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What I Think After West Virginia Loses Another Game 31-24

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There was a lot to take away from the latest classic between Big 12 newcomers

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

I Think it hurts when the refs are part of the game

No matter who you are, you have to agree that critical calls in close games are capable of frustrating fans a whole lot more than losing to a better team. When it comes to the David Sills pass interference call, I think no call was the right one to make.

When I watched it live and they showed the first replay, I thought “Dammit, he extended his arms and that will get you called everytime”. As I’ve rewatched the play, Sills had his arms on the defender but never extended in a manner to create separation. The defender had a hold of Sills’ jersey and could have been called for defensive holding but personally I think it should have been a no-call.

While the Horned Frog fans will tell you that West Virginia could have been called for holding on multiple plays, the refs were deciding to let the players play. That is exactly how teams want it. I’m not someone who thinks you shouldn’t be allowed to rough up receivers but don’t give me a makeup call on a critical drive. If Sills’ shoves a defender to the ground, throw the flag. If McKivitz chokeholds a pass rusher, throw a flag. Don’t throw a flag on at best hand fighting down the field, especially when the receiver spun to create separation.

I Think the kickoff out of bounds are slightly by design

If you notice, the kickoffs were all angled toward one sideline. Dana Holgorsen, who has taken over the special teams this season, has to have decided that in order to give his coverage units a chance, he needs to take away a portion of the field. He is doing so by kicking towards the corner and attempting to funnel the player to a specific place on the field.

What this requires of the kicker is precision. He needs to hit the ball just right. He has to account for wind. He has to approach the ball just right. It doesn’t take much for him to miskick the ball, which is what I think you are seeing when the ball goes out of bounds.

To offset this, West Virginia would need to kick the ball straighter into the endzone. This present a different challenge, especially for the kickoff unit. Now the returner has the whole field to use as he sets up the coverage team. Given how poor our kickoff coverage has been at times, I prefer to let the kicker angle kick it and take our chances that one out of five or six may go out of bounds than give up a long return touchdown.

Despite kicking the ball off 5 times, the Mountaineers gave up one kick return.

I Think the run defense gives me hope

Kyle Hicks and Darius Anderson, who came in expecting to just run over, around and through the Mountaineer defense totaled only 114 yards between them on 20 carries. Kyle Hicks had two big runs, one for 17 yards and one for 27 yards. Outside of that, he had 27 yards on 9 carries.

The return of David Long and the insertion of Lamonte McDougle gave Tony Gibson a strong run game presence. The Mountaineers were able to hold the point of attack and swarm to the ball.

Despite what Kansas and others have done to the Mountaineers, I never felt like the run defense was as bad as it showed. In part, the offense staked the defense to three big leads against ECU, DSU and Kansas. Second, kids are prone to human tendencies and eventually you get tired of giving 100% max effort against completely inferior talent.

If this is the defense going forward, then WVU is going to be in good shape. If the run defense is able to contain players like Justice Hill of Oklahoma State and Trey Sermon of Oklahoma, then the team is going to be in contention for every game.

I Think TCU is now our rival(ry)

While West Virginia doesn’t have a true, natural rival in the Big 12, the one budding between the Horned Frogs and the Mountaineers is beginnig to reach that status. These teams have now played 6 times in the Big 12. The Toads have 4 wins to the Mountaineers 2. Four of the games have been decided by a one possession.

These are two teams who know enough about each other to be dangerous and enough to ruin each other’s season. As for right now, Gary Patterson’s defense has gotten just slightly enough of the Mountaineers to hold a lead but these games are never easy.

I Think I want a rematch

Coming into the season I really wanted to make sure we got that first win against Oklahoma. I still want that but as of now I don’t want to play Oklahoma in back to back weeks. I want TCU. Maybe that feeling will go away as the season progresses, but I can’t help but feel that these two teams are evenly matched. Give me another shot against TCU on a neutral site and let’s see how it turns out.

I Think depth is hurting the team

The wide receiver depth of the team is extremely concerning. Once again the Mountaineers only had four players catch a pass: White, Sills, Jennings and Simms. These four can’t be on the field every snap. You could see it at the end of the game, hands on their hips, gasping for air.

I know during the Tech game, Grier told the coaches he only wanted his guys out on the field. HE felt those guys gave him the best chance to win. That might be true but these guys can’t be running 10-12 miles every game. West Virginia needs more players on the receiving end to step up and catch one or two or five passes so these four don’t have to make every play.

The same is true for Justin Crawford and the running game. IT is great that Crawford got his 100 yards, but he can’t be the only back producing. Crawford had 19 carries, while McKoy and Pettaway had 12. Running against TCU is tough but those two need more carries and need to produce when they have the ball. Otherwise those games in November are going to be played with banged up horses.

I Think this week is crucial

One of the worst things in Dana Holgorsen’s tenure has been the tendency for close losses to linger. They Mountaineers avoided that fate last year, in part because both losses were by double digits. In 2015, a late overtime loss to Oklahoma State saw the team come out flat against Baylor and get steamrolled in their Deathtober streak.

In 2014, a last-second loss to TCU saw the team fail to show up in Austin the following week and lose to 4-5 Texas. That loss was followed by not being available in the first half against Kansas State. In 2013, an overtime loss to Texas saw the team lose to f’n Kansas and Iowa State!

Holgorsen has to get the kids to let go of the loss and move on. They have a chance to break that streak against ranked teams this week as Texas Tech comes in at #23 in the AP poll. It’s time for the Mountaineers to get a win over a ranked team. Dana and the staff can’t let this TCU loss linger.