For the first thirty minutes of this game, West Virginia was in control. They held the Cowboys to 200 total yards. They generated three turnovers including two interceptions. Will Grier threw balls that were pinpoint. The final thirty minutes the Mountaineers looked like a JV team. What in the world happened?
Oklahoma State switched defenses
I’ve been waiting on our man WVURxMan to post the video on facebook but Oklahoma State traditionally runs a 4-man defensive front. They played the first half in this alignment and West Virginia gashed them with over 300 yards of offense. The first offensive possession in the second half, OSU was in this alignment. When West Virginia got the ball back for their second possession, the Pokes switched to a 3-2-6. For three possessions, this stifled us.
Here is Oklahoma’s alignment on McKoy’s first touchdown run. Notice the defensive front.
Here is OSU after the Grier fumble on the 3rd and 8 throw. Notice that the Cowboys pulled up a defender and are now only putting three on the line. This confused the line.
We were outcoached?
I see this statement a lot and I guess it’s true. It took us time to adjust after Oklahoma State switched defenses but we did adjust. Oklahoma State switched defenses and we immediately went three-and-out. Oklahoma State fumbled the punt and we again went three and out. The defense forced their only punt of the second half and we again went three and out. 9 plays generated 8 yards. At this point, fans started to see the writing on the wall. My twitter feed blew up.
The next drive was the 10-play 83 yard touchdown that should have sealed the game. It wasn’t.
It is hard for me to say that we were outcoached when the defense generated four turnovers including two interceptions. It is hard for me to say we were outcoached when the offense 553 yards including 364 passing yards. It is hard for me to say we were outcoached when the team put up 31 points in the first half alone and did everything they needed to do to win. I just don’t think it was a coaching issue.
For the second time in three games, West Virginia found itself needing a game winning touchdown drive with little time remaining. This time, Grier ran for three yards and the team tried to get reset. It took 25 seconds before the next play. That is enough for at least three plays. That is on Dana. He has to know to conserve time in that situation.
No one seems to want to admit it but Grier was simply off. He was not the Grier we have come to know over these past 1.75 seasons. He missed David Sills on a wide open slant on the first possession of the game. He had Simms down the sideline and badly underthrew the ball that just fluttered like a wounded duck. He had several balls that were almost intercepted.
It happens. Players have bad games. Maybe Will and his wife had a fight. Maybe the baby kept him up. Maybe he had bad gas station sushi. Maybe he slept on a rock hard hotel pillow. The fact is Will was off.
If Grier was off, so was Sills. Sills has been off for a few games now. He has dropped passes that he normally catches. This game specifically the refs were hands off, which meant that the corners were hands-on. The Oklahoma State corner A.J. Green was physical with Sills. Sills melted. Instead of fighting for contested balls, Sills looked for a flag. It is imperative that you recognize exactly how the ref is calling the game and use it to your advantage. Ok, so the ref is going to allow a lot of fighting, then fight. Push off when you can. Jerk the defender. He’s going to be physical and you have to be physical back.
I said before I have a hard time blaming the defense when they generated four turnovers, including two interceptions. Yet, I still kinda blame the defense. They had OSU at 3rd and 20 and allowed a 38 yard pass. They had OSU at 3rd and 13 and allowed a 14 yard pass. They played off the ball when the Cowboys only needed a few yards.
Be clear though, the defense did play well enough to win. They generated four turnovers. I’m not absolving the offense for not scoring after those turnovers. However I am pointing out that the defense played soft in the second half.
Tony Gibson after the game said that several times he made a call and that call did not get relayed to the players on the field for one reason or another. He seemed befuddled as to why players were playing zone when he called man, off when he called press and doing some things he did not call.
BTW, Oklahoma State and Iowa State played three-man fronts and shut us down, so I do think three-man fronts can and do work.
It all is still in front of us
Yes, there was an outside shot of West Virginia making the playoffs and that is a noble goal. I’m not one to tell fans that you can’t hold the team to expectations but realistically our playoff chances were gone with Iowa State. Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame look like they are going to win out and be undefeated. Had WVU won out, they would have been compared to a one-loss Michigan and the fact remains that WVU was blown out by Iowa State while Michigan lost by 7 to Notre Dame. That would have been enough for the committee to not put the ‘Eers in.
At the beginning of the season, everyone said “We need to make a run at the Big 12”. That still exists. West Virginia is in a win-or-go-home scenario for the Big 12 title game. Honestly, this game sets up better for WVU. The loser of the game is out of the Big 12 Championship, provided Texas doesn’t lose to Kansas. I do not want to play Oklahoma twice. I don’t really want to play Texas twice but at least the game isn’t back-to-back.
The fact is that we all wanted to be relevant in the end. We are. On ESPN’s “Campus Conversation” when they discuss the playoff scenario, the hosts are, begrudgingly, noting that a one-loss West Virginia would be in the discussion. We wanted to be playing for a Big 12 title. We are. We’ve won six conference games for only the second time in school history, but the second time in three seasons.
The loss stings and makes life difficult but everything you wanted for this season is still in front of us. We can still win the Big 12. We can still make a great bowl game. None of that has changed.