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    2018 west virginia mountaineers fan forum


    BIG 12 CONFERENCE: 6-3


    Last edited by Ratpenat; 02-12-2018 at 23:32.

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    2018 West Virginia Mountaineers Football Preview

    If not now, West Virginia, when?

    Dana Holgorsen’s teams have been fine since the Mountaineers made the move to the Big 12. Not amazing, but solid.

    He might have set the bar a bit high with his 10-3 first season in 2011 – complete with the blowout win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl – but that was back in the Big East days. Since then, he’s had one ten-win season in six years, and the Mountaineers have never finished higher than third in the Big 12.

    Throw in the four bowl losses in five tries, and again, it hasn’t been a bad run so far, but it’s not like the Mountaineers have been all that close to becoming one of the league’s dominant programs.

    Until now. Maybe.

    The high-octane offensive style is built for the Big 12, and the deficiencies on defense just aren’t that big a deal as long the O is doing its thing.

    But the talent level hasn’t been in Oklahoma’s range, and TCU actually has played a little defense to be in the mix for some big things. But there’s a void now, with Oklahoma State losing a slew of its key parts, Texas not quite ready to dominate the world just yet under Tom Herman, and with key quarterback changes at OU and TCU.

    It’s time for West Virginia to pounce on the opportunity.

    What does WVU need? Maybe, the best quarterback in college football? Will Grier is at least going to be in the discussion at times throughout the season.

    How about fielding one of the most dangerous receiving corps in the country? Several teams would kill for a trio of David Sills, Gary Jennings, and Marcus Simms to work around.

    There’s experience in the backfield and on the offensive line, expect several All-Big 12 nods for the defensive side, and the kicking game should be good, too.

    The schedule is a bear at times, though – facing Tennessee, NC State, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Texas and Oklahoma State away from Morgantown – but if the team is Big 12 title good, it shouldn’t matter.

    The window might never be more wide open for a team full of veteran talents like this to jump through it and at least get to the Big 12 Championship.

    This is the year everything has been building towards during Holgorsen’s tenure. Enjoy it.

    What You Need To Know About The West Virginia Offense

    – The Mountaineers caught a big break when Will Grier decided to come back for one more year. He might have been a mid-round draft pick – and there’s a chance he could grow into the top quarterback off the board in 2019 – but despite coming off an injury, he’s ready.

    He’s the Heisman-caliber leader and star who threw for close to 3,500 yards and 34 touchdowns before suffering a hand injury. Now that he’s back, the offense that cranked up 460 yards and 35 points per game should be even more explosive.

    Best of all, unlike last year – when the offense broke down once he was out – the Mountaineers have big-time options behind him. Miami transfer Jack Allison is a big bomber, and Trey Lowe can move.

    – Making things even better with Grier returning was the decision of David Sills V to come back, too. Gary Jennings led the team with 97 catches, and Marcus Simms is a devastating deep threat. But Sills was the unstoppable machine – at least when paired with Grier – with 18 touchdown grabs on 60 catches. Add in Alabama transfer T.J. Simmons for the inside, and the Mountaineers are loaded with an embarrassment of riches.

    – 1,061-yard rusher Justin Crawford is done, and the offense will work around the passing game, but the Mountaineers have a deep rotation in the backfield. Kennedy McKoy is more than ready to handle a bigger workload.

    He won’t have to do it alone, with Martell Pettaway a good option who’ll get his share of carries, too. Throw in Grier’s mobility and running skills, and the mediocre ground game should do far more than 150 yards per game.

    Paving the way is a veteran line with four starters returning. Kyle Bosch is gone at right guard, but everyone else is back from a group that led the Big 12 in fewer tackles for loss allowed, and was one of the best in pass protection, too. Best of all, there’s depth to work into the mix, too.

    Biggest Key To The West Virginia Offense

    Stop giving the ball away. As explosive as the Mountaineers were and will be, there was a big problem on third downs – converting just 34% of the time – and sputtering way too much in a few key games.

    But the biggest problems down the stretch – and in losses – was the turnover margin. In the six losses, the Mountaineers were -9, crushed by the five giveaways in the pivotal loss to Oklahoma State – Will Grier couldn’t stop throwing picks – and with 18 turnovers over the final six games.

    Turnovers might be the only thing that can stop the West Virginia offensive machine.

    What You Need To Know About The West Virginia Defense

    – Defense is relative when playing in the Big 12. It wasn’t an awful year for the defense, but it struggled against the run and way involved in a whole slew of shootouts, giving up 446 yards and 32 points per game. Six starters return, and even with some key holes to fill, the D will be better.

    Leading tackler Al-Rasheed Benton is done from the linebacking corps, but David Long Jr. is a special defender who’s a killer on the weakside as long as he’s healthy. He has to get past a shoulder injury, but he’ll be ready.

    Dylan Tonkery made 44 tackles last season, and now he’ll take over for Benton in the middle, and now safety-sized Charlie Benton will move into Tonkery’s spot on the strongside.

    – The line loses two of its three starters, but it’ll be terrific with a little bit of time. DE Adam Shuler is transferring, but Ezekiel Rose and Dante Stills are more than good enough to fill in the gap on one side, and Reese Donohue is back on the other.

    Stills could work at tackle if needed, but with undersized starter Lamonte McDougle transferring, it’ll be up to USC transfer Kenny Bigelow and Clemson grad transfer Jabril Robinson to help clog up the nose. This won’t be a big line, but even with the losses, there will be a good rotation.

    – The secondary situation is about to grow into a massive plus. Derrek Pitts is about to become an all-star on the outside – if he doesn’t lock down a safety job – with UCLA transfer Denzel Fisher and Hakeem Bailey good options to find time at corner.

    Kenny Robinson is going to be one of the team’s biggest tacklers at free safety, but it’s the return of Dravon Askew-Henry at the Spur position that makes the pass D potentially fantastic. Well past the torn ACL suffered a few years ago, he needs to get back to his all-star skills.

    Biggest Key To The West Virginia Defense

    The run defense needs to stiffen up. There were way too many problems on the defensive front holding up. There’s enough talent and experience in place to do more, but after giving up over 300 yards to Oklahoma and, inexplicably, to Kansas, it’s not okay to allow close to five yards per carry again. WVU went 1-4 when allowing 200 yards or more – the D line will be in the spotlight in fall camp.

    Best West Virginia Offensive Player

    QB Will Grier, Sr.
    How much would Florida have loved to have had Grier last year? After all of the PED craziness, Grier was able to start right away last season and became exactly what the Mountaineers were hoping for.

    He might have thrown too many interceptions – 12, with four against Oklahoma State – and he missed the last few games after injuring his hand, but he’s a bomber, averaging nine yards per pass with 3,490 yards and 34 scores. He’s perfect for the Big 12 and all the shootouts the Mountaineers will be in.

    He’s not huge – with 6-2, 215-pound size – and he doesn’t have a massive arm, but he’s about to fill the Big 12 quarterback star void left by the departure of Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph. When he’s on, forget it – he connected on 70% of his passes six times, and WVU won five of them with the one loss coming to Texas when he got knocked out early.

    2. WR David Sills, Sr.
    3. WR Gary Jennings, Sr.
    4. OT Yodny Cajuste, Sr.
    5. RB Kennedy McKoy, Jr.

    Best West Virginia Defensive Player

    LB David Long, Jr.
    While he’s a little bit undersized, the 5-11, 221-pounder missed time early on with a knee injury, and had a shoulder issue this offseason. But when he’s right, he’s one of the Big 12’s most disruptive defenders, finishing with 75 stops with 3.5 sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss, and six broken up passes on the weakside.

    Very fast and with a knack for always making something big happen, he has the talent and potential to be the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

    2. S Dravon Askew-Henry, Jr.
    3. DE Reese Donahue, Jr.
    4. S Kenny Robinson, Soph.
    5. DE Ezekiel Rose, Sr.

    Key Player To A Successful Season

    DT Kenny Bigelow, Sr.
    The one-time super-recruit for USC had problems with a few knee injuries, and he was just never right or able to do anything for the Trojans. But the 6-3, 300-pound grad transfer is exactly what the Mountaineers needed after losing rising star Lamonte McDougle to a transfer. For a bad run defense, Bigelow has to stay healthy, and he has to be the star on the nose.

    Key Game To The West Virginia Season

    Oklahoma, Nov. 23
    Beating Tennessee to start the season would set the tone, and going to NC State and coming away with a win would be a big deal. In Big 12 play, winning at Texas and/or at Oklahoma State is a must to stay alive in the chase, and there are a whole slew of other concerns along the way.

    However, even though it’s about finishing in the top two to get to the Big 12 Championship, beating Oklahoma for the first time since joining the league is a must.

    The Mountaineers pulled off the shocker against the Sooners in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, but they’re 0-6 since making the conference move, including a 59-31 loss last year.
    Last edited by Ratpenat; 22-08-2018 at 23:59.

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    Game 1: Wvu vs. Tennessee preview

    No. 17 West Virginia Mountaineers vs Tennessee Volunteers Preview: Season 127, Episode 1 - So It Begins

    Tennessee vs. West Virginia

    Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 1 at 3:30 p.m. ET

    Where: Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte)

    TV: CBS

    Spread: West Virginia -10

    The West Virginia and Tennessee football programs have co-existed for 127 years, and yet, never once have they met on the gridiron, not even in a bowl game. I know, it’s a real head-scratcher. But that is about to change on Saturday evening when these two storied programs square off inside Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium for the first time ever in the Belk College Kickoff Game.

    Following a somewhat disappointing 7-6 (5-4 Big 12) campaign in 2017, the preseason hype train has been full steam ahead for the Mountaineers and head coach Dana Holgorsen. West Virginia enters Saturday’s matchup against Tennessee ranked 17th in the AP Top 25 and a front-runner to compete for the Big 12 title in 2018. The Mountaineers also return one of the most explosive offenses in the country, led by Heisman hopeful Will Grier at quarterback and All-American candidates David Sills and Gary Jennings at wide receiver. Question marks still exist on defense. However, reports from fall camp have been promising on that side of the football as well.

    Disappointing would be an understatement when describing the Volunteers’ 2017 season. In fact, Tennessee would endure its worst season in school history (4-8, 0-8 SEC). The good news is that optimism has returned to Rocky Top behind first-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt, a five-time national champion as an assistant coach. While it will take more than a fresh start and a renewed sense of optimism to turn the Tennessee program around in short order, the Vols should have enough talent in place to make that a reality. A golden opportunity awaits to prove it on Saturday, as Pruitt’s first test as a head coach will be nothing short of challenging. Meanwhile, Holgorsen and his Mountaineers have a chance to show the nation that the hype is well-deserved.

    Three Things to Watch

    1. The element of surprise

    There aren’t many advantages for a first-year head coach going into a matchup against a top-20 team led by a veteran head coach. But Jeremy Pruitt does have one thing in his favor. The element of surprise could prove to be a legitimate X-factor for the Volunteers on Saturday. From strategy to player personnel, the Pruitt has been extremely tight-lipped regarding his plans for this team. Media access was very limited during Tennessee practices, making it even more difficult to unravel the mystery. A vanilla spring game for the Vols provided few clues as well.

    Pruitt has even gone out of his way to keep his starting quarterback a mystery heading into Saturday, suggesting that it is still an ongoing battle between Jarrett Guarantano and Keller Chryst. In fact, based on a less-than-revealing depth chart released by Pruitt on Monday, the Mountaineers are left to believe that Tennessee is unsettled at multiple positions. Something that didn’t sit too well with West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen, who responded by releasing an equally puzzling depth chart.

    But the secretive nature of the Vols’ head coach is just part of the challenge facing the Mountaineers, which begs the question - How do you practice for a game against a team with a brand-new coaching staff and new schemes on both sides of the football? Furthermore, there is virtually no game film for the Mountaineers to study. This creates quite the conundrum for Holgorsen, who said it best earlier in the week — "The truth of the matter is we really don’t know what they’re going to do." And that’s just how Pruitt planned it.

    2. Aerial assault

    Holgorsen and company might be scratching their heads in anticipation of Tennessee’s game plan for Saturday. But there is little doubt as to West Virginia’s approach for Saturday. The Mountaineers are sure to go to the air early and often, and why wouldn’t they? WVU returns arguably the nation’s most dangerous passing attack.

    Despite missing the final three games last season with a broken finger, quarterback Will Grier still managed to throw for almost 3,500 yards and 34 touchdowns. The senior signal-caller and Heisman Trophy candidate has plenty of weapons to throw to, including Athlon Sports preseason All-American wide receiver David Sills, who led the nation in touchdown receptions (18) a season ago. Fellow senior Gary Jennings also returns from a stellar 2017 campaign in which his 97 receptions ranked fourth in the country. An already dangerous receiving corps is further bolstered by talented junior Marcus Simms and the addition of Alabama transfer T.J. Simmons.

    The Volunteers will attempt to counter with a largely unproven secondary, led by standout safety Nigel Warrior. Despite Tennessee’s woes on defense last season, they did have the third-ranked pass defense in the nation in 2017 (161.7 ypg). Although that’s fairly misleading, considering that opposing teams rarely threw the ball against them, opting to stay on the ground against an abysmal Tennessee run defense.

