Yay or nay?

November 23, 2014 by Mike Casazza

We have three things to discuss right now:

1) There was no Texts From Game Day Thursday because my new phone got to me late.
2) I have a functioning phone.
3) WVU and No. 17 UConn play for the Puerto Rico Ti-Off championship at 6:30 p.m.

How about a special edition of Texts From UConn Game Day? I challenge you to top TFGD UConn 2010.

WVU v. Boston College: The ball is in your court

November 21, 2014 by Mike Casazza

West Virginia and Boston College, erstwhile Big East rivals who last met when the Mountaineers sent the Eagles packing from the 2005 Big East Tournament and from the conference as a whole, meet at 5 p.m. on ESPNU in the semifinal round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

WVU cruised last night in the only laugher on the opening day. Boston College made some 3-pointers and survived some fouls to beat New Mexico. B.C. has a 7-footer in the middle to combat the Williams-Holton combo, but behold the point guard matchup. WVU has Juwan Staten and the Eagles have underrated Olivier Hanlon.

I’m going to leave this on up to you tonight and catch the game on replay later. Enjoy and please pick up after yourself.

Friday Feedback

November 21, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Welcome to the Friday Feedback, which really wishes the cell phone was alive last night. You’d laugh at the volume of people who I ran into or who found me and were trying to help me find a solution or who expressed they were excited to read the Kansas State edition. So I’m going to get as much of you into this edition, and I bet it’s going to help me out a bunch because I’m having a hard time sorting out some things here.

A lot of people are throwing the ugly numbers out there because they’re ugly numbers and they hook emotional people and trigger emotional responses at an emotional time. The November record, the record since Texas in 2012, the record against ranked teams, the volume of special teams disasters, the sacks, the turnovers, the penalties, so on and so forth, I’m trying to find an explanation for it all. The sacks, penalties and turnovers are, to me, who and what this team is after 11 games … and maybe after 49 games. But the fumble on the goal line, the stupid punt return fumble and the two interceptions are completely in line with what’s happened of late or all season. I didn’t think the Mountaineers were reckless on offense (I didn’t say special teams) before last night. But Clint Trickett’s interceptions and Wendell Smallwood’s fumbles are spring practice mistakes.

What has a hold of me are these late-season slides. I don’t like presentation without context, and surely there’s a reason Dana Holgorsen is 2-9 in November in the Big 12, why he has three straight seasons with three-game losing streaks. Discipline? Depth? Coaching? Indifference? I would argue yes.

I think in 2012, WVU wasn’t as good as 5-0 and the fifth-best team in the country, but was probably better than 7-6. Still, that team was weak and couldn’t make the best of a bad situation, so why would we expect it to make the best of a bad situation? Last season, 4-8 made sense with the roster and the quarterback situation. This season? Well, sorry, but 6-2 may have felt about right, but it still left you wondering if they were, you know, good. I felt like maybe the Mountaineers weren’t that good if I had to wonder. Yet the losses are by 10, 12, 1 and 6 points to top-12 teams, but also by 17 after a shameful first-half no-show at Texas. I guess 6-5 feels about right, too, right now, but not four weeks and three games ago.

But there’s the point: In three straight seasons, WVU hasn’t found what it needed to steer its season back onto the road and prove its great, good or merely even better. And that’s where the focus goes now: Why is this the case?

As for the schedule with another wonky week, let’s keep an eye on the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. There may be TFGD potential if the Mountaineers make the championship game. I’ll keep you updated there, but it’d fill a spot on Monday. I’d like to drop the G&B in its Tuesday slot, and that thing might come in plastic wrap. We’ll do the chat Wednesday and we’ll skip the F Double because I’ll be on the way to Ames — and you’re out of your mind if you think that won’t be hard for the Mountaineers. If the Cyclones win tomorrow (at home against Texas Tech), they’ll have momentum. If they lose, they may very well be playing for their coach’s job. They might be regardless of what happens against the Red Raiders. Whatever the scenario, do you feel good about WVU bringing the right baggage to Jack Trice?

Onto the Feedback. As always, comments appear as posted. In other words, pay attention.

Mack said:

Hey Mike, after the game when you’re writing about how kansas State doesn’t make any mistakes, how about you mention the huge calls by the officials that have gone in their favor.

