw the horrors of pulling quarterbacks during 2013. A quarterback has to feel that he has support of his coaching staff and not be worried that one interception or one bad game is going to get him pulled. No one has ever played football and not made a mistake or had a bad game. That said, this is now back to back games where Skyler has played extremely poorly in the first half and put the team in a hole that almost proved to be too big to climb out of. I'm not sold on Crest but if Skyler has another 4/11 for 31 yard performance and another 2 turnovers in the first half against Baylor, I think you need to make a switch.
Over his last 12 quarters of play, Skyler has been serviceable-to-great in six and awful-to-junior high level in six. The first half against Maryland, the second halves against OU and OSU showed us "good Skyler". The second half of Maryland, and the first halves against OU/OSU showed us "bad Skyler". Bad Skyler is proving to be bigger than Good Skyler.
5. I think Texas Tech, Texas and KSU will determine Dana Holgerson's fate...
I came into the year thinking the ceiling of this team was 9-3 and the floor was 7-5. I thought we would run through the non conference schedule, lose to OU/TCU/Baylor, and OSU/TTU/KSU would be our toss up games. Well so far I'd say that is exactly how it has played out. Losing a toss up game doesn't change a 7-5 season but now with Texas possibly getting itself righted, you can add Texas to the tossup list. If we cannot beat TTU/Texas/KSU this season, this team will finish under .500. That is unacceptable with this defense. I think a bowl-less season will spell the end for Dana. I know many will not want to hear this but I think 6 wins keeps his job and puts him on the hot seat entering 2016. I think 7 wins saves him and buys him at least 2 years. Anything above that becomes house money.
Dana is not perfect and now has a team full of depth and kids he has helped recruit. We see some of that in the players. We are seeing more and more offensive skill players come to WVU because of the system. I think Chugs and Sills have a chance to be very exciting quarterbacks. If Dana cannot right the ship and get us above .500, I can see Shane Lyons making a change.
6. I think nostalgia is clouding the history of many fans
As part of the gameday thread, there was a mention of how Nehlen routinely took teams back in the independent and Big East days (before the BE was watered down) and won big games. So I looked, because if this is true, it should be noted and should be a standard that WVU holds all of its coaches to. Don Nehlen, in his 21 seasons as a head coach at West Virginia University, compiled a record of 13-40-2 against ranked opponents. His best win would have to be considered beating #4 Miami in Morgantown during the 1993 season.
To note that we played 55 ranked teams during Nehlen's 21 years at WVU. That equates to 2.5 ranked teams a year. Obviously there were years we played 4 ranked teams. There were years we played 1. But the years that we as fans hold most dear, 1988 and 1993, we didn't play many ranked teams. 1988 saw us play 2 ranked teams (#16 Pitt, #14 Syracuse) during the regular season. 1993 saw us play 3 ranked teams during the regular season (#17 Louisville, #4 Miami, #11 Boston College).
Not to be outdone, Rich Rodriguez during his tenure here compiled a record of 12-15 against ranked teams. Until Pat White became the one of the greatest quarterbacks in WVU history, Rich had a 5-12 record against ranked teams. Pat White finished his Rodriguez career with a 7-3 record against ranked teams.