    The Vols are also charged with replacing three starters in the secondary. To help fill the void, Tennessee is expected to rely heavily on a pair of true freshmen, Alontae Taylor and Bryce Thompson. While this young duo has been touted as extremely talented, Grier will likely target them due to their inexperience. It could be a long afternoon for the entire Tennessee pass defense.

    3. The ground game

    While the Mountaineers are sure to lean heavily on their stellar passing attack, they would be wise to at least test the waters against a Tennessee run defense that ranked among the worst in college football last season. West Virginia will look to employ a four-man committee to get the job done — juniors Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway, along with freshmen Alec Sinkfield and Leddie Brown. If Tennessee has not addressed its leaky run defense, this four-headed monster should have no problem finding running room behind a stout offensive line that returns four starters.

    As for the Volunteers, ball control and clock management will be critical to their success in this matchup. This means that Tennessee will definitely need to lean heavily on its ground game, which should be much-improved in 2018. The Vols finally have a full complement of healthy offensive linemen, led by preseason All-American Trey Smith. They also feature a potential game-changer at running back in sophomore Ty Chandler. Fellow sophomore Tim Jordan will factor in as well, along with Michigan State transfer Madre London. Much like Tennessee, the West Virginia run defense could once again be a serious liability following a rough 2017 in which they surrendered 204.2 rushing yards per game.
    Last edited by Ratpenat; 31-08-2018 at 22:59.

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    Post game: Wvu vs. Tennesse

    Instant Recap: Will Grier’s Heisman Campaign Begins With A Statement Win Over Tennessee

    Call it rust or hometown nerves, but a 65 minute weather delay was just what West Virginia quarterback Will Grier needed to shake them off after looking a bit out of sync in the first half of the 2018 Belk College Kickoff. The Mountaineer Heisman hopeful set the record for most touchdowns and passing yards against a Tennessee team, finishing the evening with 429 yards passing and 5 touchdowns as West Virginia rolled to a 40-14 win over the Volunteers and first-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt.

    Tennessee received the opening kickoff and on the very first play of the game, Southern Cal transfer nose tackle Kenny Bigelow made it known that he came to Morgantown to do business. Bigelow had two tackles for loss and a forced fumble on the first drive, forcing Tennessee to punt.

    West Virginia had to settle for a field goal when their first drive sputtered to a halt after David Sills V dropped a touchdown catch in the endzone. West Virginia’s defense brought the pressure on the ensuing drive, and forced the Volunteers into their second punt of the quarter.

    West Virginia’s offense struggled with timing issues for most of the first half - most notably on a false start by everyone except center Matt Jones - but the highlight of the first 30 minutes was TJ Simmon’s first touchdown reception as a Mountaineer. On the fifth play of their second drive, Simmons took a pass from Grier 59-yards to put the Mountaineers up 10-0.

    Tennessee controlled the ball and chewed up the clock before converting a fourth and goal for a touchdown. West Virginia would go on to score another field goal and a 13-7 lead to end the half.

    Grier caught fire in the third quarter, after a lengthy break in the locker room in which Dana Holgorsen and the team reportedly spent the time relaxing and watching other televised games, throwing for three touchdowns on consecutive drives.

    Tennessee fans began heading for the exits midway through the fourth quarter after quarterback Jarrett Guarantano failed to convert on another 4th and goal. Grier would go on to put the game on ice with another touchdown pass to Sills in the closing minutes of the game.

    David Sills led all receivers with 140 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches. Gary Jennings added 113 yards and a touchdown on 6 catches. Martell Pettaway carried the ball nine times for 56 yards, and true freshman Leddie Brown added 33 yards on eight carries.

    West Virginia will host the Youngstown State Penguins next Saturday in Morgantown. That game will kick off at 6PM Eastern and will be televised on AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh.

    Game Balls:

    W. Grier - 25 Comp., 429 Yards, 5 TDs
    D. Sills V - 7 Rec., 140 Yards, 2 TDs
    G. Jennings Jr. - 6 Rec., 113 Yards, 1 TD

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    Wvu vs. Younstown state: Preview

    Inside the Numbers: WVU vs. Youngstown State


    Date: September 8, 2018

    Time: 6:00pm EST

    Venue: Mountaineer Field, Morgantown, WV

    How to Watch/Listen

    TV: AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh

    Streaming: The stream will be available on WVUsports.com and the WVU Gameday App. Additionally, fans will be able to tune in live via Roku and Apple TV by searching for the “MountaineerTV” channel on each device.

    Know Your Enemy

    Series History: (2-0). The Mountaineers have won both of their meetings with the Penguins to date, including a 37-24 victory in Morgantown in 2016.

    2018 Record: 0-1. The 'Guins opened the season with a loss to 37-point underdog, zero scholarship-having Butler. You have to imagine they'll be looking to return the favor this weekend.

    Head Coach: Bo Pelini. Pelini's name still carries some considerable weight in the college football world, but won't for long if he loses too many more like he did last week.

    Offensive Coordinator: Brian Crist. Crist was with the Penguins the last time they visited Morgantown, but is only in his first season as offensive coordinator.

    Defensive Coordinator: Richard McNutt and Donald D'Alesio. Both of these guys have been at Youngstown for a few years now and have worked their way up from position coaches to co-coordinators.

    NOW THE FUN PART......

    Coming off a dominant win over Tennessee in Week 1, No. 14 West Virginia (1-0) opens the home portion of the schedule this week against the Youngstown State Penguins (0-1) out of the Football Championship Subdivision. Let’s go inside the numbers of this week’s game for the Mountaineers:

    Home Openers

    It’s the home opener for the Mountaineers. West Virginia has won 14 straight home openers, and have won those contests by over 29 points per game. Home openers against FCS opponents have actually been slightly closer, though; over that time, WVU has won those matchups by nearly 27 points per contest.

    WVU against the FCS

    Youngstown State is a Division I FCS program. WVU is undefeated against the Penguins and their FCS counterparts.

    The Mountaineers are 18-0 all-time against Football Championship Subdivision teams. Head coach Dana Holgorsen is 7-0 against such opponents. The Penguins, on the other hand, haven’t beaten an FBS team since beating Pitt in 2012.

    West Virginia has defeated Bo Pelini and the Penguins once since then, earning a 38-21 win at Milan Puskar Stadium in 2016.

    The Will to put up Big Numbers

    Offensively, Will Grier stole the show in the season opener. He threw for a career-high 429 yards, and set a program record by throwing five passing touchdowns for a fourth time in his gold-and-blue career. Because of that performance, he improved his Heisman odds to 6-1.

    Grier has only played an FCS team once in his career, when he threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns last year against Delaware State.

    New “DAWGS,” New Tricks

    On the other side of the ball, nine defensive players saw their first action in a WVU uniform against the Volunteers, tallying 14 total tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss.

    Kenny Bigelow Jr. earned two tackles, both for loss, and collected a sack. Safety Josh Norwood led all newcomers with four tackles in his debut.

    We’ve heard already this week how those players will have to step up the rest of the way for the Mountaineers with Charlie Benton out for the year.

    When we have the ball..

    Players to watch: LB Armand Dellovade, CB Bryce Gibson, FS Kyle Hegedus

    Defining success: Get the ground game going

    State's defense opened the season by holding Butler to just 339 yards and 23 points, which is pretty good until you remember that the Bulldogs don't have any football players on scholarship. Schematically they'll run a 4-down front with four seniors and a decent rotation behind them, while their secondary features returning starters Bryce Gibson and Kyle Hegedus. The leader of the group though, is All-Conference linebacker Armand Dellovade.

    Looking at their numbers from the first game, the preferred method of attack would appear to be the pass. I'm sure we'll do plenty of that, but I think the most important thing for us to do in this game is develop some momentum on the ground. We ran the ball reasonably well against Tennessee last week, rushing 24 times for 118 yards, but I still think that's selling the talent of both our line and backfield short. They're better than that, and I think they'll have the chance to prove that this week.

    When they have the ball...

    Players to watch: QB Montgomery VanGorder, RB Tevin McCaster, WR Samuel St. Surin

    Defining success: Stop McCaster

    Offensively the Penguins seem reasonably balanced, with Tevin McCaster providing the threat on the ground while Notre Dame transfer Montgomery VanGorder supplies it through air. They have a lot of new faces at receiver but seem to be reasonably experienced up front, and that, combined with the fact that McCaster is their best offensive player, means we can probably expect them to try to establish the run. That obviously makes our number one priority stopping it. If we stop McCaster, we stop their play action game, and ultimately we stop them.
    Special Teams

    Defining success: No big plays in the return game

    Kicker Zak Kennedy and punter Matt Schuler both return from the Penguins' last trip to Morgantown and give them a solid special teams foundation. I don't know much about their coverage teams, but they do appear to have a pair of solid return men that we need to keep a close eye on. Nothing keeps games close that shouldn't be like big plays in the third phase.

    Kickoff between West Virginia and Youngstown State is set for 6 p.m. Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium.
    Last edited by Ratpenat; 08-09-2018 at 07:13.

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    Wvu vs youngstown state: Recap

    Jennings Jr.'s 3 TD Catches, Grier's Passing Power No. 14 WVU

    MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - It was another day at the office for West Virginia's Heisman Trophy contender Will Grier.

    The senior fired four touchdown passes in leading the 14th-rated Mountaineers to a 52-17 victory over Youngstown State Saturday evening on the soggy Milan Puskar Stadium turf in Morgantown, West Virginia.

    "I'm glad this week is over, honestly, coming off the big win last week over Tennessee," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said afterward. "We talked all week about respecting our opponent, which I think we did."

    A crowd of 58,446 sat in steady rain to watch Grier complete all but five of his 26 pass attempts for 332 yards - Grier's 11th 300-yard-plus passing performance in just 13 career games for the Mountaineers.

    "I thought Will did a really good job of getting us into the right plays," Holgorsen said. "We're a big-play offense, always have been, and I told Will at halftime, 'Don't get anxious and do dumb things because we're frustrated with 5 or 6 yards per play. Just continue to manage the game' and he did."

    His night ended with 12:03 left in the final quarter and the Mountaineers comfortably ahead, 49-17. Backup quarterback Jack Allison came in to lead WVU to a field goal on his first drive as a Mountaineer, but the bulk of the yardage came on the ground from freshman Leddie Brown and junior Kennedy McKoy.

    Evan Staley culminated that march by booting a 31-yard field goal when the drive stalled at the Penguin 14.

    Brown had an impressive night, demonstrating an ability to consistently break tackles and get positive yardage whenever defenders were near him. He ran 15 times for 115 yards and scored one of West Virginia's three rushing touchdowns. Another Brown touchdown run, for 39 yards, was called back because of a holding penalty on Chase Behrndt.

    "Leddie went in there and didn't look like a freshman to me," Holgorsen said.

    West Virginia's other TD runs came from Alec Sinkfield, who later left the game with what appeared to be an ankle injury sustained in the second quarter, and McKoy, who finished the night with 76 yards on just 11 carries.

    Last week's starter Martell Pettaway was credited with 77 yards on 12 attempts.

    WVU wanted to see more from its ground game tonight and its four tailbacks delivered by combining to gain 292 yards on 45 attempts.

    And when a pass was needed, Grier usually completed it.

    Three of his touchdown tosses went to senior Gary Jennings Jr., who hauled in only one TD reception last year and now shows four in two games so far this season. He has taken some considerable ribbing from his teammates for his inability to get into the end zone despite leading the team with 97 catches a year ago.

    "We gave him so much crap last year for not scoring more touchdowns," Holgorsen joked. "He scored about 1 percent of the time last year, about 100 catches and only one touchdown. He's tired of hearing it.

    "I can't explain that, and he's a really good player and we focused on that and probably have targeted him more in those situations," Holgorsen said. "It was good to see him get into the end zone."

    Tonight, Jennings Jr.'s touchdown catches covered distances of 11, 24 and 33 yards, while Grier also hooked up with senior Dominque Maiden for a 40-yard scoring strike early in the fourth quarter before Grier's night was finished.

    Marcus Simms was West Virginia's leading receiver with eight catches for 119 yards while Jennings barely missed becoming WVU's second 100-yard receiver with 97 yards.

    David Sills V, who caught seven passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns in West Virginia's 40-14 season-opening win over Tennessee, was limited to just two catches for 33 yards. He had one opportunity to score a touchdown early in the third quarter when he was wide open down the middle of the field, but Grier overthrew him in the end zone – one of the few times he was off target all night.

    Another came on the game's opening possession when Will Latham intercepted his third-down pass at the Penguin 23.

    Youngstown State (0-2), which lost to Butler last weekend in its season opener, played much better tonight against the Mountaineers.

    "Coach (Bo) Pelini is a heck of a football coach, and they did some things that had us scrambling in the first half, and their kids played hard," Holgorsen said. "We expected that, got that, and we'll see if that makes us better."

    The Penguins got touchdowns from backup tight end Miles Joiner in the second quarter, a 4-yard pass from Montgomery VanGorder, and from running back Tevin McCaster in the third quarter, a 13-yard rush.