Went out of my way not to write that because, man, that team was beatable — and that was my lede today. The postgame refrain was “Can’t make mistakes like that against K-State!” which is silly and serves as shelter from the real questions and answers. WVU had the opportunity to play bad and beat an alarmingly unsound KSU team and simply couldn’t. Or wouldn’t. I’m not sure which is right. That explanation afterward didn’t cut it for me. As for the officiating, I’m not sure I follow. The reversal on White’s circus catch was the right call. I thought the offensive pass interference was iffy, but I can understand the call. I thought the defensive pass interference against K.J. Dillon was a poor call. I was surprised they didn’t review the time Waters was hit from behind, I think by Brandon Golson, and it was quickly ruled an incomplete pass. What other ones are we looking at?

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Kansas State 26, WVU 20

November 21, 2014 by Mike Casazza

I’m working on the F Double now, my penance for the inexcusable TFGD debacle. To hold you over, there’s Dana’s post game presser, where, surprisingly, people weren’t much interested in positive somethings.

That’s probably because their isn’t a whole lot of positive stuff happening, certainly not enough to overlook another uninspired late-season performance and another November loss. He’s five games above .500 as the head coach, but nine games below since beating Texas in 2012 and 2-9 in his three Big 12 Novembers, and I imagine that begins to bother you after a while.

But look, you can spin numbers and squint until you see what you want. What you can’t fail to see are the recurring failures that continue to haunt what could be a pretty good team.

WVU is now 1-4 against top-12 teams this season with the losses coming by 10, 12, 1 and 6 points.

“I feel as though we’re more frustrated because we know what we’re capable of doing and that we can go out there and beat these teams to that we lost to,” safety K.J. Dillon said. “To come up short is not a good feeling.”

The Mountaineers, who were bowl eligible a month ago and four games above .500, will limp into the final game of the regular season at Iowa State next week trying to simply clinch a winning record. They have a three-game losing streak for the third straight season, a stretch the school hasn’t seen since 1999-2001 – the final two years with Don Nehlen as the coach and the first with Rich Rodriguez.

WVU v. Kansas State: It’s in the bag

November 20, 2014 by Mike Casazza



Sneak preview: This image will probably remain for all WVU v. Kansas Stats for as long as Snyd’s name remains on the stadium. And if that photo doesn’t make you laugh, allow me to fill you in on the legend.

So between that, late nights and his perpetual cup of coffee, Snyder really is a college kid at heart.

But enough about Snyder, as I’m sure that’s been driven home this week. How about some WVU? I was in the press box early enough today that I caught Fox Sports 1 doing a dry run of its lineups, trivia questions, Big 12 standings, national schedule, so on and so forth. In WVU’s starting lineup, Dreamius Smith is listed as the starting running back, though humanitarian Hertz believes it’s Dana Holgorsen’s homage to senior day. If you’re a #Freemius advocate, I don’t believe you care. It’s like me in a golf scramble — it’s not how, but how many.

And as we get started, a note about starts that I never fit into publications this week and never really found a way to make relevant … maybe because I’m not sure what it means. WVU’s first quarter is its best quarter and it outscores opponents 90-47 there. Kansas State’s opponents have one opening drive touchdown all season. The Mountaineers are being outscored 100-99 in the second quarter and then 66-65 (?) in the third quarter. Kansas State (hereafter KSU) outscores opponents 101-58 in the second (!) and 78-34 in the third and has allowed one second half-opening drive touchdown all season. I have a feeling this one will be on its way one way or the other in the fourth quarter, which is great news for a gentleman on deadline.

And finally, a sad note. No TFGD tonight, so save your fingers. I wish it wasn’t the case, I really do, but it is. My phone had debilitating issues last Tuesday. I just got the new one this afternoon and the self-activation isn’t working, meaning I can’t get to a nTelos store to have them activate it for me because we kick in 90 minutes. Don’t hate me, hate the money I see, clothes that I buy, ice that I wear, clothes that I try. See you inside.

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You’ll Never Talk Alone: S3E11

November 20, 2014 by Brad McElhinny

Good morning and welcome back after the open week. We’ll be taking all your questions about WVU sports and answering many of them when the weekly chat begins at 11 a.m. Get started now, if you’d like. The queue is open.

Live Blog You’ll Never Talk Alone: S3E11

Wednesday Walkthrough: Kansas State

November 19, 2014 by Mike Casazza

For real, the quarterback stats are sort of mind-blowing. I could have spent more time talking about the Kansas State offense, and in particular Jake Waters, but I’d already written plenty about him.

