clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Smoking Musket Roundtable Discusses Iowa State’s Record, Big 12 Expectations and Pepperoni Rolls

New, 15 comments

In a cold, rainy bus stop in Morgantown, five writers talk about West Virginia Football

Oklahoma State v West Virginia Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

We play Iowa State this weekend, who has a 6-2 record and sparkling #14 ranking. They've beaten both TCU and Oklahoma this year but lost to Iowa (5-3) and Texas (4-4). Would you rather have Iowa State's record of two wins over ranked teams but two losses to mediocre teams or WVUs record with wins over a ranked TTU but your three losses are to teams ranked in the mid-teens [currently]?

Jordan Pinto: Interesting question Jake, I'm glad you asked that. I think you'd have to go with Iowa State here, right? Dana probably would, what with the persistent criticism of his inability to win big games and everything. However, it's closer than it appears on first glance. If we beat them this weekend, for example, I like our 6-3 better than theirs.

Michael Miller: I’d rather have Iowa State’s losses. The Cyclones are still in control of their destiny, in regards to the Big 12 Championship game, while the Mountaineers are going to need some help if they want to play on December 2nd.

Realistically, the Big 12 Championship should be our yearly goal. I’ll be brutally honest and say it’s going to take a miracle for West Virginia to make it to the college football playoff. So, we need to set our sights on what is obtainable and if we find ourselves in the CFP after that, great.

Nick Shoemaker: I think I would rather have Iowa State's record over ours. I think the rankings reflect how people view the two records and resumes. I also think that Iowa State has wins in big games where we have losses, and that reflects negatively on the team, especially with the fans. And I would have preferred a win over Virginia Tech than a (potential) win over Texas. It just means more considering they are a top 25 team and a rival.

MM: That is a good point. A lot of the criticism on Dana is that he hasn’t won any big games. Iowa State has two of those this season. If that was us, I’d have to imagine the two big wins would outweigh the Iowa and Texas loses and our fan base would be, at least, a little more lenient

Jake Lantz: Those are all great points but I'm still going to lean on our record. I can't count how many times we were in the Big East and would lose a dumb game to someone we shouldn't. I agree with Mike that our yearly goal should be the Big 12 Championship game and right now we're outside looking in but I would rather know that we are knocking on the door rather than we had a shot and lost to 2-9 Texas Tech on a Friday Night game.

NS: "Big Games" have also become more important. Just look at last night's CFP Rankings. Miami and Wisconsin are undefeated and that didn't seem to help them because of their "resumes." But I also agree that we should at least aim for the Big 12 Championship every year.

Bart Keeler: Iowa State is a little lucky to be 6-2, while we are a little unlucky to be 5-3. Iowa State has found itself and figured out the best way to win, which WVU has not done yet. But overall, I think we've seen the kind of team WVU is. Obviously, I'd rather be 6-2, but at the same time, our three losses are to really good teams. I think we'll finish with somewhat even records once this is all said and done.

JL: And that goes to something I wanted to point out, if WVU wins this weekend, WVU and ISU both have two wins over ranked teams, while WVU has losses to 3 ranked teams and ISU has losses to 3 unranked teams

JP: Exactly my point. If we win, our 6-3 is better.

NS: That is a great point. To me, that makes this game even more important. I also think it is important for the team moving forward. Back to back losses at home could result in a downhill slide for the remainder of the season.

MM: I feel like our fan base, and maybe the team to an extent, comes into every season with a CFP appearance or bust mindset. That’s why losses like Saturday rip the fan base apart and get them in a frenzy. And I think you see that reflected in some of the players, or at least we have in the past. We’ll be able to tell how they’re handling the Oklahoma State loss on Saturday.

That's a great point Mike and I'm going to deviate and ask a new question. What are our realistic goals in the Big 12 yearly? Is it realistic to expect to be a 10-win/New Years 6 team every year or should fans lower expectations?

MM: We have to lower the expectations a bit. We don’t play in the Big East anymore. 7, 8 and 9 win seasons are probably going to be the norm, as it has been for a long time with the exception of three years under RichRod. On good years, we can maybe expect a 10 win season. Next year, if Grier and Sills return, will be one of those seasons.

JL: In college football, talent wins. You can argue all you want why the recruiting isn't top 5 but it never has been. West Virginia has always had to rely on less talented guys, or under recruited guys and build them up. You are starting to see more talent come into the fold, but at the same time, the talent we play against is also better

NS: I don't mind lowering expectations to fit where we are and who we are playing against, but I think we should show some improvement too. We should adapt and grow as a program. Personally, I would like to win nine games each season, but there are going to be up and down years.

BK: I don't think people understand how hard it is to be a 10-win program. We aren't that. We were kind of that in a bad Big East, but I guess people just look at numbers. It's unrealistic to EXPECT 10 wins, but it's not unrealistic to think we could win 10 games each year.