    Zak Kennedy also booted a 45-yard field goal for Youngstown State.

    The Penguins finished the game with 136 yards rushing and 157 yards passing from VanGorder, who completed just 11 of his 24 pass attempts with one interception, that one going to senior safety Dravon Askew-Henry.

    "A heck of a catch by Dravon," Holgorsen said.

    The coach said he was disappointed in the substantial number of penalties his team committed, 12 in all for 114 yards, including three pass interference infractions that resulted in 10 Youngstown State points.

    "Way too many penalties, and I don't even want to look at it, honestly," Holgorsen said. "We weren't penalized at all last week and this week it was bad. Talking with the referees out there, they felt like we were doing some uncharacteristic things that they haven't seen out of us in the past few years.

    "I don't know, but we've got to look at it because it was not good," Holgorsen added.

    West Virginia concludes the non-conference portion of its schedule next Saturday with a trip down to Raleigh, North Carolina, to face NC State, which improved to 2-0 with a 41-7 victory over Georgia State earlier today.

    Next Saturday's game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised nationally on ESPN.


    West Virginia: The Mountaineers' most pressing task was shoring up a defense that has lost three linebackers to injuries since spring practice, including starter Charlie Benton last week. JoVanni Stewart , who had one start last season at safety, was moved into Benton's place against the Penguins and had two quarterback hurries and a tackle for loss. Starting linebacker David Long had a team-high 10 tackles. West Virginia also rotated plenty of players on the defensive line.

    Holgorsen said the decision to start the 5-foot-8, 191-pound Stewart was a matter of ''just getting the best 11 out there, more than anything.''

    He then joked: ''We didn't want David to be the shortest linebacker in the country anymore.''


    After Brown had eight carries for 33 yards in a 40-14 win over Tennessee last week , he stepped up after Sinkfield left Saturday's game, leaving his teammates impressed.

    ''He's a very hard runner,'' Jennings said of the 211-pound Brown. ''It's going to take more than one guy usually to bring him down. He's going to be very impressive in the future.''


    West Virginia will find it tough to move up in the rankings with few upsets in the AP Top 25 this week.

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    Wvu vs. Nc state canceled

    WVU at NC State will not be played on Saturday

    West Virginia University football officials have confirmed Saturday's contest at NC State will not be played.

    Associate Athletic Director of Communications, Michael Fragale, broke the news on Tuesday afternoon after Coach Holgorsen took the podium. Fragale added there was no further information on the game being rescheduled at this time.

    An official released from NC State says the game will not be played "due to the increasing likelihood of severe and unsafe conditions associated with Hurricane Florence."

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    1988 WVU Football Team Was a True Team

    This season marks what many people consider to be WVU´s greatest football team ever assembled. It went 11-0 in the regular season, and then went on to lose the National Championship to Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. That team had many players that would go on to careers in the NFL, and it also beat all of its eastern rivals that year. So, since this week our game vs. NC State was canceled, let us pay homage to this great team on their 30th Anniversary.

    1988 WVU Football Team Was a True Team

    By John Antonik

    MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Can it really be 30 years since West Virginia's magical 1988 football season?

    That was the year the Mountaineers ran the table, beating all of its Eastern rivals - Pitt, Penn State, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Boston College and Syracuse - on the way to a perfect 11-0 regular season record.

    It seems like every other year (or at least in five-year intervals) we recognize what many people consider to be the greatest team in school history and we are doing so again the weekend of the home opener against Youngstown State on Saturday, Sept. 7, as part of Varsity Club Weekend.

    Was the '88 team West Virginia's greatest?

    That's an argument for another time, but it was the only one to ever reach the national championship game, losing 34-21 to Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl out in the desert in Tempe, Arizona.

    Quarterback Major Harris was its star, but the heart and soul of that team was a 25-member senior class led by its four co-captains, Kevin Koken and John Stroia on offense, and Bo Orlando and Robert Pickett on defense.

    Many of those seniors were fifth-year guys – grown men – old enough and mature enough to handle the unprecedented exposure the program received that summer building up to the season.

    The publicity reached its peak right before the opener against Bowling Green when ESPN's Beano Cook, the former Pitt sports information director who never missed an opportunity to needle the Mountaineers, came to campus to proclaim West Virginia his preseason pick to win it all.

    He chose West Virginia, not because of its coach Don Nehlen, nor Harris, Reggie Rembert, Renaldo Turnbull, Mike Fox nor the team's impressive depth on both sides of the ball that season. He picked the Mountaineers because of their schedule, which he considered the easiest of any national title contender that year.

    He saw those tune-up games at Mountaineer Field against Bowling Green and Cal State-Fullerton. He saw those favorable home matchups against Maryland, Boston College, Penn State and Syracuse, and he saw road the contests at Pitt, Virginia Tech, East Carolina, Cincinnati and Rutgers as very winnable.

    Pitt was usually tricky in Pittsburgh because the Panthers always had plenty of NFL talent, even if it didn't always show up on the football field.

    Virginia Tech was never easy in Blacksburg and Syracuse lurking at the end of the season was always a concern, the Orange clipping Nehlen's Mountaineers in season-concluding games in 1980, 1981, 1983, 1986 and 1987.

    And, of course, Penn State was forever West Virginia's Alamo, even before Joe Paterno's tenure began in 1966. It got to the point where Mountaineer fans were always conditioned to begin the season with an 0-1 record based on where the Nittany Lions fell on the schedule.

    But in 1988 Penn State was coming to Morgantown, where West Virginia finally ended its long and depressing 25-game losing streak to the Nittany Lions, 17-14, four years prior. Who knew the Penn State team Paterno brought to Morgantown in '88 would be its worst in generations?

    So, naturally, West Virginia's triumphs over Pitt, Penn State and Syracuse are the ones Mountaineer fans most readily remember from that season.

    A.B. Brown busting off that draw play for a 64-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to finally break open the Pitt game was a satisfying feeling for WVU rooters, as was Undra Johnson's long touchdown run right before halftime to give WVU an insurmountable 41-8 lead over Penn State at halftime.

    West Virginia scored 10 more points in the fourth to put an unheard of 51 on Joe Pa's defense.

    Then, against Syracuse, Willie Edwards stepped in front of a Todd Philcox pass and returned it for a pick-six to put the finishing touches on a perfect regular season.

    All three victories were critical steps toward perfection.

    But the biggest step in '88 was taken earlier that year against Maryland, another West Virginia regional nemesis. It was well established by the mid-1980s that Maryland was West Virginia's so-called "barometer game." Beat the Terps and a good season was assured; lose to Maryland and eight months of complaining ensued.

    And there was quite a bit of complaining going on in 1985, 1986 and 1987, especially in '85 and '86 when Maryland throttled West Virginia by scores of 28-0 and 24-3.

    In 1987, West Virginia scored the first 14 points of the game, then turned the ball over six times and watched the Turtles march back to win 25-20 – one of six defeats for the Mountaineers that season.

    "At that time, Maryland was a very good football program," Nehlen recalled. "Jerry Claiborne had them for a while and then Bobby Ross was their coach and they were winning ACC championships …"

    … And beating the Mountaineers to the point where some were wondering if Maryland had passed West Virginia by - including some of its players.

    "If you think back through the years, we would be going pretty well until we got to Maryland and then Maryland would destroy us," wide receiver Grantis Bell noted a couple of years ago. Incidentally, Bell is still involved in college football officiating games in the Southeastern Conference. "I don't know what it was. So we get to the third game of the year and we're playing Maryland. That was the game that was going to tell us whether or not we were going to have a great season, a good season or a terrible season."

    "Maryland was like a real Backyard Brawl for us because they always played us tough," fullback Craig Taylor said.

    "Maryland was beating us pretty consistently back then," Nehlen added. "We sort of measured our program by Maryland a little bit. We knew if we could hang with them we could hang with anybody on our schedule, and if we beat them then we knew we were going to have a good season."

    For one of the few times ever, a Don Nehlen-coached team wasn't ready to play a football game coming out of the gate against the Terps that afternoon. Brown dropped the football the first time he carried it (without even being touched), leading to a quick Maryland touchdown.

    Then, on West Virginia's next offensive possession, wide receivers Calvin Phillips and Jamie LeMon ran the wrong patterns causing Harris' third-down pass to sail wildly into the Terrapin bench.

    Maryland got the ball back and tailback Michael Beasley scored his second touchdown, a 74-yarder, when quarterback Neil O'Donnell caught West Virginia in an all-out blitz and he pitched the ball to the trailing Beasley, who got past cornerback Alvoid Mays and ran untouched nearly the length of the field into the end zone.

    Barely five minutes had expired and West Virginia was already behind 14-0.

    So much for running the table and going undefeated.

    "That was the first time we were behind that year," Phillips said. "For a minute it was a shock. Are we as good as we think we are?"

    Another WVU fumble, this one from Taylor, thwarted a great scoring opportunity at the Maryland 5.

    When the Mountaineers got the football back after a Maryland punt, Nehlen decided to shake things up and put in his two backups Undra Johnson and Aaron Evans in the backfield, and they immediately ignited the offense by carrying the ball for gains of 11, 6 and 20 yards before Johnson plowed in from the 4 (pictured above).

    Another Maryland punt enabled WVU to tie the game when tight end Keith Winn wrestled the football out of the arms of a Terrapin defensive back in the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown. Winn, like Johnson and Evans, was also part of West Virginia's valuable supporting ensemble.

    WVU took control of the game early in the third quarter, and then broke it wide open in the fourth when short touchdown runs by Brown and Taylor - the two guys who couldn't hold onto the football in the first quarter - made it a 41-24 ballgame.

    Orlando put the game on ice when he stepped in front of backup quarterback Scott Zolak's pass at midfield and returned it 56 yards for another touchdown. Flanker Reggie Rembert added the final score, giving West Virginia a very satisfying 55-24 victory.

    Everyone contributed to this triumph – the stars, the regulars and the backups – which is what made that afternoon so special, and what made that football team so special.

    After the Maryland game, Don Nehlen finally had a gang of believers.

    "We knew we were going to be a great team," offensive guard John Stroia recalled in 2013. "The moment I knew 100 percent was the Maryland game.

    "We were down 14-0 and (Nehlen) came over to where the offensive line was sitting on the sidelines and in his unique style he said, 'We're not throwing the damned ball the rest of this half! You got that, gang? I want two tight ends and we're going to ram it down their throats!'"

    And they did.

    And they kept ramming it down people's throats all the way to Arizona.

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    Wvu vs. Kansas state: Preview

    Kansas State Wildcats vs. West Virginia Mountaineers Preview

    Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. Saturday

    Where: Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, W.Va.

    TV: ESPN

    Eight things to know

    The Mountaineers have one of the nation’s most explosive offenses. With Heisman Trophy contender Will Grier at quarterback and dynamic playmakers Gary Jennings and David Sills at receiver, it’s difficult for any defense to slow this passing attack. West Virginia flexed its offensive muscles in its first two games, routing Tennessee 40-14 and Youngstown State 52-17. WVU is averaging 586 yards per game.

    The Heisman candidate. All eyes will be on WVU quarterback Will Grier as the former Florida Gator kicks his Heisman campaign into high gear now that Big 12 play has begun. He also has a little bit of ground to make up since he didn’t get his marquee matchup with NC State. Of his 60 passes thrown so far this season Grier has missed on just 14 of them and also has nine TDs. He is third in the country with a 77 percent completion rate and also third in passing efficiency at 229.4. While Grier could have turned pro, his high-octane targets Gary Jennings and David Sills also skipped on taking their wares to the NFL last April and will be names worth watching on Saturday in controlling the ball over the course of the game.

    This is Dana Holgorsen’s most complete team of his eight-year tenure with the Mountaineers. Not only is this West Virginia group loaded on offense, it is also playing solid defense, allowing 297 yards per game.

    West Virginia has had K-State’s number in recent years. K-State won its first four games against West Virginia when the Mountaineers joined the Big 12 in 2012, but the Wildcats haven’t had any luck the past two years. West Virginia won both, including 28-23 last year in Manhattan.

    This could be K-State’s most difficult game of the season. The Wildcats have already played No. 14 Mississippi State and must later take on No. 5 Oklahoma, but West Virginia could be every bit as challenging. The Mountaineers 3-4 defense and high-flying offense are always difficult to prepare for.

    K-State may be short handed again on defense. Starting safety Denzel Goolsby isn’t expected to return from injury anytime soon. Defensive back Kevion McGee has missed two straight games because of an injury. And Linebacker Elijah Sullivan remains questionable after missing the UTSA game. The Wildcats will need players like Eli Walker and Sam Sivelove to step up on defense against a formidable opponent.

    The turnover battle and the red zone. One characteristic of Bill Snyder-coached teams is their usual diligence in taking care of the ball and taking advantage of their opportunities. But this has been a different breed of Cat this year as KSU has suffered seven fumbles (and forced only one) and has just two touchdowns in eight trips to the red zone (as opposed to 7-for-11 for their opponents). The ‘Neers have lost just one fumble and one interception and also have been a perfect nine-for-nine in the red zone with six of those hitting pay dirt. If those trends continue here on Saturday… that is grim news for the Purple Gang.

