I was convinced this WVU team had turned a corner and this game was going to be different. Kansas State had enjoyed a dominance of the Mountaineers almost entirely (outside of that first game) gifted to them by sloppy play and enough turnovers that WVU should have been able to write those wins off on their taxes as a charitable donation. But this was a team playing a little tighter. A little cleaner. Yeah there was that late fumble against BYU last week but that was a freak occurrence. The Mountaineers were primed to stop the KSU win streak at 4 and announce a new day in the Big 12.
So yeah....not exactly. But maybe in some ways what we saw on Saturday was even better. Let's dive in and somewhere along the line here if I don't get sidetracked and forget entirely, I'll try to tell you why.
(Quick sidenote - sorry about no Retweet last week; I was traveling and the early part of the week got away. Job, kids, you know the drill. It happens.)
How it feels to wake up on game day pic.twitter.com/yKvEmSSI9r— WVU Football (@WVUfootball) October 1, 2016
Gameday baby. Nothing like it in the world. The air is crisper, the sun is brighter, the beer is colder. I just love Mountaineer football.
I didn't want to wipe the monkey crap off the seat before I sat down https://t.co/O1k82Hw9nZ— Chuck Yeager (@GenChuckYeager) October 1, 2016
But before we get to football, a quick public service announcement. Follow Chuck Yeager on Twitter. He's outstanding. Just a badass swaggy 90+ year old man who has done everything and doesn't suffer fools because he's Chuck (bleeping) Yeager. He flew a damn plane under the South Side Bridge in Charleston - don't bring your weak sauce at him. The above tweet was an answer to "why didn't you go to the moon." His feed is just solid entertainment from a man who's not just a great West Virginian, but a great American.
You keep doing you, General Yeager.
We don't talk enough how Auburn actually hired a guy who went 5-19 at Iowa State, won a title with him, and then fired him two years later— SPENCER HALL (@edsbs) October 1, 2016
And don't forget Terry Bowden (TERRY BOWDEN!) won his first 20 games there, including an undefeated season for a team on probation. Then Tommy Tubberville (TOMMY TUBBERVILLE) went undefeated through the SEC and didn't even make the BCS title game. I'm not convinced Auburn couldn't hire my mom as head coach and she run the table.
Auburn is a weird place.
On to more relevant topics.
Iowa State leads Baylor 14-0, nearly the end of the first quarter.— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) October 1, 2016
I really wanted this for Iowa State, man. Really did. Having said that I can't imagine being less convinced by Baylor. If anything I'm surprised they've made it this long without the wheels coming off, because I expected something akin to John L. Smith at Arkansas type collapse. I guess they've avoided that with Oklahoma State and now Iowa State gifting them wins, and that offense is still a potent force, but it just feels like a matter of time. I'm banking that their lack of depth (they started the season with only 70 scholarship players - most teams have 85) will make that cliff-dive happen towards the second half of the season. It's still coming.
The longest game ever gets even longer. Hope Scoggins is okay though.— WRNL (@WideRtNattyLt) October 1, 2016
And I'm so glad it was the lead-in to the game I cared about!
We should have retired the Tavon play.— Smoking Musket (@SmokingMusket) October 1, 2016
Can we please take the tip pass and the yeller helmets and throw them into the caldera of an active volcano? Thanks.
All joking aside that play has to go. I love Bob Stitt and that post-Orange Bowl story was great, but I think at this point we can all agree that play had a lot more to do with Tavon Austin than any grand design. It only works if the guy toting the ball runs a 4.3 40 and moves like he's controlled from a joystick. Send that page of the playbook to Jeff Fisher - it's useless to us now.
Just the second touchdown WVU's defense has allowed following past 27 turnovers by the offense.— Mike Casazza (@mikecasazza) October 1, 2016
Every year this matchup is by far the most frustrating to watch. Like playing a team that uses black magic to make us play bad.— ArchitEER (@joffutt1) October 1, 2016
One of the main reasons KSU has been so successful against WVU is because they're able to employ some football judo against the Mountaineers? What's judo you ask? Well for those of you not familiar with the eastern arts you're lucky you have me as I have watched all 3 Karate Kid movies many times. Judo is essentially using the force/attack of another against themselves. You know in a movie where one dude runs at another dude (usually smaller) and the smaller dude shifts ever so slightly and the first dude goes flying? Judo. And it's exactly what KSU does to WVU. Thow an interception? Touchdown. Foolishly kick to one of the most dangerous return men in the country? Touchdown. It's not magic, it's just the ability to take all the things WVU does badly and capitalize on them.
And it's frustrating as hell.
— Allan Taylor (@AllanTaylorWVU) October 1, 2016
"M" is for "millennials are useless." Come on students, it's a card hold it up. You can do it, I know you can. Did deeper next time, okay?
This #WVU offensive line is being manhandled right now. Pinching the pocket right into Howard's face. Howard, Orlosky both furious.— Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247) October 1, 2016
The WVU O line took some massive steps backwards on Saturday, both literally and figuratively. The tackles were routinely beat around the edge and Skyler Howard was more uncomfortable than he's been all year. But this was where we saw his growth from last year. He was able to connect on the short intermediate routes that capitalized on what little time he had and he made good decisions even under duress. He hung in there and kept taking shots and finally they paid off in the 4th quarter. I'd like to think of this game as a microcosm of Skyler's career and the sign of good things to come.
