The Good and the Bad of WVU v. Oklahoma

September 23, 2014 by Mike Casazza


So much of what follows today is going to require something of a constant reminder, so let’s get it out of the way. Yeah, but that was Oklahoma on the other side. It’s impossible to disprove or dispute that, and the point is a lot of the Bad things can be countered or accompanied by that line and I won’t so much as blink because they’ve got good guys. In many spots, they’ve got better guys. You can treat the Good stuff similarly because it came at the expense of the same opposition. I have to think West Virginia saw a playoff team Saturday night, and I think Alabama is good enough to be there at the end, though to be honest, the rest of the SEC West might complicate matters more than the rest of the Big 12 will test the Sooners.

Anyhow, I found myself watching this game in person and then for this thinking, “They didn’t play too badly.” It got out of sorts late, but as Oklahoma opened up a lead, Oklahoma poured on the pressure and it derailed a lot of what the Mountaineers were doing, and some of that was compromised even before the game by the fact that — let’s hear it — that was Oklahoma on the other side. And then defensively, the sustained effect and impact of the running game was too much, too.

But I thought WVU did all right and did things it wanted but also missed some openings and then ran out of gas or answers or both. The pressure overwhelmed guys, but I thought WVU did things to the defensive line and yet just never broke runs beyond the first level. The secondary help up fine and the receivers did their jobs, but Sooners receivers and defensive backs affected the outcome in various ways.

It happens and there’s still a gap WVU has to close, and WVU has to take care of special situations better than it is now. The defense has only forced three turnovers and the offense hasn’t scored after any of them. Against Alabama, Maryland and Oklahoma, the defense has allowed 21 scores (13 touchdowns) and the offense has only followed with nine scores (seven touchdowns). The defense has forced 10 three-and-outs, but the offense has matched that in punts (three) and “turnovers” (one a fumble, one on downs) and only scored three times (one touchdown).

It’s sort of alarming to look at those numbers and think how close or how far the Mountaineer are from where they want to be.

“For the most part, we’re moving the ball, but the biggest deal is gaining momentum at the right time,” WVU offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. “It doesn’t seem like we’re really able to get the — I guess the right word would be ‘understanding’ — of when it’s time to put the throttle down and get momentum back.”

But I know we’ve been over this before: Inches!

All of which leads me to the picture up top. This is the second snap of the game. You can see the ball on the way from the center to the quarterback and you can see the ROLB is already on his way to the pocket. That’s Eric Striker and he’s a missile with a ludicrous first step. I don’t think he had the snap count down two plays in, and it’s possible he got a bead on Adam Pankey on film, but after 29 seconds, he changes the game with this otherwise little matter. He gets off the line in a hurry, he gets the sack, Pankey plays most of the rest of the game sunk back a little with his outside foot deep and you saw WVU use a ton of Cody Clay and/or Eli Wellman and even some Russell Haughton-James.

The more you need and use those guys, the less you use your playmakers on offense. As the game wore on and pressure mounted, WVU also lost its ability to make big plays. It’s all on a string.

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

Good: Perine
Keith Ford must be a six-time All Pro if he was keeping carries away from this guy. When Ford gets back and the Sooners figure out how to balance Ford and Samaje Perine and mix in Alex Ross, good friggin’ luck. Watch Perine run and you think, “Dude’s a tank.” And you’re right because, naturally, that’s his nickname. He’s 5-foot-11 and 245 pounds, but he made some cuts and some reads that speak to a separate skill that makes him a little more dangerous than just a keg rolling down a hill. We could go over many of this 31 carries, but this one, I thought, spoke to this game. The Mountaineers have eight in the box and the Sooners are not impressed. Blake Bell (Aside: I was very impressed.) spins Brandon Golson out and the fullback ripkowskis through the hole and blasts K.J. Dillon. Then the left guard and the right tackle climb the ladder and take out Ish Banks and Nick Kwiatkoski and Perine accelerates and detonates. WVU never got to that second level. The Sooners spent a lot of time there.

Bad: Omen

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Texts From Oklahoma Game Day

September 22, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Transitive property time! Oklahoma beats Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, 45-31. Alabama beats West Virginia 33-23. Oklahoma beats West Virginia 45-33. Oklahoma is better than Alabama is better than West Virginia and West Virginia plays a more competitive game against Alabama than it does against Oklahoma.

In a vacuum, it all makes sense — and since it’s in a vacuum, it still sucks for you. Stepping back, 2-2 feels about right and 2-2 would have felt about right July 31, except I think that since your squad had a pair of above average showings in both losses, it probably feels better. Conversely, it’s been close enough and accompanied by a quantity of self-inflicted stuff (anything) that you probably feel as though you could feel better. It’s all easy to digest, really, and the losses don’t require much of an explanation. Alabama and Oklahoma were and are superior teams up front on offense and defense. The Mountaineers are not yet good enough to avoid meaningful mistakes or to make and overcome those errors.