    The offensive lines. Snyder complained after their game with Mississippi State that the Wildcat front five played “soft” against the Bulldogs and did not assert themselves as they’re capable. Keep in mind this is a line that returned all five starters for 2018 and had 124 combined starts, so it was expected to be a team strength. If the Cats can’t get a solid push against the Mountaineers it will be a long day for the Wildcats. Considering that their defense gave up 389 rushing yards and 10 yards per carry to Mississippi State two weeks ago, you have to figure the Mountaineer front should be able to plow some running lanes for Martell Pettaway and Leddie Brown. So this WVU offense won’t need to rely solely on Grier’s arm and his receiving corps.
    Last edited by Ratpenat; 21-09-2018 at 00:08.

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    Wvu vs. Kansas state: Recap

    GAME RECAP: WVU gets win over Kansas State in Morgantown

    It was the first day of fall, the first game of Big 12 play. With perfect weather and the stadium striped, 59,249 fans brought their electric energy to Milan Puskar Stadium as Will Grier and the Mountaineers faced off against the Kansas State Wildcats.
    The Mountaineers received to start the first half but their opening drive was cut short after just six plays before a Will Grier interception. Both teams’ offensive efforts were initially nullified out of the gate.
    Kansas State was able to pick up one first down before being forced to punt by the Mountaineers. With the ball back in their possession the Mountaineers looked to strike first but their drive once again ended with a turnover following a fumble by Leddie Brown.
    A huge sack from Josh Norwood and tackle for loss from Dylan Tonkery again forced Kansas State to punt. Kansas State punter, Andrew Hicks, sent a booming punt which was downed at the WVU 4 yard line. From there the Mountaineers did what they do best.
    In just 2 plays Will Grier connected with Marcus Simms streaking down the sideline for a career long 82 yard touchdown. PAT is good and WVU is on the board first 7-0.
    The Mountaineers again force Kansas State to punt to start the second quarter. WVU started their drive at their own 22 and were able to drive the ball down to the KSU 30 before Grier was sacked for a loss of 4 yards to bring up a fourth down. Evan Stanley came out to attempt the 51 yard field goal but it was missed wide right and the score remained 7-0.
    With just under 7 minutes left to go before halftime Kansas State elected to go for a crucial fourth and one on their own 43 yard line. It was again Tonkery who stepped up on defense to come up with a 4 yard tackle for loss, his second of the day.
    Following the turnover on downs, a solid string of rushes from Kennedy McKoy brought the Mountaineers down to Kansas State’s 1 yard line. Two plays later Grier would find his favorite target, David Sills V, in the endzone for a 1 yard touchdown. WVU now leads 14-0 with just under two and a half minutes left in the first half.
    Kansas State was once again unable to get any kind of offense going being forced into another three and out giving WVU the ball back with 57 seconds left before halftime.
    Working against the clock, Grier matched his team down the field. He was able to target T.J. Simmons, Gary Jennings, and David Sills V during the drive before finding Sills in the endzone once again from a yard out. WVU leads 21-0 going into the locker room.
    Kansas State got the ball to begin quarter three hoping to have more success than the previous two. An 11 play drive brought the Wildcats all the way down to the Mountaineer 8 yard line but WVU was able to hold them to just a field goal making the score 21-3.
    Four plays later the Mountaineers respond. It’s Grier once again. This time he finds Tevin Bush for a 62 yard touchdown, the first of his career. The PAT capped off the 77 yard drive and the Mountaineers increased their lead 28-3.
    The Mountaineer defense would not give Kansas State any room to breathe. David Long Jr. forces a fumble on the Kansas State 17 yard line recovered by Reese Donahue the very next play from scrimmage. WVU was heating up on all cylinders. In the blink of an eye Grier finds Sills for their second touchdown connection of the day. At 35-3 WVU begins to pull away.
    Kansas State was able to to put together an 8 play drive, again to no avail. WVU would get possession with 2 minutes left in the third. This drive does not go as smoothly for the Mountaineers. Will Grier’s pass is intercepted giving Kansas the ball on WVU’s 39 yard line. Blake Lynch knocks through a 38 yard field goal eight plays later but the deficit remains large at 35-6.
    With 5:45 left in the fourth quarter, backup QB Jack Allison comes into the game. Grier finished 25/35 with 356 yards and 5 touchdowns. Allison turns the ball over with under five minutes to play.
    WVU’s defense proved strong one last time forcing a turnover on downs putting the ball in possession of their offense to close out the game.
    Coach Dana Holgorsen had high praises for his team after the game. “For us to go out and play like that on all three sides of the ball I’m very happy with. Kansas State doesn’t lose like that. It’s hard to beat those guys like that.” Coach Holgorsen says he believes this performance today is the best his team has ever played against Kansas State. WVU improves to 3-0 and will move on to prepare for next week’s matchup at Texas Tech. Kansas State falls to 2-2.

    3 takeaways from the Kansas State win

    1. It all starts with the defensive line for the Mountaineers’ defense.

    Through two games in 2018, they’ve won the battle in the trenches – that trend continued against the Wildcats as the visitors failed to rush for 100 yards.
    Reese Donahue, Ezekiel Rose, and Darius Stills were all major players in establishing the tone Saturday, penetrating into the backfield and absorbing blocks, rendering their teammates free to roam and make plays.

    Linebackers David Long and Dylan Tonkery owned the second-level for the ‘Eers, flowing to the ball with relative ease. They received help from safety Jovanni Stewart, too, who made an impressive stop in the backfield on a 4th-down attempt by Kansas State.

    The secondary for the Mountaineers continues to improve, as well. Josh Norwood adds some much-needed fire to a young secondary, while Derrek Pitts and Hakeem Bailey continue to improve on the outside. Kenny Robinson is another ‘Eer who’s bolstering Gibson’s 3-3-5 attack.

    2. Kansas State just isn’t very good

    The Kansas State Wildcats’ football program is one of the best in all of college sports, not just football. That doesn’t mean the 2018 Wildcats are a good football team, though.

    They only rushed for 91 yards on 36 attempts, a woeful 2.5 yards-per-carry average. Now, the Mountaineer defense is good, but by no means are they world-beaters.

    You can’t be expected to win many games without scoring points, either, something the Wildcats have struggled with all season. They average 26 per game, good for 94th out of 130 teams.

    Kansas State’s schedule hasn’t helped prepare them in any way, shape, or form either, though. They’ve played two non-Power 5 schools in South Dakota and UTSA, but got worked in their lone Power-5 matchup with Mississippi State (lost 31-10), This just isn’t a very good football team this year. Can we really expect Snyder to put out a great product year-in and year-out?

    3. Will Grier should be the Heisman Trophy front-runner

    If Will Grier isn’t on someone’s 2018 Heisman Watch List after four weeks, stop trusting them. After throwing for 356 yards and five touchdowns against the Wildcats, Grier’s numbers for the season are as impressive as anybody’s in the country. He’s completed 83 (!) percent of his passes while amassing 1,117 yards. Grier’s also thrown 14 touchdown passes — to seven different targets — and only three interceptions; he’s only been sacked four times all year, too.

    It helps having a plethora of weapons at his disposal, but Grier is making use of all the talent surrounding him. Let’s count all the Mountaineers with receiving touchdowns following Saturday’s game: David Sills (5), Gary Jennings (4), Marcus Simms (1), T.J. Simmons (1), Dominique Maiden (1), Kennedy McKoy (1), and Tevin Bush (1).

    While Grier is handing out touchdowns like candy on Halloween, he clearly has a favorite target, especially against Kansas State. For the second year in a row, Grier’s thrown multiple touchdowns to Sills against the Wildcats. Last year, the duo hooked up for two touchdowns in Manhattan; they one-upped themselves in Morgantown this year.
    Last edited by Ratpenat; 24-09-2018 at 23:32.

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    Wvu vs. Texas tech: Preview

    West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders

    Admit it, you offensive gearheads. When you saw West Virginia and Texas Tech showing up on this week’s schedule, the hairs on your arms immediately started to stand up on end. Am I right? Chicken skin? Goose bumps? Adrenaline levels rising?

    With no clear leader in the Big 12, West Virginia and Texas Tech look to establish who will challenge Oklahoma for the title this year.

    Well buckle in tightly people. This Big 12 showdown just East o’ the Pecos is going to be one wild ride. The Mountaineers come in third in the country in passing offense at 374 yards per game and the Red Raiders are first at 436. Yes, these guys are a blur.

    Texas Tech opened the season up with a loss to Ole Miss but has silenced the critics since that disappointing performance. The boys from Lubbock have a habit of bringing in a new quarterback and continuing to break records. That is a good way to describe Alan Bowman, a true freshman who threw for 605 yards against Houston in his first start. That broke Patrick Mahomes' frosh record of 598 yards in a game, and we all know what became of Mr. Mahomes. Last week Bowman engineered the Raiders’ first win over Oklahoma State since 2008 and their first win in Stillwater since '01 while also picking up national quarterback of the week honors. The Red Raiders come into the game with a 3-1 record after rolling past Oklahoma State 41-17 last weekend. Freshman quarterback Alan Bowman has thrown for 1557 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season and has developed great chemistry with wide receiver Antoine Wesley.

    West Virginia is led by star quarterback Will Grier, who continues to show why he is considered a Heisman candidate. If you’re keeping track at home, Grier has now thrown just 24 incompletions in 95 attempts on the young season. And he’s got a bevy of difference-makers in his arsenal. Last Weekend, the Mountaineers dismantled Kansas State 35-6 and Grier finished the game with five passing touchdowns, which took his total to 14 over three games this season.

    The tortillas will be flying in Lubbock this Saturday and so should both high-powered offenses. Here is everything you need to know about Saturday’s game.

    How to watch West Virginia vs. Texas Tech

    Date: Saturday, Sept. 29
    Start Time: 12 p.m. ET
    Location: Lubbock, TX
    Stadium: Jones AT&T Stadium

    Keys to Victory

    West Virginia – While everyone knows Will Grier and the West Virginia offense is one of the most prolific units in the nation, it’s the defense that has helped the Mountaineers get off to such a great start. Over the first three games, the Mountaineers have held opponents to 12.3 points and 312 yards per game, but it’s how they have done this that impresses most. The defense is playing angry and extremely fast, they’ve been aggressive and swarmed the football against every opponent this year, but while many aggressive teams get beat on big plays, the Mountaineers have not. If West Virginia plans to improve to 4-0 this weekend, the defense must continue to get in the backfield, but not allow this powerful Texas Tech offense to beat them with big plays over the top.

    Three Things to Watch

    1. The defense... no really, the defense

    Unlike their games vs. Ole Miss and Houston, the Red Raiders may have finally found their defense after the win over Oklahoma State. While they got pock-marked a bit in the first half, they held the Pokes scoreless in the second half as they ran away with the game. The Raiders got safety Jah’Shawn Johnson back from injury last week and he made a huge difference in the win over OSU. But Tech still ranks No. 106 in total defense, giving up 437 yards per game. This is what gives West Virginia a slight edge, having been on lock-down a bit more than the Raiders. The Mountaineers have held their opponents to just four touchdowns in 12 quarters and rank 41st nationally at 338 yards per game allowed.

    2. The running game... no really, the running game

    Believe it or not, whichever team can produce a better offensive mix will probably have a much bigger advantage because the running game will be so key for opening up the passing game. Tech’s Demarcus Felton posted his first 100-yard rushing game in nearly two years by gaining 130 on the ground in the win in Stillwater. The Mountaineers have a three-headed monster of Leddie Brown, Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway, who have combined for nearly 500 rushing yards in three games. Look for the running games to keep the defenses honest. And of course, he who runs better probably wins here.

    3. Secondary coverage

    I’m not making any bold statements here when I say that these back sevens for both teams are going to be stressed to the hilt. Tech has had some coverage issues in their first few games, especially when they got burned by Ole Miss QB Jordan Ta’amu for 336 yards. Because of that, Tech’s pass defense is 109th in the country (284 ypg) while West Virginia’s is 44th (193 ypg). Advantage Mountaineers. Also, keep an eye on third down as WVU’s offense ranks second nationally with a 63 percent conversion rate. Thank Mr. Grier for that. But Tech’s defense is 14th-best in allowing just 28 percent of third downs to be converted.

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    Wvu vs. Texas tech: Recap

    Instant Recap: No. 12 West Virginia Survives No. 25 Texas Tech’s Comeback Bid, Keith Washington’s Pick Six Seals The Deal

    Death. Taxes. Things getting weird in Lubbock.

    The No. 12 ranked West Virginia Mountaineers went on the road this afternoon and survived a late scare from the No. 25 ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders, 42-34.

    It wasn’t pretty. There were drops. There were weird calls. Will Grier looked arguably the worst we’ve seen him in his tenure in Morgantown - although he still completed 66% of his passes and threw for three touchdowns - and a lot of it could be blamed on dropped passes by his receivers.

    The Mountaineer offense was absolutely on fire in the first half of the game, taking a 35-10 lead into the locker room but as we saw the Red Raiders do last week against the Oklahoma State Cowboys last week, Texas Tech made just the right adjustments to nearly pitch a shutout in the second half.

