I'll be honest with you all, I didn't see that coming at all. Like everyone else, I spent the week nervous with anticipation but the closer kickoff came, the better I felt about the game. And it wasn't just me, the text string I share with some of the biggest WVU fans I know was full of positivity. Stats about Oklahoma's woeful defense, stat comparisons between their game against Texas Tech and ours, Skyler's home record......we had it all covered. On paper I was absolutely convinced WVU was the better team and Saturday night would vault the Mountaineers smack dab into the national playoff conversation.
Some quick #WVU pregame thoughts: 1) OU is in many ways similar to 2012 WVU. "Historic" O, no D. Teams simply can't be tough w/o a defense— Brandon Priddy (@abpriddy) November 20, 2016
On the other hand #WVU is a product of 2012. Spent 3 yrs building a tough team to win in all conditions (wind, cold) against anyone— Brandon Priddy (@abpriddy) November 20, 2016
I'll spare you the entire pregame tweetstorm, but these are the highlights. And of all the disappointments, this is the one that shocked me the most. I was absolutely positive that WVU was the toughest team on that field. I thought the crowd would ignite them and I thought the snow was flat-out awesome. WVU was going to storm onto that field, ride the wave of emotion and overrun the Sooners.
Could not have been further from the truth. WVU got drawn into a pregame melee at midfield and clearly let the moment overwhelm them. The first half was a neverending parade of miscues, nearly all brought about by misplaced energy. Guy inexplicably running into punters, being goaded into stupid personal fouls and just generally running around with no semblance of order. Hell even the rock of the offense Tyler Orlosky screwed up a simple snap and created a fumble. It was an embarrassment, pure and simple.
Gibby: "Nothing went right as you all saw. ... Those (OU) guys are good players, but we got rattled." #WVU— Allan Taylor (@AllanTaylorWVU) November 20, 2016
Gibby: able to say what I said with about 1/10th the words.
Holgorsen on OU: "They invented intimidation... we aren't gonna back down. We got caught more than they did." #WVU— Matt Welch (@MattWelch_PGH) November 20, 2016
And it wasn't the first time.
WVU hasn't actually been good in home night games for years but this is another level of radioactive poop.— Smoking Musket (@SmokingMusket) November 20, 2016
This officially became a Thing on Saturday night.
2011 vs LSU: fell down 27-7 at the half
2012 vs Kansas State: fell back 24-0 before trailing 31-7 at the half
2014 vs Oklahoma: WVU actually built a 7 point lead before OU finished on a 28-9 run to win
WVU has been unable to handle all that comes with high-profile home night games. For years Mountaineer Field at night was a place to be feared. Rankled teams left beaten. Crowds were extra rowdy. It was a weapon - at times the best weapon. Now it's a land mine that's more-likely to blow up in our face. I've never coached a college football team so I can't speak intelligently about what goes into motivating and focusing over 100 18-22 year olds. What I do know is that whatever Holgorsen does isn't working.
I hope he can figure it out soon. Those night games are sacred. They are special. And until they can figure this out, there's a glass ceiling on how successful these teams can be.
SNOW NIGHT GAME IN MORGANTOWN pic.twitter.com/Emwk4FMUnD
I mean the whole friggin' run-up was so fun, most of all Saturday. Props to FakeBob for putting together this little itinerary for me. I'd forgotten how fun these days are though. Waking up, watching GameDay, cussing them when they ignored us, watching other games and hoping for upsets. I'll take a little of my own advice here and concentrate on how much fun it is and how much I prefer this to limping through November within a game or two of .500.
Most have WVU SOS in 30s. As David says, SOR 6. It's crazy for CFP to have Eers at 14. https://t.co/7QiwHcsQB5— Travis Haney (@travhaney) November 16, 2016
This was the other big reason I wanted this one. We spent all week howling about what seemed an unjust ranking by a clearly biased playoff committee. And I was convinced a big win would vault WVU well into the top 10. But more than that I wanted to send a nice "screw you" to the CFP powers that be. We all wanted to flip them the bird......err I mean show them the outline of our beautiful state. The loss was brutal and parade of smug "hey we told you WVU wasn't that good" sentiment was just salt in the wound.
Like little lambs to the slaughter.....BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
Baylor has been outscored 149-67 since we lost that game to Texas. Everything fell apart that day.— OurDailyBears (@OurDailyBears) November 19, 2016
Meanwhile Baylor has imploded. Which was totally predictable if your a smart author of internet words. I wrote this on October 4th:
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.
That's about as squarely as I've ever nailed anything. Allow me to throw my arm out patting myself on the back. Just suck for two more games Baylor......
This #WVU defense gets the short end of so many sticks, it's amazing they've held up like they have. So many TOs, defending short fields— Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247) November 20, 2016
Could not possibly agree more. Nobody can rationally judge this WVU defense without using a pretty steep curve. They've been put in terrible positions and have given their squad a chance to win more often than not. For all the talk about Holgorsen and his contract (we'll get to that later) I say keeping Gibby around has to be priority 1B.
If you could script bad starts. #WVU has the formula going so far. muffed punt, touchdown and then running back injured.— Keenan Cummings (@rivalskeenan) November 20, 2016
It started out absolutely as bad as it possibly could have. The first miscue wasn't just a normal miscue - it was something that has been a bugaboo for the Mountaineers for years now. In shorter parlance, it wasn't just a thing, it was a Thing. And when a Thing happens it tends to have a shorter route to get in everyone's head. It tends to make fans and players and coaches look around and expect the worst. It tends to make people second guess and by doing so increase the chance for more bad things to happen. It struck right at the heart of the WVU psyche.
