Dana Holgorsen: Oklahoma State week

October 21, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Not a lot of gray area about the courtship that brought him to Oklahoma State, huh?

The Good and the Bad of WVU v. Baylor

October 21, 2014 by Mike Casazza

I feel like this senseless play was sort of significant Saturday. It shouldn’t happen, and Edward Muldrow III should be happy to be in on a play and resist the need to taunt his fallen foe. I get that. I don’t need to tell you that.

But … but West Virginia’s defense needed to have an attitude if West Virginia’s defense was to have a chance. The Mountaineers were critically timid against a bunch of teams last season, but as far as they’re concerned it was nowhere near as apparent and important as it was against Baylor. It was horrible and it left a mark they weren’t going to be able to scrub away until they got over against the Bears.

So the coaches pumped the players up all week and more or less told them to put their toes on the edge and also take a step over that line every now and then. A hard hit on a guy out who’s out of the play, and then a stare downward just to let him know who was there and that he would be there all day, was a little bit of bullying bravado.

WVU had seven personal foul penalties. Seven! And Tony Gibson was mostly OK with that because he was willing to take the blame, which in another way is to say he took the credit on a day he gave all the credit to his players. “Some of those penalties you can put on me,” the defensive coordinator said. “Those guys don’t do that stuff. They did some stupid stuff after the whistle, but we’re not coaching that. We don’t ever want to do anything cheap. That’s not what we coach. But what we did want was our kids to play hard. Play smart but play hard.” 

The Mountaineers were wound up and they had some swagger on a side of the ball that not only hasn’t had that swagger in recent times, but hasn’t had any business having that swagger. It was their buoy up to and including the point in the game when they believed they were good enough to win the game for the offense.

It was a necessary evil that WVU believed in and that WVU was coached to believe in, believe it or not.

 “The mentality this game was to play their game,” WVU running backs coach JaJuan Seider said. “We were not going to be intimidated by anybody. They were not going to come in here and run over us again. They embarrassed us last year. Call it like you see it. They kicked our butts up and down the field.

“But as a man, you’ve got to look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘That is not going to happen. Not on our field. Not in front of our crowd.’ ”

How did we get here? Let’s find out by taking a look at the Good and the Bad of freshly ranked WVU v. Baylor.

Bad: But seriously …
… 14 penalties at home against the No. 4 team in the country is a losing effort. Three turnovers is a losing effort. A minus-three in the turnover  margin is a losing effort. A svelte 2.7 yards per carry is a losing effort. WVU did a whole hell of a lot right, but on other days, it might not have been enough.

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Gibson strums a hit

October 20, 2014 by Mike Casazza

I don’t want to get too into the day Tony Gibson had Saturday, because he’s a prominent part of the G&B tomorrow, but I do want to bookend something.

I talked to him Tuesday and he, I thought boldly, said the Baylor game would be a measuring stick. Boldly, I say, because … well, to be honest, because Baylor.

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Texts from Baylor Game Day

October 20, 2014 by Mike Casazza

So, wow. Right?

West Virginia beat a top-five team at home for the first time 11 years Saturday and a day later returned to the top 25 for the first time in 102 weeks. The Mountaineers are No. 22, and they hadn’t been outside the top 25 for a longer period of time since a 214-week gap that lasted from the 1998 season to the 2002 season.

That’s a big monkey.

And I’m not going to talk about riots, nor will I admit to playing a role in them because I shared the link to the scanner on Twitter or because I broadcast some of the things that were happening in town that I witnessed. I kind of hope Dana Holgorsen, who’s been quick and right to ask for more from his fans in the past, will say something today or tomorrow when he’s available. It would be hugginsian of him, but I can understand if he does and says nothing, because others are already working on what happened.

Maybe there’s a place for the head coach or for sports to clean up or address what sports triggered, but I’m not the one to suggest that and this isn’t the place to get into all that. Plus, I’m a hangman. Arrest ‘em. Expel ‘em.

Let’s football, because I had a blast Saturday. You and I gauge our entertainment and satisfaction differently, but I reckon we walked away pretty content with the 3 hours and 59 minutes devoted to that game. I was pretty well enthralled form start to finish because I dig matchups. I was glued to the chess matches the coordinators were playing with one another and the boxing matches the players were conducting during and after plays. There were notable individual efforts and more subtle ones (wait until you see Cody Clay in tomorrow’s G&B), much like there were performances that left you wanting more because a player was either so good or so disappointing. There was action and intrigue and sadness and drama and skill and tension and laughter and excitement and screaming and singing and gasping and posturing.

There was a little or a lot of everything, which is all I can ask for. And the Mountaineers won, which is all you can ask for.