    The Red Raiders scored 17 unanswered points before Mountaineer cornerback Keith Washington picked off Jett Duffey’s pass and returned it 51 yards to give the Mountaineers some breathing room with just under 3 minutes left in the game.

    Key Takeaways:

    1. West Virginia’s defense kept up with their tackles for loss average, registering 9 TFL today - 3 of which came from David Long.
    2. Grier finished with 340 yards and 3 touchdowns on 27-of-41 passing.
    3. Kennedy McKoy carried the ball 11 times for 77 yards and 1 touchdown.
    4. Marcus Simms was fantastic once again, catching 9 passes for 138 yards and 1 touchdown.
    5. Texas Tech held the Mountaineers to 7-of-14 on third down, their lowest conversion percentage of the season.

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    Wvu vs: Kansas: Preview

    #9 West Virginia vs Kansas Preview: Season 126, Episode 5 - Gold Rush

    The West Virginia Mountaineers aim to stay undefeated and climb higher in the polls, and there’s a good chance of accomplishing those objectives while hosting the Kansas Jayhawks Saturday. West Virginia improved to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in Big 12 play with its 42-34 victory over Texas Tech in Lubbock last week, and now the Mountaineers welcome the Jayhawks in what is one of the longest conference road trips of the season. Kansas, which fell to 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the league after a 48-28 home loss to Oklahoma State last week, hopes to pull off a major upset to get back on track and keep its bowl hopes alive.


    Date: October 6, 2018

    Time: 12:00pm EST

    Venue: Mountaineer Field, Morgantown, WV

    How to Watch/Listen

    TV: ESPN2

    Streaming: WatchESPN, or the WatchESPN app

    Know Your Enemy

    Series History: (5-1). The Mountaineers have thankfully fared very well against Kansas since joining the Big 12, but that lone loss still festers.

    2018 Record: 2-3. Kansas started the season with a bad loss against Nichols State, but actually responded very nicely with back-to-back wins over Central Michigan and Rutgers. They've since fallen back to earth, but there are signs that these Jayhawks may be a bit friskier than in years past.

    Head Coach: David Beaty. Beaty’s now in his fourth season at Kansas, and has actually produced some pretty decent individual talent there during that time. However, the blips of team success have predictably been few and far between. It’s just not an easy place to win.

    Offensive Coordinator: Doug Meacham. Meacham is now in his second year leading the Jayhawk offense after spending the previous three seasons as co-OC at TCU. Meacham appears to have developed some nice talent at the skill positions this year, but has yet to find a QB who can consistently get them the ball.

    Defensive Coordinator: Clint Bowen. Bowen is in his fifth year running the show in Lawrence, but is actually in his 20th year on the staff and 23rd year in the program overall. His unit is actually showing signs of life this year, leading the country with 14 takeaways.

    When we have the ball..

    Players to watch: DL Daniel Wise, LB Joe Dineen, LB Keith Loneker, NB Bryce Torneden, S Mike Lee

    Defining success: Go for the throat early

    Based on traditional statistics, the Jayhawks haven’t actually been all that bad this year. They’ve been poor against the run (177 ypg, 93rd nationally), but are in the middle of the road overall with regards to points (24.2, 57th) and total yards allowed (380, 66th).

    As for the pieces they return, Joe Dineen and Daniel Wise are both back and are again two of the better individual performers in the conference. Dineen especially has been excellent, picking up right where he left off after a 2nd team All-American campaign a year ago to again lead the Jayhawks with over 13 tackles per game. Transfer Keith Loneker has been making plenty of plays as Dineen’s running mate in the middle, and defensive backs Bryce Torneden and Mike Lee have been very solid, as well. The problem for the Jayhawks has been the rest of group around that core. There simply isn’t much depth behind that top-end talent, and that’s left a number of holes at all three levels that their opponents have been only too happy to exploit.

    The key, in my mind, is to jump on them early. As I just mentioned, the Jayhawks give up more than their share of big plays, and as you’ll see in a moment, their offense is not exactly built to play catch up either. Considering that, we should be throwing haymakers from the game’s opening drive. If we’re able to hit a few big plays early and jump out to a 14 or 21-point lead, this one could be over before halftime, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than stress-free W’s.

    When they have the ball...

    Players to watch: RB Pooka Williams, RB Khalil Herbert, WR Steven Sims Jr

    Defining success: Swarm Pooka

    The Jayhawks return a couple of nice pieces on offense, as well, but the talent gap between their best and the rest is again their downfall.

    At quarterback, junior Carter Stanley will get the start with Miles Kendrick again missing out due to injury, but it’s not yet clear whether we should view this as a positive or a negative. Stanley has actually been their best passer statistically this year with 289 yards and 3 TD’s on 75% completions in limited action, and while he’s not an overly effective runner, his willingness to do so certainly means that it’s something for us to be aware of tomorrow.

    As for their receivers, Steven Sims is dangerous in the open field and they have a couple of other guys who appear to be decent, but there’s nobody to take the lid off the defense, and even if there was, there’s no evidence that they have a quarterback who’s capable of consistently getting them the ball.

    Considering that, I expect our focus to be very much geared towards stopping their surprisingly legit running game. Khalil Herbert’s name will undoubtedly trigger a few fans after his 291-yard outburst against us a year ago, and he’s been very solid again this year, but it’s actually been freshman Pooka Williams who’s star has shone the brightest. Williams has burst onto the scene to average 118 yards per game on an electric 7.9 yards per carry, and his 8 20+ yard runs rank 3rd nationally, which is all the more impressive considering their dearth of weapons elsewhere. Stopping him will take a disciplined team effort, but I’m confident that our improved defensive front and overall team speed leave us well-suited to the task. If we’re able to swarm Pooka and Herbert, especially on early downs, their lack of a downfield passing attack will surely allow Gibby to remove the shackles from his #Dawgs and let them go head-hunting, and that’s when our group is at its havoc-wreaking best.

    Special Teams

    Defining success: Hold them to FG’s if they get to the red zone

    The Jayhawks special teams numbers appear to be in the middle of the conference almost across the board. One area where they’re outright bad though is place kicking. Gabriel Rui has converted on all 15 of his extra points, but has made just 5 of his 10 field goal attempts. That makes it imperative that we stand up and keep them out of the end zone on those occasions when they’re able to drive it to our end of the field.

    Three Things to Watch

    1. West Virginia passing attack vs. Kansas pass defense

    If the Heisman Trophy ceremony were held tomorrow, West Virginia quarterback Will Grier would be in New York for the festivities. Grier ranks among the nation’s best in a variety of passing categories, including completion percentage (72.1 percent, No. 4 among FBS players), yards per attempt (10.9, No. 3), QB rating (200.75, No. 3) and passing yards per game (371.8, No. 2).
    The senior has thrown for 1,487 yards and 17 touchdowns with three interceptions, and he has spread the ball around among one of the best receiving corps in the country. All-America wideout David Sills V ranks third on his own team in receiving yards (294) behind 2017 1,000-yard receiver Gary Jennings (311) and 2018 breakout star Marcus Simms (433). All three have caught 22 or more passes. Jennings leads the team with six TD receptions, followed by Sills’ five and Simms’ two.
    But Kansas could pose a threat to the West Virginia passing attack. The Jayhawks rank second in the Big 12 in pass defense (202.4 yards allowed per game), and KU leads the conference with eight interceptions.

    2. Kansas rushing attack vs. West Virginia run defense

    Kansas has a distinctive offensive strength as well. The Jayhawks rank fourth in the Big 12 in rushing (184.0 yards per game). Freshman tailback Pooka Williams leads the conference with an average of 118.5 rushing yards per game. Williams has averaged an explosive 7.9 yards per carry, totaling 474 yards on the ground with four touchdowns. Three of his teammates — Khalil Herbert, Dom Williams and Deron Thompson — have all surpassed 100 rushing yards on the season, giving the Jayhawks a balanced attack capable of posting big yardage. At its best, the KU offense rolled up 400 rushing yards and averaged 8.3 yards per carry against Rutgers.
    However, the West Virginia defense will be the biggest test of the season for the Jayhawks. The Mountaineers have limited opponents to 131.0 rushing yards per game and 3.45 yards per carry. Last week, Texas Tech heavily utilized its quarterback running game to post 168 rushing yards and average 4.0 yards per carry against the Mountaineers, which were both season highs.

    3. Lucky or good?

    Kansas has been one of the nation’s best at forcing turnovers this season. The Jayhawks are tied with Florida atop the FBS leaderboard with 14 takeaways this season, and they hold a big lead in turnover margin (+12). Luck could certainly be a factor, since turnovers are highly random — especially fumble recoveries, of which the Jayhawks have six (fifth most nationally). Perhaps, as West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen put it earlier this week, it’s the “Rutgers factor.” After all, Kansas forced six turnovers (three interceptions and three fumble recoveries) in its 55-14 win over the struggling Scarlet Knights in Week 3.
    Or, perhaps Kansas has an improved defensive unit capable of forcing turnovers frequently. The Jayhawks have a solid group of defenders, led by linebacker Joe Dineen Jr., who ranks second in the conference with 63 total tackles, and All-Big 12 candidates in defensive lineman Daniel Wise and defensive back Mike Lee. Eight KU defenders, including Dineen and Lee, have intercepted passes, and Lee is one of three to return a pick for a touchdown.
    Last edited by Ratpenat; 06-10-2018 at 00:04.

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    Wvu vs. Kansas: Recap

    WVU Overcomes Pesky Kansas to Remain Unbeaten

    MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Will Grier recovered from a rocky first half to throw four touchdown passes in leading ninth-ranked West Virginia to an 38-22 homecoming victory over Kansas Saturday afternoon at Milan Puskar Stadium.

    Grier's touchdown tosses were to running back Leddie Brown for 15 yards, to tight end Jovani Haskins for 14 yards, to running back Martell Pettaway for 12 yards and a late 17-yarder to David Sills V when the outcome was already decided.

    In between, he threw three first-half red zone interceptions that took at least nine points off the scoreboard and potentially as many as 21 that would have turned the game into a blowout.

    All three picks were thrown into tight coverage and were also the result of the Mountaineers' inability to control the line of scrimmage when they moved the football near the goal line.

    "We probably made some bad decisions on play calls and we probably made some bad decisions on quarterback stuff," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, who moved into a tie with Art Lewis with his 58thcareer victory at WVU, said afterward.

    "They do a good job of mixing their fronts with not enough people to stop the run and that's one reason why you throw interceptions because you are throwing into a lot of coverage," Holgorsen said.

    Two of Grier's three picks were made by safety Hasan Defense, one he returned out to the Kansas 28 and the other he took back 60 yards to the WVU 40 before a hustling Grier ran him out of bounds.

    Grier's third red-zone pick came right before the end of the first half with the ball sitting on the KU 4-yard line and the clock stopped with 17 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

    West Virginia was leading 21-7 and was looking to take a 21-point advantage into the locker room.

    Here, Grier tried to fit another pass into tight coverage near the goal line that sophomore safety Davon Ferguson intercepted and returned to the 10.

    "If we don't get better running the ball we're going to have a hard time winning ballgames," Holgorsen admitted.

    Kansas (2-4, 0-2) opted to play off of West Virginia's receivers and use an extra man in coverage to take away the Mountaineers' quick stuff over the middle and RPO plays.

    That opened up quick hitters in the run game and freshman Leddie Brown responded with 107 yards on 11 carries, one run going for 47 yards to set up the Mountaineers' second touchdown of the game.

    "He doesn't play like a freshman or look like a freshman, so don't call him a freshman," Holgorsen said. "He's a good player and I'm glad we've got him."

    Brown's first score was the result of Kansas gambling on fourth and 1 at its own 45 on its opening offensive possession of the game. Quarterback Carter Stanley couldn't handle the snap and fell on the ball at the WVU 35.

    Grier took immediate advantage of the great field position by hitting Sills V for 26 yards to the KU 6. Two plays going in the wrong direction, one a Kennedy McKoy 4-yard loss and the other an illegal procedure penalty called on right guard Isaiah Hardy, moved the ball back to the 15. Here Kansas left Brown uncovered coming out of the backfield and he took Grier's pass to the near pylon for the game's first touchdown.

    Brown's other TD came on West Virginia's next possession when he bounced in from the 1. Replay confirmed the touchdown call on the field, giving the Mountaineers a 14-0 lead.

    Kansas scored its first touchdown near the end of the first quarter when Mavin Saunders beat Hakeem Bailey to the football for an 18-yard score. Bailey was starting in place of Josh Norwood, who was forced to sit out the first half after being removed from the Texas Tech game for targeting.

    The Jayhawks reduced West Virginia's lead to 21-14 on its opening possession of the third quarter when it marched 75 yards in seven plays. Peyton Bender, who replaced Stanley in the second quarter, completed a 35-yard pass to Jeremiah Booker on a third-and-15 play to the WVU 45.

    Two plays later, backup running back Khalil Herbert, who ran for 291 yards against West Virginia last year in Lawrence, broke free on a draw play to race 31 yards for a touchdown.

    KU immediately got the football back when Grier was sacked for a 7-yard loss and his fumble was recovered by Kyron Johnson at the Kansas 44.

