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What I Think After West Virginia’s Unacceptable 50-39 Loss to Oklahoma State

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There are losses to remember, losses to forget and losses that are unacceptable. This is unacceptable.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

un·ac·cept·a·ble ˌənəkˈseptəb(ə)l/

adjective: unacceptable

not satisfactory or allowable.

If you read the predictions, you would know I thought Oklahoma State would win this game. For one, the Cowboys had a very good offense, a good but not great defense and a senior quarterback who has seen our defense now three times. Just because I thought the ‘Pokes would win does not mean that I am ok with how we lost. I can deal with losing. While losing to Virginia Tech and TCU stung, we showed up and played hard. We got beat. It happens is sports. Good teams lose. Not showing up and not being on the same level is unacceptable.

I Think the game couldn’t have started better

The second play of the game West Virginia forced a fumble and knocked a key Cowboys player out of the game. Now I’m not cheering an injury and am quite glad that Justice Hill returned to the game, but he was out for a large portion. The Mountaineers were going to need every break they could get if they were going to beat Oklahoma State and this was two breaks in one. The Cowboys even committed a horse collar tackle penalty on the drive and gave WVU a first down. Still, our inability to convert turnovers into points once again kept the other team in the game. We punted.

Second drive, same result, Oklahoma State fumbles again! This time we are basically in field goal range to start. We have got to get points on this drive. Instead Will Grier throws a horrible interception where he overshot David Sills, a connection that has been working all year. I knew right there that this game was going to be a hard go of it.

I Think this game keeps Grier [and Sills] for their senior season

Since the season started, fans have wondered if Will Grier would be one-and-done, entering the NFL draft after his junior season. After the four-interception, 3.6 QBR performance by the Mountaineer signal caller, I don’t see him entering the draft.

From what I’ve heard, David Sills V is tied to Will Grier, much like Stedman “Biletnikoff” Bailey was tied to Geno Smith. The rumor is that both are a packaged deal here at West Virginia but I think that’s not exactly true. Yes, if Grier were to head to the draft, Sills would follow, that makes sense, however, if Sills decides that the first round grade is too much to pass up, I can’t see Grier leaving just because of that. Grier has a compliment of receivers to throw to plus running backs and linemen returning. He can improve his status without Sills.

I Think the Run Game needs to fix itself

Five games into the season and Justin Crawford was a 100-yard machine, then Texas Tech game to town and suddenly Crawford could not find a hole. That trend has now carried itself through three games as Crawford has failed to break 50 yards. Whether its the line [it is], Crawford [it is], or scheme [it is], the coordinator, players and team need to find a way to to fix it.

I commented after the Tech game that it was good to see the team win a game when they failed to break 100 yards rushing, something they hadn’t done since Maryland 2012. Now we’ve failed to break 100 yards rushing in three straight games and that failure is putting pressure on the passing offense.

Yes, Jake Spavital wants to pass the ball and sometimes he gets pass happy. Also, the team’s single best asset is Will Grier’s right arm so it makes sense that when you must make a play, you rely on that arm but this team has to run the ball.

Now I think part of our failures in the run game are offensive line related. The line lost three starters including the center and no offense to Matt Jones but replacing Tyler Orlosky is a monumental task. I was concerned that the biggest weakness on the team was going to be the offensive line and it seems to be coming to fruition. Without the threat of a run game, teams are able to blitz and pressure Grier which is forcing him to make tougher and tougher throws. You want to win football games, run the damn ball effectively.

I Think Tony Gibson deserves blame

I know that ultimately the failures of the team fall upon the head coach and I absolutely fault Dana for the offensive output the team put out yesterday however I have to wonder, why does Tony Gibson get a pass? The defense performed well but has been leaky this season. They allowed Kansas to run for over 300 yards. They allowed backup running back J.D. King to run for over 140 yards. The defense allowed Mason Rudolph to convert 8 of 18 third downs and all three fourth downs. That’s 11 of 21 critical downs including a 3rd-and-8, 3rd-and-7 and 3rd-and-8 on the Cowboys second touchdown drive. Converting third and 2, I get. Converting 3rd-and-7+, this defense should be able to hold firm. Those are downs that a defense has to get off the field. If this defense is going to not hold the offense back, third down needs to be more effective and Tony Gibson needs to find a way to fix this defense. If young players on offense aren’t worthy of an excuse for the offense, they aren’t an excuse on the defense.

Now let’s have a bigger discussion. Gibson is a stanch advocate of the 3-3-5. When Gibson was hired, I thought it was a great move. The 3-3-5 was a unique defense, one that coordinators do not see a lot of and it gives West Virginia an advantage that they need.

The problem with the 3-3-5 is that it still has some major deficiencies, namely run defense. The six-man front is susceptible to power run games, which is why Kansas had so much success against us. The defense is also suspect against good quarterbacks like Mason Rudolph. In order to beat good quarterback play, you must affect the quarterback. You affect the quarterback by collapsing the pocket and hitting the passer. The 3-3-5 needs to blitz in order to do these things which removes players from the secondary, the strength of the 3-3-5. The best passing defense is to be able to rush 4, create pressure and drop 7. Teams that do that win a lot of games and championships. The 3-3-5 does not create quarterback pressure, it doesn’t move the pocket and it doesn’t hold up against strong run games.

I Think we need to talk about the student section

I can’t tell you when this photo was taken and I can’t tell you that as a student I would have stuck around when we were getting our asses kicked. As a student I fully appreciated that every student got a ticket. Now that there are so many activities for students, many students are not showing up for games. This is a bad look to see so many empty seats but it isn’t uncommon.

During the Mountaineers game against TCU in Dallas, the home fans for TCU were chastised for not being at a ranked matchup, a game that was a back and forth nail biter until the end. Students leave games.

Now, if you choose to remove student tickets to go to the paying masses, then it simply becomes all about money. If that is your motivational factor, ok, but you then can’t complain about uniforms ($$), or being in the Big 12 ($$$$) or anything else that is solely driven by the green.

I Think Jeff Postus has a point

Jeff and I had a wonderful exchange Sunday evening and Jeff brings up an interesting point. As much as we all love quarterback Will Grier and David Sills, can you truly say they are better than last year’s offense? I argue that 2017 offense is more efficient and more explosive than last year but as Jeff points out, what game have we won this year that we wouldn’t have won with last year’s offense?

I didn’t include the tweet but my response to Jeff was that I’m not sure last year’s team beats 2017 Texas Tech. Skyler and Crawford were great with a lead. Once they got ahead they could milk out drives and beat teams physically. If they were behind and we had to rely on Skyler’s arm, we were in trouble. That said, are we convinced we are in need of a comeback against Texas Tech if Skyler and the zone-run game are in charge?

This all goes to my point I made back in August, that the 2017 team would gain a lot of valuable experience but wouldn’t compete for a title.

I think you are seeing that now, there are just things that need to be worked out over the course of a season and this season was always more of a training exercise. The entire team needed to find its identity and figure out what it does.