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What I Think About 10-3 WVU and 2016

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Despite a lackluster showing in the bowl game, WVU finished with 10 wins for only the 9th time in school history

NCAA Football: Russell Athletic Bowl-West Virginia vs Miami Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the last things I think for 2016. It’s a bittersweet moment. In May and June we all fretted over the fact that no contract extension was given to Dana Holgorsen. In July and early August, we poured over the schedule, predicting game after game, wondering if this could be the year for West Virginia. Well it definitely was the year for the Mountaineers. They won 10 games. Finished third in the Big 12. It was a highly successful season.

I think the offensive line failed Skyler

Skyler was sacked four times last night. More than that, he was pressured rather constantly. Skyler isn’t the greatest quarterback but you put pressure on him, on any quarterback, and they will falter. Tom Brady has lost two Super Bowls specifically because the New York Giants put constant pressure on him.

More than the pressure, the offensive line was called for holding. They weren’t generating a push in the running game. The offensive line, the backbone of the team and the one area where WVU was supposed to have a big advantage, failed the entire team.

I think WVU put itself behind the chains too much

Look at the game log. The first drive of the game, WVU faced a 3rd and 10. They converted but Skyler fumbled as he scrambled. The next drive they got in front of the chains before punting. Finally they scored. After that initial touchdown, WVU consistently found itself in 3rd and 8 or longer. Failing to generate any positive yards on first down put WVU in the position of needing to pass on 2nd down. Or failing to generate a positive pass play on first down dictated that WVU try to run the ball on second down. Either way it resulted in 3rd and long. Time and time and time and time again. WVU converted 6 of 17 third downs because there were so many yards to gain on third down.

Miami played a soft Cover 2. They backed their safeties off 15 yards and would not allow WVU to throw deep. They kept everything in front of them. WVU did not adjust to the defensive scheme and failed to find the weakness. As a result, they banged their head against a brickwall and put themselves in a position to fail.

I think Toyous Avery got robbed

I’m not one to blame the refs. West Virginia was called for 11 penalties and a majority of them were the right call. Miami was called for 8 penalties and a majority of them were the right call. Twice, Toyous Avery picked off Brad Kaaya for what should have been a momentum changing play. Twice it was called back for defensive pass interference. You can make the argument the first one was borderline. The second one however was not. Toyous played a tremendous game and should have given the Mountaineers great field position.

Toyous more than got robbed. Both of his DPI resulted in touchdowns for Miami. The first gave Miami a first down at their 48. Kaaya completed a 15-yard pass and drove the Hurricanes to the WVU 33 before a penalty backed them up and forced the ‘Canes to punt. That punt pinned the Mountaineers at their own 5. 3 plays later, Billy Kinney was punting from the back of the endzone. This gave Miami the ball at their 49. One missed tackle by Rasul Douglas saw Miami tie the game at 7.

The second interception gave the Hurricanes the ball at their own 43. This extended a drive that had Miami deep in its own territory and could have the given the Mountaineers decent field position. Instead the Mountaineer defense was faced with another extended drive and Miami near midfield. As the Hurricane playbook opened up and the defense tired out, quarterback Brad Kaaya began accumulating chunk pass plays and Miami went up 3 touchdowns.

I think I will not apologize for 10 wins

West Virginia beat Missouri who finished 4-8. West Virginia beat Texas Tech (5-7), TCU (6-6), Kansas (2-10), Baylor (6-6), Texas (5-7) and Iowa State (3-9). They also beat Youngstown State (FCS). That is 8 wins in a very down, very mediocre Big 12. Their only two wins against teams that finished above .500, in the regular season, were Kansas State (8-4) and BYU (8-4). You know what?, I will not apologize for that schedule. WVU isn’t an independent team, picking its schedule yearly. They can’t control the tire fire that Baylor became or that Texas was under Charlie Strong. They can’t control that Texas Tech and TCU failed to field defenses this year. Sometimes, you just win your games against mediocre competition and enjoy a good season. No one seems to care that the SEC is a total mediocre mud pile outside of Alabama. No one seems to care that the ACC beats up on itself year after year after year. I will not apologize and I will not degrade the Mountaineers winning 10 games in the Big 12. I would caution anyone on doing that since WVU used to play in the Big Least where it was WVU, Louisville and a bunch of nobodies.

I think Skyler leaves WVU given everything he had

The staff at the Musket has written a lot about Skyler over the years. Some of it has been good and some of it has been bad. Skyler has certainly had an up and down career at West Virginia. He finishes with just under 10,000 total yards in his career. He is the third leading passer at WVU. He only lost 9 games in 2.5 years. For all his warts he led WVU to a 10-win season, a bowl win over Todd Graham and lots and lots of deep throws.

He also leaves WVU having never beat a ranked team. He threw 24 interceptions in 28.5 games. He lost countless fumbles and overthrew countless receivers. There was good Skyler and bad Skylar (typo intentional). There was no question Skyler gave the team and the university everything he had. He got the most out of his talent. He led this team and played hard. He was driven and he was a great community activist.

I think WVU needs a go to receiver

One of things I thought going into this bowl game was that our ability to distribute the ball would keep Miami from being able to key on any one receiver. That strategy is sound in theory but when things break down and you need a play, you need a guy that you can trust. You need a receiver you can just throw it up and let them go get the ball. WVU threw one deep pass all game, in part because Miami’s defensive game plan was to limit the deep throws. You need to take what the defense gives you but you also need to challenge a defense. West Virginia needs a Kevin White, a Michael Crabtree, or any other top Air Raid receiver who could dominate a game, any game.