    But the Mountaineer defense forced a punt and WVU re-took possession of the football at its 23. West Virginia once again found success with Brown running the football, the Philadelphia resident getting 32 yards on consecutive runs to move the ball to the Jayhawk 33.

    Later, a Pettaway 13-yard run on third and 12 gave WVU a first down at the KU 8. Another first-down loss preceded Grier's third TD toss, this one to a wide-open Pettaway coming out of the backfield on the final play of the third quarter.

    The defense came up with a key stop at its 44 when a blitzing Derrek Pitts Jr. broke free to sack Bender for a 15-yard loss, taking the football all the way back to the KU 41.

    Kansas, which was unsuccessful on fourth down on its side of the field and also successfully converted a fake punt, would have likely gone for it there as well.

    WVU couldn't move the sticks on its possession, but got the ball back when Kwamie Lassiter muffed Billy Kinney's punt at the WVU 38 and JoVanni Stewart came out of the pile with the football.

    A Grier 21-yard pass to Gary Jennings Jr. gave WVU a first down at the Kansas 36 to eventually set up Evan Staley's career-long 49-yard field goal to give WVU a 31-14 lead with 5:05 left in the game.

    Grier's fourth touchdown pass followed another defensive stop when he hit Sills V behind the Jayhawk defense for a 17-yard touchdown.

    Kansas scored a meaningless touchdown on the final play of the game when Daylon Charlot hauled in an 18-yard touchdown pass with no time showing on the clock.

    KU also converted the two-point conversion when Bender completed a pass over the middle to Lassiter.

    Grier finished the game completing 28-of-41 for 332 yards, his 14thcareer 300-yard passing performance and the fifth this season.

    Sills V led all receivers with seven catches for 74 yards; 10 different players caught passes for West Virginia.

    In addition to his three interceptions, Grier was sacked five times and the run game was thrown for five other losses totaling 48 yards.

    "One of the things we benefited from was they had a bunch of poor snaps early," Kansas coach David Beaty said. "We challenged him and that defensive line to be able to put some pressure on Grier, I think they answered the bell pretty well."

    The West Virginia defense also spent a lot of time in the Kansas backfield, producing eight tackles for losses, three sacks and three turnovers, two coming on interceptions – the first two interceptions thrown by KU quarterbacks this year.

    WVU outgained Kansas 509 to 286.

    "We gave up a couple of third-and-longs we're not happy with, but other than that the guys on defense keep doing a good job," Holgorsen said.

    A crowd of 57,419 watched today's game under sunny skies and unseasonably warm temperatures approaching the high 80s on the field.

    West Virginia (5-0, 3-0) advances its record under Holgorsen to 5-0 for the first time since 2016 and just the second time since joining the Big 12 in 2012 (the Mountaineers also began that season 5-0).

    West Virginia plays at Iowa State next Saturday.


    1. WVU needs a more-consistent running game

    What is going on with the West Virginia offense? 42 points looks great in the box score, but if their dreams are a Big 12 Championship, something needs to get figured out on that side of the ball.

    I believe it’s their inability to commit to the running game. Will Grier’s a Heisman Trophy-candidate. He needs explosive numbers to compete. Blah, blah, blah. He can still win a Heisman Trophy with a stable of running backs behind him who combine for 200-or-more-yards. He’d likely face a less-populated secondary that way too, as defenses would be forced to stack the box to stop the run.

    Leddie Brown and Kennedy McKoy received the majority of the touches on the ground, Brown getting 11 and McKoy getting 10 carries. Brown had the hot-hand, tallying 107 yards. including a 47-yard long. McKoy rumbled for 44 yards, and Martell Pettaway chipped in 31 yards on eight carries. There’s no reason the Mountaineers shouldn’t have a 100-yard rusher every game with this type of talent.

    A West Virginia Mountaineer winning the Heisman Trophy is an actual dream I’ve had. But I’d rather the Mountaineers win a bunch of football games than force-feed a single player for the sole-purpose of stats. I’m not saying that’s what offensive coordinator Jake Spavital and the Mountaineers are doing with Will Grier, but forgetting about a rushing attack early in games can spell disaster in late-game situations when the passing attack isn’t working.

    If West Virginia wants to win against the Oklahomas and Texases of the Big 12, they’ll have to commit to the run game at some point.

    2. West Virginia defense remains stout

    The West Virginia Mountaineer defense continued their stellar play Saturday against Kansas. For the second-consecutive week, Tony Gibson’s defense held a Mountaineer lead when the offense couldn’t move the ball.

    To be fair, quarterback Will Grier and the offense have spotted the defense at least two touchdowns in each of the last two games, but then they seem to veer off track a bit — that’s when the ‘Eers defense steps up.

    Following both of Kansas’ early scoring drives, West Virginia’s defense forced a Jayhawk punt on the ensuing possession. The first drive from Kansas was a nine-play sequence aided by a WVU-penalty (even if it was simulating the snap -have you ever seen that called twice in one game?). The second drive resulted in a quick three-and-out, something the ‘Eers continue to force multiple times a game.

    A number of Mountaineers made game-changing plays defensively, too, including Ezekiel Rose, sophomore Derrek Pitts, and the usual suspect, David Long. Long roamed all over Milan Puskar Stadium making stops, while Pitts’ impact was heavily felt on a third-down sack; Rose, a defensive lineman, recorded an interception off of a tipped pass.

    If the West Virginia defense continues to respond to adversity and make key stops in big moments, the Mountaineers could reach heights unseen in the Mountain State.

    3. Will Grier’s confidence was tested vs. Kansas

    The Mountaineers entered Saturday’s game with a perfect redzone offense, converting 12 touchdowns and three field goals in their 15 attempts. Against Kansas, the offense wasn’t running as smooth inside the 20-yard line.

    Grier was facing an eight-man secondary nearly all game, but he still tried forcing the ball into some tight windows; he wasn’t succeeding. Twice did the Mountaineer signal-caller throw interceptions in the redzone just before halftime, either of which, if converted into points by West Virginia, would’ve pushed the Mountaineers’ lead to three scores at halftime.

    Although he made a bad decision on the first interception, Grier chased down the defender and made the tackle to save a potential touchdown. Without that huge effort play — 60 yards the other way – the outlook against Kansas at the intermission would’ve been a somber one.

    West Virginia’s offensive line allowed Grier to be sacked a handful of times, and he lost a fumble on a strip-sack. A late-touchdown pass to David Sills will give him a boost moving forward, but Grier still finished with 332 passing yards and four touchdowns.

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    Wvu vs. Iowa state: Preview

    Preview and Inside the Numbers: WVU at Iowa State

    How To Watch

    When: Saturday at 7:00 PM ET
    Where: Jack Trice Stadium, Iowa
    TV: Fox Sports 1

    No. 6 West Virginia´s game at Iowa State has been on my “can’t wait” radar for a long time. The "Will Grier for Heisman" campaign continues at 6 p.m. Saturday, but because of what happened a week ago, this game got even more intriguing.

    Now, fans not only can see why Grier is statistically one of the top two quarterbacks in the nation, they’ll also witness the starting debut of Cyclones rookie Brock Purdy, who was spectacular last Saturday at Oklahoma State.

    Grier on one sideline. Purdy on the other.

    Sit back and prepare to be entertained, especially if the Cyclones rookie newbie does what he did in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

    National freshman of the week. Big 12 freshman of the week. Five touchdowns, four from a right arm that receiver Tarique Milton called “a cannon.”

    “They’ve found a good, young quarterback that can make plays,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He can make guys miss. He was accurate when he was throwing the ball. He didn’t play like a freshman.”

    None of that is an overstatement. Purdy completed 18 of 23 passes for 318 yards and four touchdowns. He was the Cyclones’ top rusher, with 19 yards for 84 yards. He scrambled. He successfully threw deep. He lit a fire under the offense he directed so well.

    “I don’t think I’ve seen a Game 1 freshman performance quite like that,” Holgorsen added.

    Grier must put up big statistics in his remaining games to have any shot of passing Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray and Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins on weekly Heisman mock polling.

    Grier’s average of 363.8 yards a game is second nationally. His 21 touchdown passes is the third-best total. Yeah, he's a legit candidate.

    “He’s a Heisman candidate for a reason,” Iowa State linebacker Willie Harvey said. “He’s the complete quarterback. We’ll be ready.”

    The Big Breakdown

    Iowa State rushing

    Run it as often as possible. Dominate the clock. This cliche is reality: The best defense against Will Grier and his talented receivers is keeping him sidelined as much as possible. Grab yards in chunks — either via short runs or short passes. When West Virginia counters by crowding the line of scrimmage, heave a long one to Hakeem Butler. All that’s possible if Montgomery’s healthy. Without him, I refer you to the Mountaineers’ best Big 12 defense against the rush. ADVANTAGE: West Virginia.

    Iowa State passing

    West Virginia has five interceptions against Big 12 opponents, including Keith Washington’s 51-yard pick-six that sealed the win against Texas Tech. The 6-foot-6 Butler will have so much of a height against anyone trying to cover him, that Mountaineers defensive coordinator Tony Gibson this week cracked: “We're going to put Josh Norwood on Keith's shoulders, and let them cover them that way.” His defense had a week to prepare for Brock Purdy’s versatility. ADVANTAGE: West Virginia.

    West Virginia rushing

    This isn’t the Mountaineers’ forte. Kennedy McCoy averages 67.4 rushing yards a game in conference play, and West Virginia has three rushing touchdowns. It’s mostly a product of the offense being geared to Grier passes. He throws 60 percent of the time, so the few times the Mountaineers run the ball, it’s just to keep defenses somewhat honest. Iowa State is coming off holding Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill, the Big 12’s No. 2 rusher, to 66 yards on 24 carries. ADVANTAGE: Iowa State.

    West Virginia passing

    Pay attention to this eye-popping statistic while watching Saturday’s game: Through five games, Grier has thrown touchdown passes to 10 different receivers. Five Iowa State receivers have touchdowns, so there’s your comparison. Grier has been known to force passes into places where passes shouldn’t be forced — like last Saturday when Kansas intercepted three of his passes in the end zone. Iowa State defensive backs don’t always stick to their receivers like glue and they're not the greatest open-field tacklers. ADVANTAGE: West Virginia.

    Inside the Numbers

    Upset in Ames?

    West Virginia is a perfect 3-0 in Ames, but Iowa State seems to have built a reputation of pulling upsets at home, especially at night.

    Last season, ISU took down then-No. 4 TCU 14-7 on its homecoming at Jack Trice Stadium.

    However, the Cyclones are just 2-13 at home vs. top 15 teams since 2008. They are 4-22 overall against top 15-ranked opponents in that same timespan.

    But it should be noted that eight of those home games have been decided by seven points or fewer, and two matchups have gone to overtime

    So, upsets in Ames aren't a guarantee, but recent history does show Iowa State will likely keep it close.

    Scoring in the red zone

    Before last weekend's meeting with Kansas, WVU had scored each time it reached the endzone. That scoring streak concluded against the Jayhawks, as the Mountaineers turned it over in the red zone three times.

    WVU now has an 87 percent success rate of scoring from inside the 20.

    Meanwhile, the Cyclones are one of nine team in the nation still perfect (13-13) on trips to the red zone ending in points. Iowa State was 2-for-2 in red zone trips a week ago against Oklahoma State.

    Some ‘Purdy’ big plays

    WVU is certainly known for hitting on big plays, but the Cyclones seem to have found big-play potential in their new quarterback.

    True freshman Brock Purdy led the ISU offense to seven plays of 25 yards or more last week.

    Three of his four touchdown passes traveled that far, and he tallied the longest rush (29 yards) of the year for his team.

    On the other side, the Mountaineer offense has had just seven plays of 25-plus yards the last two weeks combined – three versus Kansas and four against Texas Tech.

    The good news is, the West Virginia defense has only allowed four such plays.

    (Note: The Cyclones did not officially name a starting quarterback through head coach Matt Campbell’s press conference Tuesday, though it is widely expected Purdy will get the start, or at least play significant minutes.)

    With West Virginia’s most recent performance, some analysts are putting the Mountaineers on upset watch. In order to avoid that, the Mountaineers are going to have to limit Purdy’s big plays while hitting on a couple themselves.

    And given how close these kinds of games have been in the past, Saturday would be a good time for WVU to be the first team to be able to keep the Cyclones from scoring from in close this year.

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    Wvu vs. Iowa state: Recap

    West Virginia Gets Outclassed In Ames, Falls To Iowa State 30-14

    Iowa State wore its “black out” uniforms on Saturday night, but West Virginia wishes it could be the one blacking out right now.
    “We’re going to get rid of this game,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said with assurance.

    The No. 6 Mountaineers showed up at Jack Trice Stadium never having trailed in a game this season, and left looking nothing like a team deserving of the Top 25, much less the Top 10, in a 30-14 smashing by the Cyclones.
    The Cyclones (3-3, 2-2 Big 12) limited the Mountaineers (5-1, 3-1) to 152 total yards on offense – their worst single-game output since 1995.