The Wildcats will spread out their offensive lineman to create creases in the middle, and Waters waits for blockers to block, but they’ll tighten up the offensive line to give running plays a chance to get outside. They line up in power sets and spread sets, but they can run or pass out of both without giving away any clues. Even when the defense is onto something, the play can change. Waters is skilled and selling a run to pull defenders toward him and then throwing a pass to a receiver in open space.

“It’s built into the play where he makes the decision,” Gibson said. “A lot of people do it off the zone read scheme where the tailback’s involved and the quarterback pulls it out and throws a quick bubble (screen). But this is all him.

“They run the quarterback power, the quarterback zone, the quarterback iso and they all have pass options off it, which means we have to get another guy in the box to stop the quarterback run. But then he can catch you in what you’re doing coverage-wise and you’ve got to cover that up. He does it as well as anybody I’ve ever seen do it.”

Behold the 2015 football schedule

November 19, 2014 by Mike Casazza

There’s not much WVU can do about it, and ultimately it might not matter much, but today I’d wager to say the Mountaineers aren’t going to like the 2015 slate.

They open Sept. 5 at home against Georgia Southern. That’s no treat. It’s a dangerous game without many rewards. The Eagles are very good on offense and are loaded with players who will be back next season, though they have five seniors who play on the offensive line. If you’re not familiar with Georgia Southern, understand getting ready for that in the opener is about the total opposite of getting ready of Alabama.

It’s like opening with Navy, except that Georgia Southern uses more unorthodox formations to run Willie Fritz’s personalized triple option. And when that game’s over, that’s the last WVU will see of that offense for the entire season. It’s better than catching it in the middle of the season or with one week to prepare in the non-conference part of the schedule, but there are countless other was you’d rather spend a summer. It’s a wonder teams want to schedule the Eagles.

A week later, WVU plays host to Liberty. While Georgia Southern, which beat Florida last season, is new to the FBS this season after many years as a FCS powerhouse, Liberty is a blossoming FCS program under the guidance of Turner Gill. The Flames are 7-4 and return most of their offense next season, but their defense will be hit hard by graduation. Still, it’s not a punk program.

WVU then has the third week off, and this is where things get weird.

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Bill Snyder’s creed

November 19, 2014 by Mike Casazza

This is a real thing, and for a while I didn’t know that. Bill Snyder references his intrinsic values and the goals he has for his players all the time, and he does it in a way that makes you think he’s talking about points he likes to make or advice he likes to give his players. That’s what I thought before WVU joined the Big 12. You can tell it’s serious and it matters, but you don’t automatically think it’s this. 

But there it is, and it’s in everything Kansas State does and everything opponents say about the Wildcats and their coach.

“It’s amazing. He’s the most respected guy in our profession, bar none. He does it the right way. It’s developing a culture of good family values. Program guys work hard and develop depth. It means a lot to him. They do the right things, and play the right way. They don’t beat themselves down. I can go on and on.”

No need, D. We’ve got you on this one.

The 25314 said:

I think these stats show the difference in discipline/coaching at WVU vs. Kansas State.

WVU is 12th in yards per game offense and 35th in points per game. WVU is 57th in yards allowed per game defense and 62nd in points per game.

K St. is 57th in yards per game offense and 20th in points per game. K St. is 30th in yards allowed per game defense and 21st in points per game.

K State plays above their level. WVU plays below.

The ghosts of Kansas State

November 18, 2014 by Mike Casazza

I love you, Doug! gave me an idea today to go back to look forward. WVU’s two losses to Kansas State since joining the Big 12 have been uniquely disturbing. The 2012 game was a demolition when a surging team caught a struggling team at the right/wrong time. Last season’s game was a thorough illustration that the Mountaineers were an ordinary and troubled outfit that couldn’t overcome itself, never mind a team having growing pains of its own.

I think WVU can show off a better version of itself Thursday, which means what I’m about to show you is or can be constructive context.

WVU’s roster was an unequivocal mess in 2012. It’s startling to look at now, but it’s also telling that Kansas State and Collin Klein came in determined to throw all over the Mountaineers. Snarky texts followed because the game was so bad there was no G&B. I remember thinking _&B would have been awkward.

Last year’s game was more competitive, but there was a bad omen before the game in which the mascot tackles a fake WVU fan on the field in a pregame ritual. It went horribly and the kid had a real seizure and was rushed to the hospital. Clint Trickett would get a concussion in the game and tell no one and struggle throughout, which led to a Paul Millard cameo. Snarky texts followed, but so, too, did a G&B that’s a pretty good primer for this mid-week game.