clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Mountaineer Retweet: Appreciation Edition

It was another stellar effort in a season that has seen its share of them and I think we can all agree that the time has come to begin appreciating what this team has accomplished. Let's tweet about it!

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

This was one of those sneaky games to appreciate. See, on the surface it was a top 20 team putting the smack-down on an Iowa State squad that has been hapless for the past 5 years. They haven't even beaten a ranked team since 2011. A closer look, however reveals a Cyclone team that was surging. They were on a 2 game win streak, the most recent of those being a 66-10 obliteration of Texas Tech. The two games before that they gave Kansas State and Oklahoma all they wanted, losing by 5 and 10 respectively.

The point is this wasn't a fantastic team, but it wasn't Kansas either. This was a solid team feeling good about themselves and playing their best football of the season. Additionally they were at home in an environment that has tripped up many a foe in the past. This wasn't a cakewalk and I'll be honest, I spent the entire week concerned about how WVU would recover from a gut-wrenching loss to Oklahoma. This smelled like trouble.

But before we get to the game, let's take a minute to give a hearty "hell yeah" to the Pride of West Virginia for leading off the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!

This was so cool. I don't know that I've paid much attention to one of these things ever, but I was glued to the TV waiting to see The Pride strut their stuff.

And while the nationally televised performance of some show tune was really, really well done, I'm guessing if you're reading this your favorite part was when they started blasting Country Roads right before the camera cut away. Well fortunately for us there was an enterprising young woman who caught the Pride on camera showing NYC exactly what the hell is up.

No words for how cool that was hearing our little state's song blasted between the buildings of the Big Apple. My chill bumps had chill bumps. A huge congratulations to the Pride on a job exceedingly well done and a thanks to each and every one of them for what they do. Mountaineer sports are unique in their ability to bring us all together no matter where we are and the Pride is no small part of that. There simply isn't anything in the world like hearing those opening chords of Country Roads to transport you to your happy place.


Now let's get to the game.

Randy was on point with this one. We saw last game how much a running back having a banner day was worth when his quarterback could never get comfortable. For WVU to win they needed Good Skyler. Not necessarily Great Skyler, but Good Skyler. No turnovers, make enough throws to make the Cyclones pay, manage the offense. I think we can all agree he mastered that pretty well in his last road game.

But things did not begin well. Iowa State got on the board first with a field goal and Mountaineer tailback Justin Crawford went down in the first quarter after only 7 carries. Kennedy McKoy only lasted a pair of carries (granted one of them was for a touchdown).
Not good times. Bad times. And unfortunately, it was the beginning of a theme:

I mean there was a point at which it just got ridiculous. And as the injuries mounted, I was more and more sure this was not WVU's day.

But hey, on the bright side Fake Bob was having a banner day.

The problems were dire in the backfield, though. So with Rushel Shell in street clothes, the time had come for drastic action.

There was a lot of strong sentiment about this one, starting with frustration at having to burn a promising prospect's redshirt in the 11th game of the season. I have to say though I was fine with it, and thought it was a no-brainer. The deal is running back is different from every other position for two reasons. First it's got the smallest learning curve. You can either do it or you can't, and more often than not which camp you're in becomes clear pretty quickly. I'd argue it's the position where a talented true freshman has the best chance for immediate success.

On the other side of the coin it's the position at both the college and pro levels where we see the highest level of burnout. Fact is these guys only have so much tread on the tire, so the sooner they can get a shot and make a name for themselves, the better for their long-term prospects. So if Pettaway really is as good as what we saw, there's a pretty good chance he's now just a little over two years from getting paid to play ball. When you only have so many earning years available, every one matters.

So good for him.

And I think it's fair to say the redshirt bonfire experiment was a rousing success. Best as I can tell, the closest we've come to having 4 Mountaineers go for 100 yards each in a game was 2007 when Owen Schmitt, Pat White, Steve Slaton and Noel Devine did it. Only this one gets an asterisk because technically Schmitt did it during the 2006 season (his was the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day of 2007). And one of those guys was a QB. For WVU to have the depth for four running backs to go for 100 apiece is staggering.

And Sky still had a lot of work left to do after this screenshot. For my money, he had the most efficient day through the air of any Mountaineer signal caller since Brad Lewis unleashed bombs on bombs against Ole Miss in the 2000 Music City Bowl.

Depth baby. It's our new best friend.

This makes me so unspeakably happy. And this is the part of the program where we point out that the Fighting Irish began the season ranked 9th and 10th in the AP and Coach's polls while WVU didn't receive a single vote. And then I laugh heartily.

Notre Dame, the champion of August!

And thus began a very fun distraction as WVU lobbed grenade after grenade onto the dead body.

I thought Cobourne was a pretty good comparison given our small sample size of work to judge Martell with. He didn't quite have the wiggle to put him in the league of Amos or Noel, he didn't have the power of Quincy or the burst of Slaton. But Cobourne was this great combination of a little bit of everything. Now I say all this with the caveat that there's really no way to judge Pettaway against Cobourne's greatest trait, reliability and longevity. Dude was never hurt and you could enter every game confident that you were getting 100 out of your bell cow.