    “We didn’t do anything right. We didn’t make good decisions. We didn’t call good plays. We didn’t play with effort. We didn’t block.” Holgorsen said. “They didn’t come up with any magical plays… I’ve got to do a better job of coaching offense.”
    The biggest problem was third down.
    The Mountaineers came into the game as the fourth-best offense in the nation on third down, while the Cyclones defense checked in at a miserable 118. West Virginia finished the game 1-for-10 on third downs, thanks largely to the fact it faced an average distance of 9.2 yards to gain.
    “We weren’t very efficient, and a big part was playing behind the chains the entire game,” said offensive coordinator Jake Spavital.
    Third-down success wasn’t the only thing that proved to be an optical illusion against the Cyclones.

    West Virginia came to Ames believing it had the best player in the country, but the three best players on the field Saturday night – if not more – were all wearing Iowa State’s special all-black uniforms.
    There was the best quarterback on the field, true freshman Brock Purdy. Purdy sliced and diced the Mountaineers defense for 254 yards on 18 of 25 passing in his second career start.
    There was the best wide receiver on the field, 6-foot-6 Hakeem Butler, who laughed off West Virginia’s man-to-man coverage on his six catches for 107 yards.
    And then there was perhaps the top player of them all, running back David Montgomery, who ground the defense into a pulp for a career-best 189 yards on 29 carries.

    Meanwhile, West Virginia quarterback Will Grier’s Heisman Trophy hopes are probably buried in a cornfield somewhere next to Joe Pesci’s character from the movie “Casino.”
    Grier was rendered a non-factor by the Cyclones defense, shoddy blocking and an insistence on waiting for deep pass plays to develop when Iowa State had everything downfield blanketed. He finished the game 11 of 15 for 115 yards and an interception.
    The moment that best summed up Grier’s night took place when Iowa State already had the win in its back pocket.
    Facing a third-and-24 at his own 5-yard line late in the fourth quarter, Grier backpedaled into the Mountaineers’ end zone as he fruitlessly searched for a play to develop down field. None ever did, giving left tackle Yodny Cajuste no choice but to hold a Cyclone defender in the end zone so as to prevent his quarterback from getting creamed for an eighth sack. The penalty resulted in a safety that provided the final margin. The play was symbolic of the game as a whole.

    “Receivers were having trouble getting open. Will took some unnecessary sacks when he was out of the pocket. At that point, chuck it away and let’s move on to the next play,” Spavital said. “We talked about that all week, too. They’ll drop eight and cover you. Extend it, be smart, take what they give you. Obviously I didn’t do a very good job with that.”

    What we learned:

    1. Will Grier needs some help

    The Iowa State defense was everywhere, harassing Will Grier for four quarters in Ames on Saturday night. The Cyclones tallied seven sacks, putting the Mountaineers behind the chains and setting up long third down attempts. As a result, West Virginia converted one of nine third down attempts in the first three quarters, keeping Grier out of any sort of rhythm.
    As the offensive line abandoned him, so did the running game. Excluding Grier’s rushing yards, which skewed negative because of sacks, the Mountaineers carried the ball 17 times for 85 yards.
    That left Grier to carry the team by himself. He finished the night 11-of-15 passing for 100 yards with one touchdown and one interception. That would have been an underwhelming performance for most Big 12 quarterbacks, but for Grier the low yardage and touchdown totals are almost unheard of.
    Grier entered the season as a contender for the Heisman Trophy. He’s more than capable of putting up the numbers necessary for a trip to New York, but if he wants to win the award he’s going to need some help from his teammates.

    2. Purdy like a Brock-star

    There are few programs in college football that had a better National Signing Day than Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M. The Aggies beat out programs like Alabama, Florida State and Texas for some of the top recruits in the country, but they couldn’t land Brock Purdy. The Aggies and the Crimson Tide had offered the Arizona native, but he opted to play for Matt Campbell and Iowa State.
    Texas A&M and Alabama might not have felt Purdy’s absence, but Iowa State appreciates his presence more than either of those SEC schools ever could have known.
    Purdy replaced Zeb Noland (who replaced Kyle Kempt) at quarterback and led the Cyclones to an upset of Oklahoma State. That snapped a six-game losing streak to the Cowboys and marked the Cyclones first win in Stillwater since 2000.
    He completed 18-of-25 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns with one interception against West Virginia, knocking off the Top 10 Mountaineers. Not too shabby for a third-string quarterback.

    3. Perhaps nobody in the Big 12 is elite after all

    It wasn’t that long ago that West Virginia, Texas and Oklahoma all looked to be peaking together. The three programs were all Top 25 teams with aspirations of conference championships and a trip to the College Football Playoff. Then Oklahoma fell to Texas (who has a loss to Maryland on their resume) and West Virginia struggled mightily against Iowa State. Now the Big 12 is a mess.
    The ranks of the undefeated thin more and more every week, but the SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 all have at least one, if not multiple teams that still sport perfect records. Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson each look primed for another Playoff run and Notre Dame has forced their way into the conversation, as has UCF. West Virginia was the last team standing for the Big 12. Now they, too, have games remaining against Texas, TCU and Oklahoma. The road only gets tougher for the Mountaineers from this point onward.
    Last edited by Ratpenat; 14-10-2018 at 04:34.

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    2019 West Virginia Football Schedule Announced

    Even though we are in the midst of what could still be a special season of West Virginia football, next year’s schedule has been released by WVU and the Big 12. The conference shook up the schedule a bit for 2019, giving the Mountaineers a “rivalry” game on Thanksgiving weekend.

    The non-conference slate was set with two Power 5 opponents: WVU opens on Saturday, Aug. 31 hosting FCS powerhouse James Madison, travels to the SEC’s Missouri on Saturday, Sept. 7, then hosts ACC foe N.C. State on Saturday, Sept. 14.

    The Mountaineers open Big 12 play on the road against Kansas on Saturday, Sept. 21, then head into an early bye week in week five of the season.

    WVU’s first home conference game will be Saturday, Oct. 5 against Texas, followed by another home game against Iowa State on Saturday, Oct. 12.

    Dana Holgorsen’s team will close out the month on the road at Oklahoma on Saturday, Oct. 19, followed by another bye week. The Mountaineers will again play Baylor on a Thursday, this time, on Halloween, Thursday, Oct. 31 in Waco, Texas.

    November 2019 starts with a home game against Texas Tech on Saturday, Nov. 9, then a road game at Kansas State on the 16th.

    WVU’s final home game in 2019 will be on Saturday, Nov. 23 against Oklahoma State and the regular season final will be on the road against TCU on Friday, Nov. 29.

    The Big 12 Football Championship will be played on Saturday, Dec. 7.

    Though it may be too early to say, this schedule looks fairly balanced, with no real death row like WVU teams have seen in the past. True tests will come with back-to-back road games at the end of October.

    Though WVU lacks a true rival in the conference, TCU may be one of the three schools with which annual battles have occurred. Playing this game on Thanksgiving weekend will give the game an added layer of excitement.

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    The Story Behind Carrying The West Virginia State Flag

    It's the West Virginia University football players proudly carrying the state flag onto the field for its season-opening game against Tennessee at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

    The state flag has always been a great source of pride for Mountaineers from Weirton to Welch, Martinsburg to Matewan and all points in between, but I bet your pride swells when you learn that there is a backstory to this particular flag.

    It holds a very special story.

    Evan Chaney, a U.S. Army Flight Paramedic when he was stationed in Afghanistan, wore this flag inside his body armor on all life-saving aeromedical evacuation (MEDEVAC) missions in northern Afghanistan during his most recent tour there.

    He was part of a 12-member crew that conducted these critical excursions for nine months in the war-torn country earlier this year.

    "This flag is important to me and has sentimental value," Chaney wrote in an email to WVU director of football operations Robert Glowacky, "but I bequeath it to the team because of my love and pride for my home state, WVU and Mountaineer football.

    "It is my hope that the team will carry it forward to remember that Mountaineers are all over the world, a diaspora with many ardent fans in uniform."

    He concluded, "Freedom isn't free, but as long as we live in this great nation and state, Mountaineers are always free!"

    Chaney is a native of Charleston. Billy Raines from Vienna, West Virginia, is also a member of his platoon.

    Pictured above is Chaney proudly holding the state flag in front of an Apache helicopter. He is wearing the sunglasses.

    Great stuff!

    And now, some more Mountaineer sports notes to take you into homecoming weekend …

    * Last year in Lawrence, West Virginia couldn't stop Kansas running back Khalil Herbert, who ran for 291 yards – the most yards ever gained by an opposing back.

    That's more than Kevan Barlow's 272 yards in 2000, Samaje Perine's 242 yards in 2014, Wally Triplett's 219 yards in 1948 and Larry Csonka's 216 yards in 1965.

    Well, guess what? Herbert is still around, but he only carried the football three times in last Saturday's loss to Oklahoma State.


    Because of Pooka.

    No, not Polka but Pooka, as in Pooka Williams, Kansas' dynamic, true freshman running back from New Orleans. He's not very big, standing 5-feet-10 and weighing just 170 pounds, but he's elusive and very, very fast.

    "He'll get 2, 3, 4 and then 80 (yards)," West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said. "He can move and he's tough. He's not real big, but he runs angry."

    Pooka is the leading rusher in the Big 12 this week with an average of 118.5 yards per game.

    "He's done it to everybody," Gibson said. "He did it to Rutgers. He did it to Central Michigan. He did it to Baylor, and he just did it to Oklahoma State."

    Hopefully, he doesn't do it to West Virginia on Saturday, however.

    * One more victory for West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen will tie him with Art Lewis for third place on the school's career win list with 58.

    Holgorsen is currently three wins shy of Rich Rodriguez for second with 60. Hall of Fame coach Don Nehlen has the most victories in school history with 149 in 21 seasons.

    By the way, that list includes four Hall of Fame coaches: Nehlen, Clarence Spears, Bobby Bowden and Frank Cignetti. Another ex-West Virginia coach, Jim Carlen, is on this year's Hall of Fame ballot.

    I brought up the 57 wins to Holgorsen during his weekly Tuesday afternoon news conference and he batted it away just like cornerback Keith Washington Jr. did to all of those Texas Tech passes last weekend.

    "I said this on the radio show to Tony (Caridi)," Holgorsen said. "If Mike (Montoro) brings that up to me, I throw him out of my office. Now, I couldn't throw Tony off the radio show, and I can't throw you out of the media room right now, but we would prefer to talk about the team aspect of everything.

    "It's an honor to be here, period. And I'm sure at some point we'll look back at it and maybe throw a party about it or something like that, but right now I do not care about that.

    "I care about 5-0 and 3-0 in the Big 12, period," he said.

    If the Mountaineers can knock off Kansas this Saturday, will anybody afterward ask the coach about win No. 58?

    Maybe Bob Hertzel might.

    * Do you know which Power 5 men's basketball team has the toughest schedule in the country this year?


    North Carolina?


    Michigan State?


    No, no, no, no and no.

    It's West Virginia, and it will always be West Virginia because it plays in the Big 12 Conference.

    What makes the Mountaineers' schedule so difficult is not just the tough teams and tough venues in which they play, but also the number of times they switch time zones to play league games.

    Last year, it was eight because West Virginia was able to double-up its first two conference games during the winter semester recess and stay on the road. However, this year it's nine because there are no back-to-back Big 12 road games on this year's schedule.

    That's nine trips to a different time zone, which means nine times West Virginia is losing an hour when it returns to the East Coast.

    "(The Big 12 coaches) talk about how hard it is to come to Morgantown and here we are going nine times out there," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. "There is no other way to look at it – it's rough.

    "I have invited (the other Big 12 coaches) to fly with us, but none of them have taken me up on it," Huggins joked.

    There is no major conference men's basketball team that contends with anything close to that during its conference season.

    What makes things doubly difficult for West Virginia is the team has to fly out of Clarksburg, meaning an additional hour-long bus ride to and from campus. WVU is one of just a handful of Big 12 schools that doesn't have an airport near its campus with a runway long enough to support charter flights.

    So, when West Virginia plays a 9 p.m. game on a Monday night in Lubbock, Texas, for instance, that means the team doesn't leave until midnight and loses an hour during the three-hour flight back to Morgantown.

    That puts the team in Clarksburg at approximately 4 a.m., which means the hour-long bus ride back to campus gets the players in town just in time for their Tuesday morning classes, which they are required to attend.

    That can take its toll, particularly late in the season.

    "The wear and tear on them is rough," Huggins admitted. "There is a better chance of injury for a lot of reasons. It's a lot harder than people think it is, not to mention you're 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds and think about those guys sitting in those seats. I can't get my behind in those seats, and they're way wider than I am."

    Who knows? It may have played a role in West Virginia's disappointing performance in its NCAA Tournament first-round loss to Stephen F. Austin a couple of years ago.

    The players on this year's team point to that one as being the deepest and most talented of Huggins' recent squads.

    "We shouldn't have lost to Stephen F. Austin," Huggins admitted. "We were as sluggish and slow … and if you remember I said that the whole week. The whole week we weren't getting anything done, and they were like not there."