We started out the year on fire offensively, but the last three games have seen us struggle to run the ball. Both Texas Tech and Oklahoma State held us under 100 yards rushing and Baylor we needed 29 carries to generate only 119 yards. What in the world is going on with the run game?

BK: 1) Justin Crawford has lost his touch. 2) Our offensive line play has been subpar across the board. 3) Teams are learning that we're not very creative in the run game.

MM: I feel like the offensive line has regressed some, and that’s part of the reason we aren’t seeing success with the run. It also shows in that we are seeing Grier get sacked a lot more over the last couple games. Also, that delayed draw has got to go.

JL: I take it you don’t like reliving the Don Nehlen days, Mike?

MM: Not a fan of negative yard rushing plays. Lol

NS: I would agree with that. I think any offense relies on the line to be solid and that has become an issue for us. I also agree that Crawford has dropped off. I thought McKoy ran well last weekend during the middle of the game, but then he quit getting touches.

JL: I have wondered, especially after Kansas used it with such success, why we aren't using the diamond formation more in the middle of the field. You can easily put Marcus Simms as the single wideout which keeps the element of the deep threat there but it might be to start using more power rushing to generate yardage, especially if the offense gets large leads

JP: Crawford is missing some holes that he was hitting earlier in the year. I saw several runs when rewatching Oklahoma State where our guys are leading through the hole with nobody to block and he bounced it for a short gain. Another problem is the play calling though. As Mike said, that delay is awful, and I feel like we're not as committed to it as we need to be in order to be successful. We just give up on it at times, but running the ball takes patience; you have to probe a bit sometimes before you find a weakness and that's hard to do when you have a tendency to fall in love with the pass. Idk. It's weird to say, but at times it feels like our running game exists merely as a thing to do so we don't pass every play; it has no identity of its own like it has in years passed. This year it seems we do it just for the sake of being balanced.

BK: It's almost as if Spavital does it because Dana wants him to, but it's not something done with conviction or purpose other than to say, "we did it."

MM: I hit on it last week on the podcast, but Spav uses the run the same way I do on Madden

NS: I would agree that part of the issue is play calling. There were way too many three-and -outs last week, and having a solid run game could help prevent that.

JL: From what I've seen, Spav calls games where he wants to use the run to open up the deep pass and when teams have proven they can stop the run with their defensive line, we've struggled as a whole. Also, I think you are seeing exactly why the coaches had Crawford on a "pitch count" early in the year. While he's a playmaker, he's not a workhorse and its quite possible that 117 carries, plus who knows how many more hits just on run fakes and pass blocking have taken a toll on his body

If you could have any player from any West Virginia team since 1980, who would it be and why?

BK: Any player since 1980? I'd take Tavon Austin. Used correctly, he's the best offensive weapon we've had. And he's a great kick/punt returner.

MM: I’m gonna go with someone recent. I’d love to see Bruce Irvin on this team. Someone on the defensive line that can get pressure on the quarterback. I think that would have maybe helped things to our way in VT and TCU games.

NS: I would almost say Pat White because he is my all-time favorite WVU player, but I think Grier is a solid quarterback. So if I was looking for someone this team would need, I would go with Bruce Irvin. The defensive line could use a dynamic playmaker with personality like him.

JL: Im torn between Bruce, because we need a dominate pass rusher to help alter games and Charles Sims, who somehow generated 1,000 yards rushing despite us being a 4-8 team. It's possible with Sims, the rushing attack is more consistent which allows the offense to be more consistent. But Bruce would give the team one of the two things it needs on the defense, a pass rusher and shutdown corner. I think having Bruce would force offenses to play a specific manner which allows so much more creativity on the defensive side.

JP: My first instinct is to pick our best defensive lineman because I think that's where we need the most help. Irvin is a great pick and would inject some life into our anemic pass rush, but I think someone like John Thornton might be even better. He, Shuler, and McDougle would be a really solid 3-man front against both the run and the pass.

Second choice would be someone like Mike Logan or Aaron Beasley. We're in desperate need of someone who can erase half the field, and both those guys fit the bill.

Ok last question before we head off into the ether, describe your perfect pepperoni roll. Sauce or no sauce? Sliced or chopped? Any special seasoning on the top?

NS: As a student, I'd have to say the best pepperoni roll is a free pepperoni roll.

JP: Spicy, sliced pepperoni and cheese, sliced open on top with some chili. No sauce required

BK: The best pepperoni rolls, in my humble opinion, have sliced pepperoni so you get a central point of pepperoni grease and taste. It is best to have mozzarella cheese, but if it does not, you can slice the roll open and fill it with mozz, then heat it up. One of the BEST ways to eat a pepperoni roll is with a spicy WV hot dog sauce (like what Yann's in Fairmont sells) on top.

MM: Sliced pepperoni. No sauce.

BK: Also Fuck Pitt