No my man. It makes you awesome.

I loved Walker and anything associated with 1993 will always have a special place in my heart, but he was kind of a one hit wonder that year. Murrell on the other hand is among the most underappreciated of Mountaineers. Excellent reference.


OK let's talk about Skyler Howard.

First off he had a great day on the road. 330 yards and 5 scores on just 12/21 passing. No turnovers. That's an outstanding day by any measure and should have been all anyone was talking about heading into Skyler's last appearance on his home field.

Unfortunately we saw the best and worst of Howard on Saturday when he had the following exchange in postgame interviews (here's the video link if you want to see for yourself):

Question: It’s the first moments after this game, but senior day is up next.
Howard: (slight grin) Is it?
Question: what are you thinking as you look ahead to knowing next one is the last one at Mountaineer Field?
Howard: One more opportunity to get booed. Walking out there with my mom.
Question: Fair enough. How about one more opportunity to get to 10 wins?
Howard: I wish I could just go out there and play the game instead of doing the ceremony and everything that happens on senior day. I’m just there to play ball and get to 10 wins. that’s the only thing on my mind. You know senior day is good and everything for the guys that feel welcome and feel at home it’s good. For the team, you know the guys in our room, the team room, that’s good. To send the seniors off the right way. I just want to play some ball. That’s what I came here for and that’s what I’m going to do Saturday and that’s what I’m going to do in our bowl game.

Before and after this little stink bomb is the best of Skyler. He is surprised when told he’s eclipsed 8,000 yards passing because he doesn’t pay attention to that. When asked about his concern with where opposing corners line up he expresses none and even works in a nice compliment to WVU corner Rasul Douglas ("we do it in practice - as much of a ball hawk as Rasul is we don’t shy away from him").

When the subject turns to receiver Shelton Gibson he goes beyond platitudes, specifically calling out Gibson’s adjustment on a jump ball lofted his way that he hauled in for a score ("Everybody knows he can blow by people but to slow your body up and to still catch it was great on his part. it was great to see him do that cause that will help him  at the next level.") He’s using his hands to demonstrate as he says this. He clearly cares and means every word he’s using.

The chat wraps up with some discussion of running back Martel Pettaway’s collegiate debut and Howard is once again a thoughtful teammate. "He was coached up - he got in there and did his thing." When asked if he had concerns on the newbie’s blitz pickup he said with no hesitation that he had none. In particular when the talk turned to ball security (a season-long bugaboo for WVU tailbacks) Howard admitted he simply said to Pettaway "ball security." Then he gave a longer answer about fumbling, explaining how guys are "fighting, fighting and guys are going for the ball but the plays over, you’re not going to get anywhere." Did he explain all of this to Pettaway? No. He simply said "ball security" because he knew the rest was just noise. He trusted his guy.

That's a damn good teammate right there. That's a guy I want to go to war with.

I give this exhaustive review because if I’m going to criticize 25% of what Howard said it’s only fair to point out how much about the other 75% was really, really great. And it becomes a nice point of departure to discuss his time here in general. About three quarters of the time he’s really, really great. But that can be ugly. There's negative fan reaction and a more negative counter-reaction by Howard. And it spiraled along so the first thing he thoughts of in a victorious locker room after one of his 5 best performances as a Mountaineer was getting booed on Senior Day.

The irony of all this is that the thing that fuels Skyler is the same fuel West Virginia and its football team has used time and time again to do things others said they couldn't. It's that big 'ole chip on the shoulder that we all know and love so well. But some way along the road things got crosswise and now we're here.

I'm not going to scold the fans about booing. In fact if you're here I bet you're not the booing type. I will say I think Howard chooses to take all of it very personally, often ignoring that there is an entire team of players and coaches that it's aimed at. And lashing out at the fans doesn't help anything. All it does is make him look bad.

Here's the deal Skyler - you're a Mountaineer great. You're going to leave this place 3rd alltime in passing yards and hopefully the starter for every game of a double digit win season. That's rarefied air and it's the type of thing we can all spend the rest of a lifetime celebrating. We want to cheer you with the rest of this team in 15 or 30 years. Have those magic moments that transport us all back. I think that's a place we can get to and I think it can start on Saturday before the game. All I ask of you is let it be great. Don't take potshots before or after the game. Don't concentrate on the 5,000 fans who are booing you at the expense of the 50,000 who are cheering. You're a special dude and this is a special place. More importantly senior day is a special moment for any college athlete and you've earned this one. Stand there with your mom and soak in the cheers - 'cause I know Mountaineer fans and that's all you're gonna hear.

We have one more shot at this. Let's make it great.

What can I say? The people love the Retweet. Perhaps even to an unhealthy level.

Oh, it's not quite over yet Baylor.

Let's bang the drums for one last game. Let's pay Baylor back for last season. Let's win 10 games and set the table for 11.