Good morning. We’re here a day early this week so you can watch NFL games and help make dinner tomorrow. The queue is open, so start asking your questions now. And have a happy Thanksgiving!
Kicker Josh Lambert was named a finalist for the Lou Groza Award and receiver Kevin White was named a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award Tuesday.
Dana Holgorsen on Lambert
“We all know what contributions Josh has made to our team this year. His big kicks at Maryland and Texas Tech showed what he can do in pressure situations. With his four field goals of more than 50 yards and his overall numbers, being named a finalist for the Lou Groza Award certainly is fitting for the kind of year he is having.”
“I am extremely honored to be named a finalist for such a prestigious award. There have been a great tradition of Groza finalists who have had outstanding college careers and has gone on to have great NFL careers. I want to thank my coaches, Coach Holgorsen and Coach DeForest, and my teammates, especially Michael Molinari and John DePalma, because none of this would be possible without them.”
Dana Holgorsen on White
“Kevin White emerged on the scene this year and showed what a talented performer he can be. His improvement from last year shows what a great competitor he is. I still believe his best football is ahead and congratulate him on his hard work toward being named a finalist for the Biletnikoff award.”
“This is truly a dream come true for me. Just being named a finalist for this award is an honor. I am very thankful for the opportunity that has been given to me this season. I would like to thank the coaching staff, and Clint Trickett, for giving me the opportunity and putting me in the position to have such a great season. I specifically want to thank Coach Holgorsen and Coach Galloway for making me work hard, their constant encouragement and for making me into the player that I’ve become this year.”
I have no idea how Mario Alford scored on this play. Zero … which is seven fewer than the number of Kansas State defenders who had a say in this play and were all rendered speechless. We’ve been shaking the sifter for a few weeks now and trying to sort out what’s real and what’s fool’s gold. We’ve been over a bunch of ideas and we’ll hit a few more today, but to me, Alford’s dip and the absence of a sustained level of positive play is a serious sidebar.
This sounds so weird, because he’s going to chase 1,000 yards (or 850 … who knows) and a first-down-and-a-half on every reception. We’ve documented just how damn fast he is and we’ve witnessed so many explosive plays. But his production has been uneven and his game numbers have been inflated by one or two big plays every game. Remember when we were ogling Alford’s downfield plays against Maryland? What if I told he’s caught one vertical throw of more than 25 yards since then?
Because that’s true. He had a 46-yarder against TCU and we were probably surprised.
There’s nothing wrong with his catch-and-run plays. They are who and what he is, but they are not all of who and what he is. Remember, one reason he didn’t cut it as a slot receiver was because he could get down the field and he could hit the deep post. He was better suited to be outside than inside.The absence of a vertical threat who could stretch the field and win 1-on-1 at the line and get up the rail did hurt when teams were double-teaming Kevin White and trusting Alford wouldn’t make them pay was important.
Look, he’s not the issue. Far from it. The quarterback, the offensive line, the other team, they’ve all mattered to what’s happened to WVU’s offense. Plus, he’s probably going to finish with a top-10 season in school history.
But what about this season? Here it is. Oklahoma State was the first team to really sell out to stop White. It looks like Alford had a big day … but he smoked a guy in the middle for a 79-yard score. Take that away — and you can’t, I know — and it’s an ordinary day … and Lonnie Galloway said as much a few days later. That was then followed by three other ordinary days, though he did score in two of those, and Dana Holgorsen was passive-aggressively challenging him in press conferences and on conference calls.
Again, this is weird because he’s been pretty good over 11 games. Has he been good enough? I don’t know. Good enough for who, is probably the better question. Did his numbers affect White? Sure. Did White’s numbers affect Alford’s? Certainly. Either way, taking away one strength took away two, and that got the running game muddy, too.
Offenses slide. Players hit slumps. But not getting deep or not going deep is one matter. Catching two or three or four passes a game is another. Maybe WVU wasn’t throwing deep. WVU was still throwing and Alford wasn’t especially prolific. And that’s a shame because he’s so beyond capable. He’s dangerous.