Justin Crawford going crazy on this drive.... then we just go away from him. Throw a fade on 1st down from the 3, then run a cold Shell.— Gold And Blue Zone (@GoldAndBlueZone) October 1, 2016
This drive ended in a fumble and ended what had been to that point WVU's best chance to get in the end zone. And I'll use it as a reason to take a mini victory lap:
WVU opinion of the day: to win 8+ games, Rushel Shell can't lead the team in yards or carries. Need someone to emerge. Agree or Disagree?— Brandon Priddy (@abpriddy) August 1, 2016
@UMCWTinMD Howard is key, but can't all be thru air. Diff btwn good season & GREAT season: reliable run game (& I don't trust Shell)— Brandon Priddy (@abpriddy) August 1, 2016
Look at that timestamp: August 1st. And I got plenty of pushback. Do you see what I was talking about now? Rushel Shell is a good running back and he can take a physical toll on an opposing defense. He's had some great runs this season, particularly against BYU last week. I'm even willing to stipulate he's kinda effective in the red zone. But he simply isn't a guy you can feed the ball 20+ times a game and trust. He won't fumble, stumble or dance every time, but he'll do it enough times to make it a closer game than it should be. Not to mention he simply doesn't have the burst to find a seam and turn a 5 yard gain into 35.
If WVU is going to have a great season, it's going to be because they have a ground game to balance out Howard and his stable of receivers. Justin Crawford needs to be the guy who can be productive on the ground and gobble up yards in chunks. He had the best day of his young Mountaineer career on Saturday, going for 104 on just 18 carries (5.8 average) and his second score of the year. And 38 of those yards were during the 4th quarter.
I need more Justin Crawford in my life.
Hey, um @Big12Refs- can you explain why there was no flag thrown on this play? pic.twitter.com/jrBEi9LORs— RIFLE SCHOOL (@EERSNATION) October 3, 2016
It's a testament to the perseverance of this crew that they won on a day that clearly wasn't going there way. There were several pretty bad calls or no-calls and this one was as bad as any. I went nearly as ballistic on this as I did the completely bogus PI called on Jeremy Tyler in the first half. And to that point:
Never assume conspiracy when incompetence is an option— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) October 1, 2016
This is actually embroidered on the inside of the collar of every Big 12 official. Fact. Look it up. I'm not joking.
#Big12FB: Scoreboard from week five action. pic.twitter.com/1nq0diFuLg— Big 12 Conference (@Big12Conference) October 2, 2016
One of these scores is not like the others....
I think my favorite development of the last 3 years is how this Mountaineer program has settled into an identity that is equal parts Dana Holgorsen offensive firepower and old-school WVU blue-collar football. The Orange Bowl was great and 2012 was fun while it lasted, but that just wasn't us. We were playing someone else's game and eventually that was going to catch up with us and I have all the respect in the world for Dana Holgorsen evolving. Now we run more, we take pride in defense, we can win games without scoring 40. Can our quarterback go off for 500 and 5? Absolutely. But when we need to line up and outwork somebody in a defensive battle by gawd we can do it. That's the best of both worlds and that's Mountaineer football.
Since 1990 Kansas State under Bill Snyder was 178-6 when leading at halftime. 157-29 when scoring first. #WVU overcame both today.— Keenan Cummings (@rivalskeenan) October 2, 2016
That was an impressive damn win, man. That's stuff that good teams do.
With the thriller over K-State, @SkylerDonHoward's record moves to 9-1 as a starter at Mountaineer Field.— Jed Drenning (@TheSignalCaller) October 2, 2016
Also he's won 9 of his last 10 starts and is a point away from 10 straight. Did I mention he threw for the 3rd most yardage in a single game of anyone in WVU history 5 games ago? Skyler Howard is quietly doing some very nice things. Just keep that to yourselves. Nothing to see here....move along. Don't worry about us national media we're nothing to concern yourself with.
Sidenote: how about Jovon Freaking Durante? I'll admit, I had given up on him. I was tired of tipped passes and ole blocks. There was way too much talent in the WVU receiver's room to waste reps on him. Well on Saturday we saw what he's capable of. There was the acrobatic catch in the first half to keep a drive going and then he kept with a route late and came back to his QB in the classic scramble drill. Here's hoping that performance got Durante off the snide, because if you add a guy with his abilities to what Gibson can do.....ooooooo buddy. Good time!
@abpriddy a well coached team would have timeouts left— Donald Swartz (@DSwartzII) October 1, 2016
Sick burn of old man Snyder by my buddy Don. YOU LIKE THAT OLD MAN! HOW ABOUT YOU TAKE THOSE WERTHER'S ORIGINALS AS STUFF THEM IN YO - actually Coach Snyder I'd love a Werther's Original thank you. Yes they sure are tasty. Absolutely agree, that was a fine football game. Just a shame a team had to lose, couldn't agree more. Certainly, best of luck to you, too sir. Thanks.
(he's just the nicest man)
So that's what we've got for the week. The Mountaineers head into a bye week to rest up and get ready for a tough road test in the always challenging Lubbock against Texas Tech and the nation's #1 statistical signal caller Patrick Mahommes II. We're 4-0 and ranked for the first time in a long time and a win would set up an absolutely MAMMOTH showdown back at home against TCU.
We're in the thick of the season and enjoying the best run of success we've seen in awhile. Be thankful, let's enjoy it and