Feeling mad hostile, ran the apostle. Flowing like texts when I speak the gospel. My edits are in [brackets].

11:29 am:
Oakman going to bleed neon green today?

27 minutes until kick off and the over/under is 79. (Baylor -8.5) I’d bang the over all damn day. If betting were legal.

These teams combine to average 89.4 PPG. HOW in the blue (and gold) hell is the O/U only 79??

Do the circle!

Corso & Herbstreit just picked WVU for what it’s worth.

12:06 pm:
Spatial teams.

Literally the first thing that happens is a special teams moment. I hate knowing it’s always possible.

Good gawd that nose is gonna be a damn problem, isn’t he?

Hard to imagine a worse opening sequence than that.

Well, you can’t have a last minute comeback if you don’t fall far behind.

I didn’t even have time to send you a sarcastic text before Baylor scored.

I’ve seen better starts before.

I’m really glad I called off work for this.

You were right! Quick start WAS important!

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WVU v. Baylor: Who is the sharpest?

October 18, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Ever shave with a disposable razor? You use it that one time and it’s all right. Not ideal. Not comfortable. Not the feel or the finish you were looking for. You’re used to better performances.

But when you’re done, you look down at the sink and you see that the job is done.

Now it’s a day or two later and you’re still on the road or you’re at home and in a hurry and you see that same razor next to the toothbrush in that cup on your sink. No worries, you think. Just run it under the water. Get the blade hot. Be gracious with the shaving cream. Cross your fingers.

But at the end? Yeesh. That didn’t feel too good. It wasn’t as easy as the first time, and come to think of it, the first time wasn’t that easy, either. This is definitely not the feel or the finish you were looking for, but you’re still happy to reach the end and know what’s done is done.

But what happens when you reach Round 3? If you didn’t call the front desk or run to Walgreen’s, if you didn’t learn from the first and especially the second experience, you’re in trouble.

I think that’s where Baylor’s at today. Playing Texas and TCU back-to-back is not easy. It’s not as hard as Oklahoma and Baylor back-to-back, but you see how TCU handled that toward the end. The Bears are 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the conference, but the past two games need to be explained better to you.

Baylor went to Texas, where the defense seems to be salty and the what remains of the roster is what Charlie Strong wants, which is to say tough and physical and determined. Baylor won 28-7 and had a tough time moving the ball on offense. A week later, Baylor played host to TCU, and you know of Garry Patterson’s thumb print on defense, but what of an offense that’s playing fast and snapping the ball a whole bunch. Baylor robbed the bank and won 61-58.

I’m not sure which one of those two takes a greater toll, but for the purpose of this conversation, I’ll say the second one because of the emotion involved and the cumulative effect I don’t think you can ignore. Texas-TCU in successive weeks is a task and the opponents tax you in different ways. This is a second road trip in three weeks, and it comes after the highest of highs. Baylor meets an WVU offers an offense that’s going to go fast and a defense that’s going to attach. That razor looks pretty dull and it can do damage if the Bears aren’t careful.

Now that we’re all lathered up …

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Want to call it a comeback?

October 17, 2014 by Mike Casazza

We should be so lucky to have history repeat itself Saturday and see a game at Mountaineer Field that’s as exciting as the ones in Waco or Lubbock last weekend.

Baylor scored the final 24 points in the last 11 minutes of a 61-58 victory against really good TCU. (Aside: What happens to the Horned Frogs this week? That’s the thing I’m most interested in the Big 12 this weekend.) WVU grabbed the last 17 points int he final eight minutes to beat meh Texas Tech 37-34. (Aside again: This is your chance, Clint Bowen! You can run all over the Red Raiders.)

Now, those are different achievements. The Horned Frogs looked everything like a national championship contender for 48 minutes. And WVU was on the road in place that oftentimes makes it difficult for opponents to pull off such reversals of fortune. The Bears have that trick in their bag because they’re so dangerous on offense. The Mountaineers, well, it appears they’ve learned a thing or two about getting back into games they would have walked out on in the past.

They’re both going to score points Saturday, but when is most interesting on the eve of Round 3 between these two teams. Early? Late? Throughout? In waves?

Whatever the answer there, you get a feeling these teams, whether in lead or in the rear view mirror, won’t let this one end until the bus driver is threatening to leave them in the parking lot.

“Just believing that you can win more than anything,” Holgorsen said. “You’ve got to have kids that are experienced that believe that they can win. You better have a tight team that sticks together when they’re down. They clearly have a tight team with all the games they’ve been able to win.

“I can’t say enough about our coaches and players. We had a great halftime, we were down 21-10, made a lot of adjustments, motivated, challenged each other. Nobody gave up, everybody stuck together and found a way to win there at the end.”

