1. I think....Skyler Howard looked good and he was the only one on offense who did
In order to win this game, WVU needed to score soon, score quickly and score often. They needed to put TCU on its heels, allow its defense to play fast and fierce. Skyler went for the jugular on the first drive of the game, throwing deep to Shelton Gibson. In recent weeks, much has been made about Skyler's passes and his inaccuracies with them. He was not inaccurate against TCU. HE was Clint Trickett, dropping dimes in buckets. But he got no help from his receivers. Gibson dropped a tough but catchable ball with a defender crossing his face. Jovon Durante dropped two passes that would have been touchdowns. David Sills dropped a pass that would have been a long gain if not a touchdown. Skyler showed up tonight, unfortunately no one else on offense did.
2. I think... if refs heard what I was saying, I would be fined by the league.
The box score says there were 18 accepted penalties in the game for 218 yards. WVU was called for 9 for 118 and TCU was called for 9 for 100. I don't believe it counts as shooting yourself in the foot if the refs are calling phantom penalties. Fox Sports 1 color analyst, Joel Klatt, twice during the broadcast called out the referees in the game for just blatant and bad calls. These were not calls where it was 50-50 and the analyst doesn't want to step on toes, these were just phantom calls. Chestnut being called for pass interference on a third down that would have gotten WVU off the field. David Sills being called for holding when he was tackled by a defensive back. These penalties were just blatant misses by the refs and the multiple pass interference calls, at least two which were iffy, kept WVU from stopping TCU on third down.
3. I think ...WVU doesn't have a big time player
There is a saying that "Big Time Players make Big Time Plays in Big Time Games". Last year that was Kevin White. In 2012 it was Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. In 2013, it was Charles Sims, I guess?
There are no big time players on offense this year. Shelton Gibson should be that person. Wendell Smallwood is close to being that person but he doesn't get enough touches. David Sills, Gary Jennings, Jovon Durante, Ka'raun White are not there yet. There is no one player on offense, who can put the team on his back, look his teammates in his eyes and say "I got you men. I will be the rock for you tonight and carry you to victory".
4. I think ...I'm glad that Death-tober is finally over.
Coming into the season, I thought when October ended, we would be 4-3. I thought we would lose to Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU. I knew there was a chance we could go 0-4. I also had illusions of grandeur that we might win against Oklahoma, and that win would propel us to a league title or New Years Day berth. As I watched WVU implode in Norman, Oklahoma, I realized that we were not going to win a league title if we could not keep ourselves from self-destructing. This was a near unprecedented stretch of ranked teams for West Virginia and I'm glad to be moving onto competition that isn't ranked. That doesn't mean it will be easy, but it does mean we should be more capable of winning.
5. I think... we've been more competitive than the box score shows
Despite what the box score has shown in the last two weeks, I do believe we've been competitive in these games. Against Baylor, we got stopped inside the 5 yard line twice. Against TCU we dropped at least 3 touchdowns and two interceptions. When I think a team isn't competitive, I think of 2010 Syracuse where players are just running free and no one has any idea what to do. Or Liberty/Towson where the players are just unable to physically match the other team. I don't think that's been the case this year. I think we've been outplayed at times but we've shown up and played with the best teams in the country. I think we are very close to winning these games.
6. I think... I saw real coaching from Dana during the bye week
Its weird to say that the coach did a good job during the bye week when the team drops passes, interceptions and loses by 30 points but that is exactly what happened. Coming into the bye week, Skyler was putting too much air under his deep throws and/or over throwing his receivers. I kept thinking that if Skyler could get his timing and could throw rainbows instead of cloud chasers that the receivers would have a better chance at the ball. 12 days after Baylor and Skyler was throwing very pretty and very catchable deep balls. That looks like coaching to me. I saw us get behind the TCU secondary and be put in position to score. That is coaching. I saw a gameplan, that if executed by the players, would have given us a lead/win.
7. I think... I'm really excited about 2016.
Do you remember how we struggled in 2013? How we had no real playmakers or anyone to step up and win games? How the offense just seemed to not be able to get in rhythm and in sync? And then do you remember those same players in 2014 being competitive against Alabama, TCU, beating Baylor until a concussion knocked out the starting quarterback. I feel very similar about the offense this year. I think its better than the 2013 version of this team but I think the 2016 version has a real chance to be special. So many wide receivers will finally have a year in the system under their belt plus an offseason of getting stronger. Sklyer will have another year development and even more players to rep with. Smallwood will be a senior. I think 2016 could be a really special year for the offense.
8. *BONUS* I think... I will keep an eye out on Baylor QB Jarrett Stidham.
One of the biggest and loudest complaints recently has been the development of quarterbacks under Dana. Its a valid criticism and one that many supporters cannot put a strong argument against. Some of the points have been made how other quarterbacks on other teams seem to be plug-and-play and WVU seems to be stop-and-start. Baylor is about to give us a chance to test these theories. Seth Russel was a 3-star player coming out of high school but spent years in the system before finally getting a chance to start. Now he is lost for the season and true freshman Jarret Stidham will be starting. Baylor faces their own mini death-tober in the form of a November to forget. @ Kansas State, vs Oklahoma, @ Oklahoma State, @ TCU vs Texas. I will be interested to see if a true freshman facing the cream of the crop in the Big 12 is able to be just as precise, just as surgical as Russel was. If he isn't and the Bears lose 2 or 3 games, I think those who point out that development takes times will have a feather to stick in their hats.