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What I Think About WVU Football...After Beating Texas

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West Virginia took another step towards bowl eligibility after beating the Texas Longhorns. Winning cures a lot of things but it doesn't cure everything. Delving into my thoughts of the 5-4 West Virginia Mountaineers

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
1. I think this may be the last season for Wendell Smallwood at WVU

Wendell entered the 9th game of his true junior season needing only 46 yards to break to 1,000 yard barrier. He broke that in the first quarter on his fifth carry of the game. He finished the game with 165 yards on 24 carries (6.8 yards per carry). For the year, he has 1,115 yards on 167 carries. For a single seasons, he is still well outside of the top 10 seasons, but with 3 games to go, Wendell is on his way to writing his name in the record book. If he is able to match this game's production over the next 3 games and a bowl game, Wendell has an outside shot of challenging Steve Slaton's 2006 record breaking year of 1,744 rushing yards.

Given his production this year and his ability to play both running back and wide receiver, Wendell may declare for the NFL draft after this season. If he did, I would not blame him. Running backs have a stunted NFL tread life and only so much time to collect a large paycheck. Wendell won't be a first round pick given the way the NFL has devalued the running back position, but he could easily be a third round pick. I don't think he would increase his value any more than he could after this year, so it would be wise for him to test the waters of the NFL. Appreciate the talents of Wendell, because he may just be playing on Sunday in 2016.

2. I think Karma is a cold witch and its nice to see her get Charlie Strong

Four years ago, when Louisville beat WVU in Morgantown, Charlie Strong crowd surfed with his players in our visitor locker room. Last year, upon defeating the Mountaineers to remain alive for bowl eligibility, the Longhorn players put Strong in the air for some more crowd surfing. On Saturday, the WVU players took Dana and raised him in the air in the home locker room to show him how it feels to beat Texas.

3. I think I'm disappointed in the defense.

I know we won. I know the defense generated 5 turnovers, including two critical interceptions. I'm not saying the defense played awful by any stretch. For a Texas team that had only committed 7 turnovers in 9 games, a team that had not committed more than two turnovers in any game, to give the ball away 5 times is a credit to the defense. Yet, I spent most of the game fearing that our offense would get stopped and Texas would reel off another 5 minute drive and score a touchdown. Texas absolutely gashed the West Virginia defense with run after run. There were multiple blown coverage assignments that saw Texas players running free with no one covering them for 20 yards.

Texas Averages vs WVU (11/14/15)
Season Average Road Average vs. West Virginia Difference (Road Difference)
Rushing Yards Per Game 206 170 277 +71 (+107)
Passing Yards Per Game 151 91 162 +11 (+71)
3rd Down Conversions 5 4.8 9 +4 (+4.2)
Turnovers 0.8 0.66 5 -4.2 (-4.34)

Texas had not been a very good team on the road this year. They are still Texas but the Texas bloggers are saying this could be the best production from Texas this year. WVU was supposed to have a very good, if not great, run defense and Texas had their way with them. The defense came up big when it mattered most, but I thought this defense would be better equipped to stop a one-dimension offense.

4. I think winning cures a lot of things

Exiting October, Mountaineer Nation was in an outrage, worried about the state of WVU Football. Many of those concerns were founded on the concern of the offense who had not generated a lot of points and was going to have to gather themselves after playing four consecutive ranked teams. The Mountaineers sweated out a victory against Texas Tech and then entered a make or break game against Texas. Texas was a desperate team who needed a win to most likely get to bowl eligibility for the season. After back to back victories and likely two more on the horizon, the outcry for the head coach's job has died down. Many fans expected at least 7 or 8 wins to consider this season a success. Those standards are still in play. We haven't gotten the best play out of quarterback but we have seen an increased determination to run the ball and play ball control offense to help limit the possession of the explosive offenses in the Big 12. There are still warts on the 2015 version of the WVU Mountaineers, but winning helps hide some of those warts.

