Normally I watch the game on Saturday, make some notes either on my computer, or on paper, then rewatch on Sunday before I do our normal chores and any kids events that might take up our weekend. My notes involve specific plays, formations, thoughts on the emotion of the game at the time, and how the team is acting. I then sit down Sunday night and type out my thoughts from my notes and try to provide you readers a somewhat concise review of the thoughts floating around in my head. I’m not going to do that with this article today because really, I’m not sure there is much to review from watching the one of the top teams in the nation out-talent, out-coach and out-man the West Virginia Mountaineers. Instead, I’m going to talk about “trusting the climb”.
One of the other WV sports site published an article on Saturday and labeled it “If you don’t trust Neal Brown with Austin Kendall, then you don’t trust the climb”. I said then on Twitter what I’m going to say now and what will be the gist of this article, “Blind fellowship is not required. You can disagree with the coaches and still #TrustTheClimb”.
Trusting the Climb does not mean that we have to support every decision the coaches make. It does not mean that you cannot criticize the playcalls, the formations, or even the gameplan. It doesn’t mean you have to think Austin Kendall is the second coming of Peyton Manning. What it does mean is not giving up on the team and understanding that this year will be rough but better years will follow.
The fact is that currently, West Virginia has scored the fewest points of any Big 12 team. They’ve allowed the most of any Big 12 team. They are also the only team to play three of the four ranked teams in the Big 12 and will have played all four by the end of October. That is going to skew those numbers slightly, but it still has to be concerning that the offense can’t get out of its own way and the defense eventually suffers a catastrophic failure after giving the team a chance for over half the game.
The goal of this season has always been to try and make a bowl, not for a bowl streak or anything like that, but because teams that earn a bowl bid get extra practices. Extra practices mean extra time the coaches can spend with the players and the better the team can be next year. Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt, the announcers for Saturday’s contest between the Mountaineers and the Oklahoma Sooners, made note that of the 22 starters from last years 59-56 shootout in Morgantown, only 5 remain for West Virginia. Five. That means 17 players may have seen some time on special teams, at best, but other than that, didn’t play in the biggest game of the year last year.
Trusting the climb doesn’t require you to be a homer to your favorite college team. It doesn’t require you to have blind faith that every game is going to be a win. It doesn’t require you be ok with Austin Kendall starting, or Martell Pettaway redshirting or the losses of several defensive backs. You, as a fan, have every right to voice your displeasure. That is what makes you a fan. That is why you and I bleed gold and blue. Its why we root for this team, why we are invested in this team. What you and I need to do though is believe the coaches will turn it around, will find the pieces on the roster to make a difference and will go out to the high schools and find the players who can deliver a championship to the Mountaineers. That is Trusting the Climb.
There are, without a bowl game, five games left in the 2019 season. The Mountaineers have an extended gameday this week, since they won’t play on Saturday but will play on Halloween, 10 days from today. That game, unfortunately, is at Baylor, where the Mountaineers have only won once, way back in 2017 when Baylor was decimated by scholarship and the Art Briles Sexual Assault Scandal [btw, I hate saying scandal because its not a scandal, its an awful horrific dealing, but I don’t know a better word]. Even in 2017, the Mountaineers needed a last second stand to survive. Baylor has averaged 57 points in the three meetings against West Virginia in Waco. Halloween is not looking good for the Mountaineers.
If WVU loses on Halloween, that puts them with five losses and four games left to play. They would need go 3-1 to make a bowl. Outside of Texas Tech, which ESPN gives the Red Raiders a 58% chance to win the game, the Mountaineers are considerable underdogs in every remaining contest.
This is where Jarret Doege comes in. Austin Kendall is a redshirt junior this year, meaning he still has one year of eligibility left. Jarret Doege is a junior, who is redshirting and will have two years left, as long as he doesn’t play in 5 games this year. Do you go into next season with Doege as your starter and get a guy who has a year of being in the system and two to play or do you go with Kendall and take the guy with a year of starting experience but then have to start over in 2021?
Given the bleak outlook of the ESPN forecasts, I think after Baylor, if Doege is healthy enough to start, you need to start him. If we win and somehow make a bowl, then cross that bridge when you come to it. If Doege somehow leads the Mountaineers to three straight wins and you can sit him for TCU, do that and let Doege start the bowl game, but regardless, I think you need to get Doege playing time this year. You go into next season with Doege having some game experience in this system and two years left to the lead the Mountaineers.
I do have one note from Saturday’s contest and that is about the receivers. Overall, I’m starting to see good things out of the receivers. The routes are becoming crisper; they are getting more depth in their routes and at times are getting open. The biggest knock is the deep threat and until one emerges, this offense is stuck in neutral. Most of that falls on Kendall, who just doesn’t get enough on the ball and often puts his receivers in a position where they need to fight instead of leading them open. However, when Kendall does get enough air on the ball, his receivers need to help him out. Ali Jennings did so with a fantastic one-armed grabbed that was called OPI, ala David Sills in 2017 against TCU. Sam James had three steps on a defender but didn’t lay out. The receivers are going to have to help Kendall out. They are going to have to dive, jump, twist and fight for those deep balls. The throws aren’t great but they are enough to give the receivers a chance and the wideouts need to help out the QB.