Here’s an ordinary play. Skyler Howard works his way to Alford and makes a simple 5-yard throw to a guy sitting in a spot in the zone, which is the sort of safe play you run with the backup quarterback and against a team that doesn’t let you go deep. It’s not supposed to be a 53-yard touchdown, but Alford gets a chance and somehow scores.
The crowd went wild. Proof again good things happen when he gets going.
How did we get here? Let’s find out by taking a look at the Good and the Bad of WVU v. Kansas State.
Has it really been three full seasons and change since West Virginia basketball was ranked? It is … or rather, it was. The 5-0 Mountaineers, who just led the defending national champion from start to finish in the title game of a preseason invitational, cracked the top 25s this afternoon.
The last time WVU was ranked? The end of the 2011 regular season. The Mountaineers would follow Dalton Pepper to a NCAA Tournament win against Clemson and then lose to Kentucky. That long ago.
Could be worse. WVU wasn’t ranked at all From March 3, 1998, to Jan. 3, 2005.
I was wondering if this streak would end this week because WVU looked just awful in its opener, and that actually made some news because it was up against Bob Huggins’ consistently bold and confident preseason praise. There was also the matter of last night’s game being played shortly before top 25 polls were due, but the voters waited for and rewarded WVU.
AP top 25: 56 of 65 ballots had WVU with the highest rank being No. 14. A total of 24 ballots had the Mountaineers ranked in the teens.
— Chuck McGill (@chuckmcgill) November 24, 2014
— WVU Men’s Basketball (@WVUhoops) November 24, 2014
Winning championships is cool. It’s the goal. It’s what schools sell kids on and it’s how kids pick schools. I doubt very much a string from the net at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off has ever tickled a prospect’s fancy, but playing for a team that’s going to go places and compete for hardware matters.
So good for West Virginia and those players Sunday night. And good for Devin Williams and Juwan Staten for making the all-tournament team … with dispatched UConn guard Ryan Boatright, who was in the middle of it all in the title game and then after.
How he made it out of there without a T or without being sent a row deep I don’t yet understand, but that’s one feisty kid who was seriously irritable last night and, as such, not exactly pleased to be mugging with Williams (who will absolutely forgive and forget and put his arm around his foe afterward) and MVP Staten (he’ll just pick his spots in a game and make you look silly) afterward.
— WVU Men’s Basketball (@WVUhoops) November 24, 2014
The Don Juan Pond isn’t that salty. Maybe Boatright, who has a history with the Mountaineers, didn’t get the whistle he deserved and maybe no one put him in his place, but there’s proof again that living well is the best revenge.
The Mountaineers, meanwhile, are 5-0 and just played three pretty good games against increasingly competitive opponents in four days. I don’t know if they know what they’re doing yet. Let’s assume they don’t, because WVU is getting better in a hurry and is still making mistakes, but fewer every time out. That’s going to continue. So they’re learning really hard, if that makes any sense, and effort and tenacity will sometimes trump skill and knowledge.
Seriously, if things get real and there’s a book and bat near you, which one are you grabbing?
The skill and knowledge are going to get there. The effort and tenacity have their feet on the ottoman, though, and I don’t think they’re going anywhere. UConn is the defending NCAA champion, if you haven’t heard, and, yeah, sure, that roster isn’t the same. But there’s pride and there are expectations there, and the Huskies were completely disheveled by the Mountaineers.
This might be just a hot start to a long season. This might be the start of something special. Neither is my point. What I mean to say, what I feel pretty comfortable saying right now, is that win or lose, you’re going to know you played WVU.
I stay dumbfounded. Got my SUV surrounded by the girls that crowd around it. And it’s true, don’t it sound big? As they knocking on the window, they just wanna get close, texts on their iPhone. My edits are in [brackets].
I’m preparing myself for heartbreak by watching my Sounders fumble their way against the Galaxy.
It’s hard to believe our last quality win over a non-conference team was against Marshall in Jan 2012 (they had a Top 50 RPI).
Prepared for a 40 minute parade celebrating UConn’s tourney run. And some casual swearing.
On pace for a foul every 8 seconds
I can miss a dunk just as good as he can!
As my friend just pointed out, Bob Huggins looks like Big Bird. Who knew?
At one point just now Huggins looked like he belonged as a backup dancer in the “Gangam Style” video.
Holton. Never. Stops. Moving.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.