@smartfootball wvu was clearly way too wound up, which is probably a bad thing when you're playing in that kind of weather— Allen Kenney (@BlatantHomerism) November 20, 2016
Absolutely 100% agree.
John has been a good friend of mine for a long time and I remember when he first said this to me damn near 20 years ago. Perhaps the most prescient and pithy description of Mountaineer football I've ever heard. And man that was a big opportunity on Saturday night.
That is the third lost fumble for WVU - the 11th turnover for the offense in the last four games ...— John Antonik (@JohnAntonik) November 20, 2016
And that was before the pick 6. So 12 turnovers in 4 season-defining games. Okie St - (Kansas)- Texas - Oklahoma was the 3 (4) game stretch that was going to make this a very good season or a great season, and in many ways the offense laid an enormous egg. Certainly they fought and did some good things, and they managed to escape Austin, but man did they ever put themselves behind the 8 ball against the Pokes and Sooners. There are still 2 games left, but this stretch doesn't do much to alleviate the fears about Holgorsen's teams in the stretch run.
UPDATE: West Virginia averaged 9.2 yards per play in the first half. It trails 34-7.— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) November 20, 2016
West Virginia outgained OU 579-485 in the contest behind Crawford's 331 yards. He averaged 13.8 ypc.— C&C Machine (@CCMachine) November 20, 2016
Has to be the most yards without a score. Has to.
West Virginia has stopped fighting, stopped turning it over and stopped getting stupid penalties. It's working.— SoonerScoop.com (@SoonerScoop) November 20, 2016
I had completely given up on this game. The team didn't, bless them. #HailWv— Peter Bodensteiner (@stanceandspeed) November 20, 2016
Here's the deal though, If I'm going to sit here and criticize Holgorsen for not having them prepared for the atmosphere and unable to meet the moment, I've got to give him credit for how hard his guys fight. That's not new, either. Sometimes it works (Texas Tech 2014, Kansas State this year) and sometimes it doesn't. But man these kids play their asses off for him. That matters.
This season is gonna end up being my nightmare. Weak Big 12, so WVU gets an inflated record, Dana gets an extension and the blah continues.— Patrick Southern (@patricksouthern) November 20, 2016
Here's the deal, if 10-2 with a solid bowl game is your nightmare scenario, I'd humbly submit that is a bit irrational. As we enter an offseason where the contract of our Red Bull guzzling head man will be the main topic of discussion and speculation, let's remember a few things:
- The team has clearly improved and has trended upward for the last 3 years
- Holgorsen has built the roster up to where he said it needed to be. The results show.
- We competed for a Big 12 title this year.
- There is every reason to believe we'll compete for a Big 12 title next year
- Will Grier could very well be the best signal caller Holgorsen has had since Geno Smith.
- A huge part of the offense - namely running backs and receivers - returns for 2017
- We've got a great look at 10-2. The list of Mountaineer squads who have done this isn't a long one.
As Smiling Jack Ross told us in 'A Few Good Men,' "these are the facts, and they are indisputable."
On the other side of that coin is the great unknown. Can you tell Holgorsen thanks but no thanks and take your chances? Sure. But I've become a big believer in the value of known commodities.
Back to my buddy John, I liked his take via text earlier this week: "Offer him around $3.6M. That's a 20 percent raise and puts him above Snyder but slightly below guys like Stoops, Patterson and Gundy who have actually won conference titles." That's a damn fair offer and if he's willing to walk away from that there's nothing you can do. But that's a good coach trending upwards.
As far as the aspirational "shoot for the moon at least you'll land amongst the stars" crowd, I'd remind them that most of space is a vacuum that you can float around in for all eternity.
Fun fact for y'all. Skyler Howard has fumbled in 4 straight games.— Jacob Williams⚾ (@REAL_Williams10) November 20, 2016
I've always been skeptical of the eye test. To me it was a crutch for people unable to intelligently articulate their point and support it with statistics. Then I met Skyler Howard. The fact is he'll leave this place with some statistically very good seasons and an elite career. You look at the record books and his name will be on the same first page as Geno Smith, Pat White and Major Harris. He had the second greatest passing yardage total by a Mountaineer QB in the Cactus Bowl. He's run for a boatload of scores this year.
And not one of you would sleep easy if your life rested on a game started by him. At no time have his flaws and limitations been more on display than they were Saturday. Independent of Crawford getting hot I don't know that the offense would have ever gotten on track. My guess is that cold weather isn't kind to undersized hands, but Howard simply never looked comfortable. And oddly he looked at his most uncomfortable when it was snowing at the beginning and end of the game. I bet if you looked it up you'd see we got outscored 28-0 in the snow.
I don't say all this to be too hard on Skyler. I guess I'm simply trying to get my hands around what his legacy at WVU will be, because he's been around here long enough he'll have one. He was the best option we had and was probably never treated fairly by fans. And probably never treated fans / media fairly himself. I hope he can put together a strong final 3 games so he can leave on a good note.
I think he deserves it.
On the pregame fight: "Show me a time we've been stomping on anybody's logo. That hasn't happened in 18 years." #Sooners— Joey Helmer (@joeyhelmer247) November 21, 2016
And we'll conclude with this.
Bob Stoops is a lying asshole. And I hope Oklahoma State torches OU and pisses on the ashes.
Two games left. A 10 win regular season is wide open on the table, just take it. I'm deathly afraid of this looming trip to Iowa State but I have confidence that they can get it done. There's so much to play for and so much to be excited about. Let's turn the page, let's finish strong and