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What I Think About West Virginia...After Losing To Kansas State

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A roller coaster season had the chance to end on the highest of high notes. 8 wins. Best since joining the Big 12. 5 wins in a row. A win over a Wizard named Bill Snyder. Then Morgan Burns took a kickoff at his own 1 yard line, raced 99 yards for a go ahead touchdown. WVU never recovered and Morgantown set itself on fire.

Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

1. I think William Crest should have played in this game.

I was unable to watch the first half of the game so I listened to it through the WV Gameday app. Sidebar - Tony Caridi is amazing. After the second WVU possession, Skyler Howard was taken into the locker room for XRays. Kansas State proceeded to go three and out and Tony Caridi seemed shocked that Skyler Howard was not only back in the huddle but was going to continue to play. Howard was already in nursing an injured throwing hand. An injured hand and an injured ankle should have been enough to see the backup quarterback until a thorough exam could be done. Further, once it was clear that Howard could not make the proper cuts and runs, Crest should have run the offense.

2. I think I don't understand the idea that Texas had a better season than us just because they beat Oklahoma & Baylor.

One of the questions asked coming into this game was "who has WVU beaten" and the answer was "no one really". What WVU had not done was lose to teams like Kansas, Iowa State or Texas Tech. They had taken care of business and worn down, beaten, battered and bruised the lesser competition. They showed no mercy while winning 4 in a row by an average margin of victory of 37-13. Texas finished the year 5-7, isn't bowl eligible and lost to Iowa State 24-0. There is no way that Texas had a better year than WVU because they beat Oklahoma and Baylor. I understand fans want victories to hang their hats on but I'd willingly trade zero top 25 victories for not losing games like we did in the Big East and like we did Saturday night.

3. I think our wide receivers are weak.

I said before, countless times, that this was a part that you had to live with if you had young receivers. During October, it was understood that they hadn't played in big games before. It was understood that they had never faced this type of competition before. It isn't October. This was the 12th game of the season and every time a defensive back made a hard hit on a receiver, they let the ball go. IF you are going to win in college and the pros, you have to make contested catches. You have to win 50/50 jump balls when you are one on one. You have to take hits over the middle, pop up and do it again.

Shelton Gibson continues to be touted as the fastest wide receiver on the team. During the summer and start of fall camp, Dana Holgorsen said Shelton was the best he had seen at catching the ball over his shoulder but that he had troubles with balls thrown at him. That part hasn't seen like an issue for Shelton but for a guy who has track level speed, he has been overthrown a ton this year. And when the ball is in the air, he does not attack the ball at all, and he doesn't take good routes. So many times during the broadcast I heard Brady Quinn (who like Priddy I actually enjoy as a color guy) say "its just miscommunication between the quarterback and receiver". After all the talk about Howard taking Gibson and company down to Texas, why this hasn't developed is perplexing and frustrating.

4. I think Sills or Chugs needs to be the starting QB next year.

I completely understand why Howard was the quarterback this year. I also understand why a change was never made. If you don't, here is why. Dana needed to win at least 7 games this year to keep his job. You as fans were not going to be happy hearing "its a freshman making freshman mistakes" as we went 3-9. Shane Lyons was not going to tolerate a losing season because we had a true freshman playing quarterback. So Howard started and played until we made bowl eligibility. We burned Sills' redshirt because we needed bodies and play makers at receiver. Despite the fervor by fans for William Crest, he has yet to show tha the can run the offense and make the throws necessary. Howard is and was always the best option for this year.

But next year is a different story. Next year the entire offense returns. Gibson, Jovon Durante, Ka'Raun White, Gary Jennings, Wendell Smallwood, Rushel Shell all return. Quarterbacks often make a jump from year one to year two in this system. Howard is not a great passer. He is a 50% passer in conference. (credit to commenter wvu07 for the stat lookup) Howard is capable of making plays with his feet but this offense needs someone who can make plays with his arm.

Sills or Chuganov are both much more capable pocket passers. They are also young. Howard is a senior next year which means that a new quarterback starts in 2017 with Gibson/Durante/Jennings/Smothers all have to learn a new quarterback. That is hard for older receivers to deal with the struggles that can accompany a new/young quarterback.

5. I think our defense was very good, but it wasn't great

Big 12 Conference Stats

Many fans are critical because this was the best defense Dana has had in his tenure. That is 100% correct. But that statement doesn't mean that this defense was a) National Championship Material or  b) Conference Championship Material. It doesn't mean that the defense can't improve. It means that in relation to the previous iterations of defense, this was the best of the bunch.

Take a look at the stats in the link above. WVU finished in conference 1st in two categories. Opponent 1st downs and interceptions. In the standard stats, pass defense, rush defense, total defense, scoring defense they did not finish first. Oklahoma was first in every category. Just because this was the best defense Dana has had does not mean it was worthy to win the conference or take a national title.

6. I think Rich Rod is going to break hearts in Arizona and West Virginia

If you didn't know, Rich Rodriguez confirmed that he interviewed at South Carolina but decided against accepting their offer. This gave many fans hope that he would return to West Virginia. The Arizona Athletic Director, Greg Byrne, posted on twitter the news and seemed excited. So was Ed Pastilong and the entire WVU fanbase in 2006 when Rich Rod turned down an offer from Alabama. The following year he was out at WVU.

Rodriguez has done nothing much of note since spurning that offer. Despite the an overall record of 47-42 since leaving WVU, despite never finishing above 7th in an 11 team Big Ten and only once in the 7 years since leaving WVU finishing with a winning record in conference, fans still clamor for the good old days.

Rich Rodriguez, since leaving WVU, has been the head coach of a football team for 7 seasons. In those 7 seasons, he has finished with a losing conference record 6 times. In his fourth year as head coach at Arizona, he has lost games: 55-17, 49-3, and 52-37. The 49-3 drubbing was at the hands of a 6-6 Washington team. The 52-37 loss was to their 6-6 rival, Arizona State.

At this point I'm not adverse to a coaching change but I just don't see how or why Rich is the answer. If Dana had those losses, how would you react?

7. I think the Arizona State is a good opponent for us.

I know everyone is disappointed and frustrated that WVU is playing out West against a team that we never play, in a game we haven't been to in nearly 20 years, late at night. Everyone, including me, would have preferred to play North Carolina in the Russel Athletic Bowl or maybe Arkansas in the Liberty Bowl. I think both of those matchups would have been bad for us. I think playing Arizona State is good for us. It is a test for the defense but the defense matches up well. They pass the ball and we have a good pass defense. They have a good statistical rush defense because they have a very bad pass defense. This is a game we can win.