    * Former West Virginia University men's basketball standout player DARRYL PRUE was recently named head boys' basketball coach at T.C. Williams. Prue, a two-time All-Atlantic 10 performer for GALE CATLETT, played on NCAA Tournament teams in 1986, 1987 and 1989, worked on John Thompson III's staff at Georgetown and was most recently coaching AAU basketball in Washington, D.C.

    Prue also coached at Morgan State.

    * WVU Sports Hall of Famer ROY LESTER recently celebrated his 95thbirthday. Lester played on West Virginia's 1948 Sun Bowl team for coach DUD DEGROOT and was also later a highly successful high school coach at Montgomery High in suburban Washington, D.C., before coaching Maryland for three seasons in 1969, 1970 and 1971.

    Lester is originally from Spencer, West Virginia.

    * It was nice catching up with former men's soccer standout player JOHN KEATING, now head men's soccer coach at Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, North Carolina, just west of Charlotte.

    Keating was in town for Tuesday's West Virginia University men's soccer game against Binghamton, coached by his former WVU teammate and ex-WVU coach PAUL MARCO.

    The Mountaineers defeated the Bearcats 2-0 to improve to 7-4 on the season. West Virginia begins conference play on Saturday at Western Michigan.

    *How about this tweet from former Louisville coach Rick Pitino?

    The most difficult arenas my teams have faced:
    1) Kansas
    2) Kentucky
    3) Michigan St
    4) SMU
    5) West Virginia
    6) Grand Canyon
    For a program in its infant stages of college basketball, its student section is amazing
    — Rick Pitino (@RealPitino) October 3, 2018

    I'm certain the WVU student section earned the Coliseum's top-five rating from Mr. Pitino, but I'm also pretty sure plenty are disappointed Pitino didn't rate the Coliseum a little higher. Those kids work hard on their material!

    * If Penn State transfer De'Janae Boykin can become eligible, Mike Carey could have as many as four four-year transfers on the court at the same time this season.

    He's also got Michigan transfer Kysre Gondrezick, NC State transfer Lucky Rudd and Ohio State transfer Theresa Ekhelar in the program right now.

    By the way, Carey told reporters on Wednesday that he really likes this year's team, especially its backcourt with injured All-Big 12 guard Tynice Martin now back in the fold. WVU could have one of the deepest backcourts in the country this year.

    And finally, I received an email earlier this week from Wheeling native Sam Murray, WVU's first homecoming king crowned in 1993. He said he will be in Friday night's homecoming parade and will also be on the field Saturday to celebrate the 25th anniversary of being named WVU's first homecoming king.

    Incidentally, that homecoming game back in 1993 was against Louisville, a nail-biting victory for West Virginia that helped propel the Mountaineers to their second undefeated, untied regular season and a berth in the 1994 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

    Have a great weekend!

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    What I Think As West Virginia Enters Phase 2 :

    The next five games are the most important in the Dana Holgorsen era

    All Is Not Lost

    Many fans, especially those that are simply chomping at the bit to get rid of the head coach, are down on the team following the butt kicking they received in Ames last Saturday. I’m not going to tell you how to feel about this team, but I do want to remind you that only four teams have zero or one conference loss: Texas Longhorns, West Virginia Mountaineers, Oklahoma Sooners, Texas Tech Red Raiders.

    West Virginia already owns the tiebreaker over the Red Raiders, thanks to their 42-34 win in Lubbock and the Mountaineers will get their shot at the Longhorns and Sooners in the next six weeks. Everything that was going to make this season special - 10 wins and a Big 12 Championship appearance/title - are all still on the table. One loss did not derail the season.

    The next five games will determine Dana’s fate

    Sitting at 5-1, the Mountaineers are poised to define the Dana Holgorsen era. We are now past the depth issues that plagued the coaching staff during their first few seasons in the Big 12. Taking over in 2011, it took Dana four full recruiting cycles to simply build a full roster. Now he has had three and a half seasons of a full roster. He turned one season - 2016 - into a ten win year. This year, armed with one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, expectations have been high.

    Most fans and pundits have thought that the Mountaineers were poised to be the team to make a run at the Sooners and possibly dethrone them for the Big 12 title. West Virginia was often penciled into the Big 12 title game in the preseason.

    I don’t know what Shane Lyons is thinking, but the next five games and the bowl game, will likely determine what we know about Dana. If the Mountaineers go 3-2 and finish third in the Big 12, that would, in my opinion, define the ceiling with Dana. Third place in the Big 12 in a down year is the best we are able to do. If Dana can win his bowl game, 9-3 would be a very good season. If Dana loses his bowl game, you then are staring at 8-4 with a Heisman-caliber quarterback in a conference that lacked a lot of tough games. Can you keep a coach that your ceiling is third place? Can West Virginia attract a coach that can do better?

    On the flip side, if Dana turns this into a Big 12 Championship Game appearance and a New York Six bowl game, you can sign him to a lifetime contract.

    November May Not Be As Tough As Thought

    Everyone pointed to the November schedule and said “another end of the year slide because Texas, TCU, Oklahoma State and OU are the four best teams in the Big 12”. Normally that would be true, but that isn’t the case this year.

    Texas has finally figured it out under Tom Herman. Oklahoma is still dangerous and maybe more so now that they got rid of Mike Stoops. TCU and Oklahoma State aren’t the dangerous teams that were originally thought. Not this year. Oklahoma State has played the same conference slate as the Mountaineers. West Virginia has given up 92 points in conference. OSU has given up 148. TCU has played a tougher slate [TTU, ISU, UT and OU] but they’ve still given up 114 points and only scored 74. Against the Sooners, Gary Patterson pulled Shawn Robinson and inserted Michael Collins.

    The Mountaineers will need to handle an expected raucous crowd in Austin, but the OSU/TCU games won’t be as tough as people originally thought in July.

    The 2019 Schedule is OOF

    The 2019 schedule was released last week and my first thoughts were: WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?

    The schedule starts out well, letting the Mountaineers ease into the season with JMU. JMU isn’t a pushover and the Mountaineers have to be careful but week one is when teams are working things out and either Jack Allison or Trey Lowe will be making their first start for West Virginia. I want something easy.

    The team will travel to Missouri, who have followed the mediocre SEC script of scheduling cupcake OOC games and beating the awful bottom dwellers so you can eek out bowl eligibility the past three years. Missouri’s best quarterback, Drew Lock, will be gone. Then the Mountaineers will get to host the NC State Wolfpack before starting Big 12 conference play with Kansas.

    Then the schedule makers just really want to make things wonky. WVU has an early bye before playing Texas only to realize that Texas also has a bye that week. Goodbye advantage. Texas and Iowa State are back to back home games before traveling to Norman to take on the Sooners. That game is followed by 12 days off and then going to Waco, on Halloween, to take on Baylor.

    The second half of the schedule isn’t “Murder’s Row” with a home game against Texas Tech then a trip to Manhattan against K-State. The final two games of the 2019 season - home against the Cowboys before a Black Friday showdown against the Horned Frogs - could spell disaster.

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    Wvu vs. Baylor: Preview

    West Virginia vs. Baylor: Preview

    No. 13 West Virginia (5-1, 3-1) vs. Baylor (4-3, 2-2)

    Where: Morgantown, WV

    Time: 7 p.m. EST

    TV: FS1


    West Virginia: Either the Mountaineers can get back on track after an embarrassing loss at Iowa State, or this thing can start spiraling out of control. The open week came at the right time; West Virginia had not been playing well and were banged up defensively. After this game is the tough four-game stretch in which the Mountaineers have to go to Texas and finish the season vs. Oklahoma. A get-right game is a must here.

    Baylor: Rhule inherited a mess on multiple levels and the end result was a one-win season in 2017. This year? The Bears are a quiet 4-3 with only a couple of more wins needed for bowl eligibility. Should Baylor get a road win, it would be the first significant victory under Rhule and an equally significant sign that things really are returning to competent levels.

    Five Questions

    Can the Mountaineers regain their swagger?

    Those Big 12 Championship game reservations are on hold after a 30-14 setback in Ames, yet the Mountaineers still control their own destiny. For encouragement’s sake, one need only rewind to last year when Oklahoma recovered from a home loss to Iowa State to win the league and reach the College Football Playoff.

    West Virginia hasn’t typically been a strong finisher in the Big 12 — going 26-30 after September — but this team purportedly is blessed with maturity, a special quarterback and stronger chemistry than previous years. And that combination should result in a steadying bounce-back performance after the bye week.

    Also from the stats pile: Dana Holgorsen is 18-13 with more than seven days to prepare, but when a Power Five opponent is awaiting, that record is only 13-13.

    More flag football?

    Baylor fans certainly haven’t forgotten the penalty-laden game in Morgantown that derailed their 2014 playoff hopes. Even having seen the game first-hand, it’s still hard to fathom those egregious numbers — 18 flags and 215 yards … AGAINST ONE TEAM! (West Virginia’s 14 penalties for 138 yards were overshadowed.)

    To be sure, Baylor’s defensive backs were clutching and lunging at Kevin White all afternoon, creating a frenzy of pass-interference calls. There also were unsportsmanlike conducts, a kick-catch interference and even a leaping infraction on a field-goal try.

    On a 2016 visit, when the Bears lost 24-21, they were struck by 12 penalties for 100 yards. And WVU felt the sting last season in Waco, suffering 134 penalty yards on 11 flags.

    In a series that has become a referee’s clinic, Baylor (102nd) and West Virginia (115th) are once again among this season’s most penalized teams in the FBS.

    Three times this season — against Youngstown State, Texas Tech and Iowa State — the Mountaineers have piled up more than 100 penalty yards.

    Have you Hurd?

    After struggling to stop Iowa State’s Hakeem Butler, the WVU defense faces a more dynamic receiver in Jalen Hurd. The 6-foot-4 Tennessee transfer has 47 catches for 622 yards, including 33 that went for 10-plus yards, which ranks fifth nationally.

    Hurd has three touchdowns receiving and three rushing, with Baylor using him in goal-line packages.

    The former five-star recruit came within 440 yards of becoming Tennessee’s career rushing leader and now has re-positioned himself as an NFL-caliber receiver.

    How can Will Grier escape his funk?

    From those brutal red-zone interceptions against Kansas to being at the forefront of a complete offensive meltdown in Ames, the rough patch visited upon Will Grier left West Virginia’s quarterback shell-shocked.

    Does regaining his form require digging deeper into film study or playing a more carefree style?

    “There is a fine line with it. You can’t give him too much,” said WVU offensive coordinator Jake Spavital. “That was about going back to the basics and going back to coaching the fundamentals of each play we had. It’s about each concept.

    “There’s a lot going on for Will back there. There’s a lot going on for any quarterback that’s in the game, especially when they’re getting hit.”

    This is a familiar tug-of-war when quarterbacks need to mix discipline with freewheeling flare.

    “When things aren’t open, they start pressing a little bit, they’re trying to make plays,” Spavital said. “I had the same problems with Johnny Manziel at times. You don’t want to handcuff how special they are and how they can extend plays.”

    Will Baylor go the Matt?

    After a 1-11 debut, Matt Rhule appears to have stabilized a program beset by off-the-field shadiness. The Bears remain in the hunt for bowl-eligibility and nearly stunned No. 9 Texas in Austin two weeks ago.

    Now we must discern whether that 23-17 loss at DKR was truly a breakthrough moment for Baylor, or simply a case of Texas sleepwalking.

    “They look way better than last year’s Baylor football team,” said Mountaineers safety Dravon Askew-Henry, who was part of a defense that narrowly survived last season’s 38-36 win in Waco.

    Inside the Numbers: WVU vs. Baylor

    Thursday Thrillers

    West Virginia has played its fair share of Thursday night games over the years.

    The mountaineers are 12-8 on Thursday games since the start of the 2000 season, but they have lost each of the last two Thursday contests, one of those at home against No. 12 Kansas State back in 2014.

    The two-game Thursday losing streak comes after winning the previous four in a row.

    Bouncing Back

    Both Baylor and West Virginia are coming off a loss.

    WVU has done a fairly good job at responding from a defeat over the last two decades. Since 2000, the Mountaineers are 38-28 (.576) in games following a loss. Baylor, meanwhile, is 30-78 (.278 W%) following a defeat over that same time.

    This season, the Bears are 2-0 after a loss, but Baylor has suffered nine seasons in which it loses at least three more games than it wins following a loss. WVU, on the other hand, has had just two such seasons.

    Third Down Turn Around

    It can’t get much worse for the Mountaineers than the 1-for-10 rate on third downs against Iowa State two Saturday’s ago.

    Even with the poor performance, WVU is still converting on 50 percent of its third down attempts. That mark is best in the Big 12 and seventh in the nation.

    Baylor’s defense allows opponents to convert on 44 percent of third down plays.

    First and Second Half Differential

    West Virginia has not only been good on third downs, but it’s also been pretty good at having strong starts to games.

    The Mountaineers are outscoring opponents by 12.3 points per game in the first half. They’ve scored 21 or more points in the first half in four of their six games and haven’t scored fewer than 13 points in the opening two quarters of a game.

    That hasn’t been the case, though, in the second half. WVU is only outplaying teams by 3.5 points per game in the second half, including being shutout in a half for the first time this year in the second half against ISU.
    Last edited by Ratpenat; 25-10-2018 at 02:22.

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