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What I Think After Getting To Five, Staying Alive

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 20 Texas at West Virginia Photo by John McCreary/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For a week, the West Virginia Mountaineers looked competent, they looked functional, they looked good. Facing a possible elimination game, the Mountaineers showed up, showed out (?) and looked engaged. The Mountaineers did what they needed to do, they didn’t shoot their feet off and they didn’t kill themselves with untimely penalties. Both teams are struggling with injuries and both teams were at six losses, so the loser went home, the winner played for their bowl eligibility on the last game of the season. West Virginia came out on top in this one and ended Texas’ bowl hopes.

No Quit

It was very reasonable to question if the team was done. The season hadn’t gone the way it was expected, there were not going to be a lot of fans in the stands, it was going to be a cold West Virginia day, were the players going to come out and put their season and bodies on the line? West Virginia’s players did and that is a testament to the coaches. It can be hard to keep players engaged when a season unravels the way West Virginia’s season unraveled. You lost your first game of the season. You struggled but beat a rival that most of the players on the team can’t remember beating and haven’t seen the rivalry played out in a way that brought vitrol. You lost to the assumed Big 12 Champion at the time in a close game and then proceeded to see the season slip away with poor performances. Entering the bye week, what were you going to do? West Virginia rallied and so far is 3-2 after the bye. That’s a testament to both the coaches and the players. It can be hard when players check out to get them back and the coaching staff did just that.

Jarret Doege

Jarret Doege had a very good game against Texas. 27 completions for 290 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions and three sacks. He made long throws, short throws, tight throws and throws that lead his receivers. He looked like the quarterback you expect. All of that is the good side of Jarret and he looked exactly like what he should have. Texas played into his hands, playing Cover 2 and not blitzing. The people who will point out that he had a good game and that this is why he should be the starter, its true. When the opposition does not blitz and plays zone, Jarret can pick a defense apart. During the game, Jarret Doege passed Pat White for 5th all time in WVU passing yardage. He now has over 6,000 yards in his career at WVU. With a great season next year, Doege could finish top 10 all time in NCAA passing yardage.

“Unfinished Business”

According to the ESPN sideline reporter, Taylor McGregor, quarterback Jarret Doege will return to the Mountaineers for his final year of eligibility.

Judging by the reactions on Twitter, Facebook and here, the return was not met with a ton of excitement and why should it? The offense has been anemic for the most part of the season, we’ve seen him make more mistakes than he should and we still see him get rattled if the protection breaks down. There’s no doubt that when the conditions are right, he is a top level quarterback.

Jarret’s response in the post-game interview indicated he had not made a decision and without directly accusing anyone of lying, flies in the face of the report from ESPN. So who do you believe?

To me, Doege was returning next year unless we just bottomed out without injuries. He’s the most experienced quarterback on the team - in fact he’s the only experienced quarterback on the team and he has a year of eligibility left. Given the way the season and season(S) have played out, Neal Brown wouldn’t afford to have another year go off the rails. Safe for 2022 at least. Is he safe for 2023? Without direct knowledge of what Shane Lyons thinks, I’d have to believe that Shane would not stand for a repeat of 2019 or 2021. At least 2021 to this point. Its believed that Dana Holgorsen needed to win in 2016 in order to get a contract extension to his liking. He was offered one in 2015 but the buyout seemed to rest more in the hands of the University than the coach so he balked, won 10 games in 2016 and got a better contract.

Neal, having his buyout favor himself instead of the university, isn’t worried about losing money, but if next year is another 6-6 season, another mediocre, apathy driven disaster where the fans are just resigned to the fact that the offense is just ok, the offensive line isn’t great and the defense can’t get a stop when necessary, there won’t be a 2023 for Neal in Morgantown. So he needs to win and he can’t gamble on a true freshman Nicco Marchiol, redshirt freshman Goose Crowder or redshirt sophomore Garret Greene, all of whom have a total of about 30 plays on the field combined.

Defense

I know Texas is a good rushing team but for this defense to allow the Longhorns to run for 200 yards on the ground, it feels like we’re starting to see bigger and bigger cracks in this defense. At the beginning of the season, I worried that without both Stills brothers the defense would take a step back. Early in the season that seemed to be wrong as the defense played a very good level and kept the other team out of the game while giving us a chance, but now that we are 11 games into the season, the team is 4th in the Big 12 in yards per game, 5th in points per game and 12th in takeaways per game.

That 4th Down Call

As the game was unfolding and I was watching it at a friend’s house, he asked what do we do. My first thought was to punt the ball and try to pin Texas deep. I think I even said “I’d do a coffin corner”. West Virginia elected to throw it deep on fourth down. Afterwards, I tried to decide, do I like that play call and I ultimately came to the decision that throwing it there was the least risky play available.

If you punted the ball, the most likely scenario is that it goes into the endzone for a touchback and the Longhorns start at the 20-yard line.

Potentially, you could high pooch it and it gets fair caught inside the 20 or downed before the endzone which is what you are playing for.

However, Texas had already tried to block at least two punts and on the year was one of the best punt blocking teams in the nation, while the Mountaineers had a punt blocked last week. Worst case scenario is that Texas blocks the punt and scoops and scores for a touchdown or blocks it and returns it deep into our territory.

Throwing it offered fewer chances of a bad play and more chances of a “no-play”. The Mountaineers were going to throw it deep and so if the Longhorns did blitz, it was going to be an incomplete pass. Doege was not taking a sack. We’ll assume that the sack/strip is out of play for this one scenario. If we throw an interception, its an arm punt and its likely downed in the endzone for a touchback. If they return it, the likely hood of them returning it for a touchdown is very low. If its incomplete, Texas takes over at the 35, so the field differential is 15 yards but the risk is much lower with just throwing it deep.

“What about throwing it short for the first down”. That was in play. The one problem with that is what has Doege done at the worst possible time this year. Turn the ball over. What could you not afford in that scenario? To give Texas the ball back and a short field. Imagine running a tunnel screen and Virginia Tech happens. Imagine Texas running the ball down the field and being tackled at the 4 yard line with 30 seconds to go needing a touchdown to win the game. Nah, don’t throw short there. Neal learned his lesson. Throw it deep, hope your defense can win you this game.