5. I think I really love those throwback helmets

When Dana and the team debuted these helmets two years ago, against these same Longhorns, I was particularly excited because I think its a great throwback logo. I thought it might be a one-time thing  hoping to jump start a down season or bring some excitement to an otherwise dull year but WVU has used the helmets near the last home game of the year against a big opponent. I think that is absolutely fantastic. I think the helmets look fantastic and they represent just one more thing that Dana and the staff have done to further the Mountaineer brand.

6. I think that Durante is back on track and Howard looked good.

Jovon Durante entered WVU fall camp three days late and still earned a starting spot at wide receiver despite being a true freshman. On his first collegiate catch, on the 9th play of his collegiate career, Jovon streaked down the sideline 41 yards, leapt into the air and caught a touchdown. Jovon finished that game with 3 catches for 121 yards. He only has 20 catches on the season and less than 300 yards. He has struggled in recent weeks, dropping catchable passes that would have resulted in touchdowns. Durante lost his starting spot to Ka'Raun White this week so it was important for him to make the most of his opportunities when they arrived. Jovon is a special talent and will be a special player for West Virginia. Getting his confidence back is a start.

Skyler Howard on the other hand, has not played well for most of the year, especially once conference play started. Skyler has struggled on deep passes, short passes, ball placement, ball security and many other issues. Sklyer has played better in recent weeks but he's still thrown 8 interceptions in 6 conference games. This was the first game where Skyler looked comfortable with the game plan and looked comfortable making his reads. Skyler was intercepted on his third pass of the game on an inaccurate throw behind the receiver. He rolled out of the pocket and threw the ball away when he realized he would not make the line of scrimmage. After these two passes, Skyler completed his next 8 passes of the game. The pass to Durante was a great throw that allowed Jovon to track and run under the ball. The fade route to Daikel Shorts was such a great throw that only Shorts could catch it.

Skyler, your thoughts?


7. I think Joe DeForest is doing a fantastic job this year.

To call last year's punt return woes a debacle is unfair to the definition of debacle. Players routinely caught balls they should have let go over their heads, didn't catch balls they should have and muffed way too many punts. Not only that but the coverage units were not good. This year, however, we have not given up a special teams touchdown despite playing: William Likely (UMD), Jakeem Grant (TTU), KaVontae Turpin (TCU), and Derek Keaton (GSU) all of whom rank in the top 20 nationaly in kick return yards.

Nick O'Toole ranks 19th nationally in yards per punt at 44.7. He has shanked a few punts recently but he has also shown the "boomstache" again this year with many punts flipping the field and giving our opponents a long field to have to drive after a defensive stop. As Al Pacino said in Any Given Sunday, its a game of inches and every inch matters.

8. I think this is the most cohesive "team" in quite some time for WVU

One of the things I really like to do is listen to all of the player and coach interviews on the SoundCloud app as I drive to work. Reading transcripts is nice but actually hearing the tone of voice of players and the inflections when they speak can give you a different view and opinion of what is being said. I listened to all of the post-game interviews and I started noticing a trend. Offensive players are speaking about how proud and happy they are for the defensive players, especially Jared Barber who was lost to a knee injury two years ago against Texas. Defensive players mention how happy they are for Elijah Wellman to get a touchdown. I don't recall hearing those type of things with former teams. You might hear a wide receiver praise his quarterback by saying " [He] made a good throw so I could go get a touchdown" or you might hear a defensive player say "[So and so] did a good job holding up at the point of attack to allow me to get the sack" but this year you don't hear guys taking personal credit for plays. You hear players intentionally and unprovoked mentioning other players for their plays and praising guys for doing things that we as fans either don't see or don't know. When Wendell Smallwood is telling the media about Kyle Rose or Jared Barber is mentioning Wellman that proves to me that this is a team that believes in everyone. When a team is cohesive like this one seems to be, good things can happen.