After Baylor trailed by three touchdowns against TCU, it had scoring drives of four plays for 45 yards, five plays for 92 yards and five plays for 91 yards to tie the game at 58-58. Meanwhile, the TCU offense had 18 plays for 53 yards on three drives that didn’t muster a point.

“It’s just amazing to me the team that we have,” Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty said. “I was going up and down the sideline like ‘Hey guys, we got this’ and they would look at me like ‘Yeah, I know.’

“It’s just confidence, that I got your back, you got my back, we’ve been through worse. It was just a matter of time before things started picking up.”

But before all of that, you have tonight and the Gold-Blue Debut at 7 p.m. at the Coliseum.

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Celebrity enorsement

October 16, 2014 by Mike Casazza

You know what was a tricky and ultimately awesome part of the book-writing process? Getting the right person to do the foreword and the proper combination of people to do the blurbs. I got lucky on both. The blurbs were amazing and to this day I’m sort of moved by the foreword, the guy who wrote it and how it all came together. It’s one of my favorite things from my career.

Anyhow, the point is you need clout. I don’t even have the most sway in my house (the beagle and the wife can duke it out over who’s No. 1), so how was I going to sell books on a topic many people know and write about with my name alone, right?

Something funny has happened in the past week or so. I’m determined (and I can’t use that word lightly enough) to lead a charge to name Morgantown’s minor-league baseball team the Moonshiners. I’m not hung up on the stereotypes, and I hate to tell you this if you are, but naming the team the Rhodes Scholars wouldn’t make those disappear. I know most of the players won’t be 21, but most of the fans won’t be baseball players. I tend to think Gatorade will suffice as an in-game beverage, too.

I know people who had family members who ‘shined back in the day and the story is one of a pioneering spirit and survivalism and other positive attributes. It fits, not unlike all the redeemable qualities people draw from the coal business. I keep going back to the day I spoke to Bob Rich, and the guy who owns the team sighed when I suggested, hypothetically, the team could be named the Miners or Black Diamonds. Even he wants something different.

“That ‘Wild and Wonderful,’ I take that seriously being a sportsman, a hunter and a fisherman,” Rich said. “That’s one thing I love about this state, and I think West Virginia has a chance to explode when you realize what great resources you have for outdoor living.

“That, to me, strikes to the essence of the community. Clearly coal miners and mountain men, those things are part of a great past, but I think it’s going to be a fun experience to see what people have to say about the name of their team.”

My quest has been on Twitter, because it doesn’t belong here, and there have been some interesting exchanges with people for and against. It’s all been fun, which is the point I’m trying to make. Moonshiners is just a fun team name, and these minor league experiences are, by and large, based on being fun.

But now I have people actively working against me, which is kind of cool. But you have no idea how competitive I am. I’m the most competitive person you do or do not know. And yesterday, I sought out the heavy artillery and shook up the world.

Look, I asked with a tinge of trepidation and knew it could backfire because he’s always talking about coal this and miners that, which is fine. But I went there and he went there with me and now I’ve got a face for my campaign.

Speaking of that face, here’s the much-more-mobile Huggins speaking yesterday at Big 12 media day.

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Bill Self goes hungry

October 15, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Bob Huggins and Bill Self spent a moment chatting together before breaking off to speak to the media for about an hour Tuesday at the Big 12′s basketball media day, and that little window into their friendship inside the Sprint Center reminded me of a story from last season.

Huggins and West Virginia beat Self and Kansas inside the Coliseum on March 8, the final game before the conference tournament. Huggins has a clause in his contract that pays him $25,000 for winning a regular-season game against the Jayhawks.

You’ll remember that clause was the source of some confusion. Huggins wasn’t sure why it was included in a deal that he felt would take care of him nicely without it. His agent, Richard Katz, was responsible for it and athletic director Oliver Luck didn’t think it mattered much to slip it in at the end of the negotiations.

And truth be told, Self wasn’t even that concerned with it, which is not to say he was beyond having some fun with it.

“I think the world of Bob Huggins and consider him a good friend,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I’m going to do everything I can to keep money out of his pocket, and if I don’t, I know who’s buying dinner.” 

Self updated the situation Tuesday as to whether Huggins has picked up a check.

“You know what? He hasn’t,” Self said. “He’s too tight. Tell him that.”

Wednesday Walkthrough: Baylor

October 15, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Good morning. I’m in Kansas City for Big 12 basketball media day. Here’s the Walkthrough.

And below, I’ll try to update things from the Sprint Center, which is the worst place for WiFi and me.

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Dana Holgorsen: Baylor week

October 14, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Thanks to BlueGoldNews.com for the video. We had equipment issues today that I haven’t experienced before, but here’s today’s presser.