Getting beat by errors is a pretty common thing in football. Preventing them is a rare, desirable and constructive trait. Can’t do much about the former, but can certainly do something about the latter. In other words, there are no [brackets] on the field. There are plenty below, of course, and I don’t have to tell you when it gets Willie McGee Ugly. Never changed though, I’m just the new version of old me. Forever hot headed but never got cold feet. Got up in the game, won’t look back at my old seats. Texts so deep we take up the whole street. My edits are in [brackets].

When I cross that state line on 68 the air smells better the Sun shines brighter and the leaves look just a bit prettier.

Desmond Howard said on Gameday that West Virginia was really good on special teams, referencing the kick return for a TD against Alabama. Oh boy…

Birthday Cake Moonshine today in the Blue Lot #goacc

Leave no doubt

552 and first cej

Four turnovers by Bama. Could’ve used those in Atlanta.

Boomer? I barely know her!

Should we put any significance on the fact that Dave Wanna text is in the stadium?

Wannstedt even

I saw Clint Trickett throwing passes at Mountaineer Field. His hair was perfect. Owwwwww….Werewolves of Morgantown. Owwwww….

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WVU v. Oklahoma: Who will answer the bell?

September 20, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Greetings from above Mountaineer Field, where there is a good football game coming bad news preceding it. Cornerback Travis Bell is not playing today. All I’m told is that he’s won’t be in uniform, and though the reason is not yet disclosed and the length of his absence is unknown, it does further deplete West Virginia’s thinning depth there.

And it is here where we note that Dana Holgorsen went into great depth about his cornerback play at his press conference Tuesday and never named Bell, who didn’t play against Maryland.

Moving  on, Daryl Worley, we know, is suspended and Bell will be elsewhere today. Ishmael Banks will see his first action of the season today and Jaylon Myers figures to get his most sign.ificant burn, too. Terrell Chestnut has been on a roll, but he’s never been in a role like he is now. Dana Holgorsen’s comments about depth are going to have to ring true again today.

Let’s go deep…

Attorneys: Worley defended girlfriend

September 19, 2014 by Mike Casazza

MORGANTOWN — Attorneys representing suspended West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley presented Friday a second version of the events that led to the sophomore facing a misdemeanor battery charge.

A press release signed by Rocky Gianola and Dave Jecklin, of the Morgantown firm Gianola, Barnum, Bechtel & Jecklin, contends Worley “defends his long-time girlfriend from an advancing female bar patron who had earlier that night threatened to fight his girlfriend.”

Citing eyewitness statements, the press release says “the advancing female grabs Daryl’s girlfriend’s leg immediately before the video shows him pushing the female away in a non-provoking manner.”

A press release from the Morgantown Police Department Wednesday said only that surveillance video from the downtown night club Lux, where the incident occurred, shows Worley put his hands around a woman’s neck and pushed her to the ground.

Worley’s attorneys further say that their version is “corroborated not only by the video but also by several eye witness statements that we have obtained.”

“When all the facts and circumstances are released,” they continued, “we are confident that it will demonstrate that there is more to this story than what is being reported.”

Worley, 19, turned himself in Wednesday and was arraigned and released on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond. The maximum punishment for Worley’s charge is a year in jail and a $500 fine.

The Mountaineers, who play host to No. 4 Oklahoma Saturday night, suspended Worley indefinitely Monday night without seeing a video of the incident, university officials told the Charleston Daily Mail Thursday. WVU had not seen the video when Worley was charged two days later.

A police spokesperson said the video is not currently obtainable through a public records request or for the media to view because it’s considered evidence as part of an ongoing investigation. At least one media outlet has reported seeing the video. It also detailed the footage.

“Some members of the media are making conclusions regarding the video of the incident involving our client. … We ask everyone to please remember that everyone, including Daryl, is considered innocent until proven guilty,” the attorneys wrote.

When Worley was arraigned in Morgantown Magistrate Court, he and Jecklin were informed the next court date for the case might not be before November. Friday’s press release suggests a quicker conclusion.

“We intend to discuss Daryl’s version of events, the video, the eye witness statements, and all the evidence with the prosecutor at the appropriate time,” the release read. “This matter will be resolved through the court system.”

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at or 304-319-1142. His blog is at Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

Friday Feedback

September 19, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Welcome to the Friday Feedback which … man, this was tremendously tremendous.

We were already friends with and fans of Chris B. Brown. Now I want a Tony Jefferson jersey.

We also had reminders about Bad Twitter this week thanks to the the sort of stuff I’m certain we’ll get into and try to deftly manage here. But going back to the to-and-fro above, wow, what memories from that night. I’ve never seen something like that before, something so electric and so unexpected, and I can’t remember something so great being, ultimately, so unfulfilling. I find it funny how many people I come across who who think WVU won that night. Same thing with the Quincy Wilson run in that one Miami game.

Anyhow, don’t expect something quite like that tomorrow night. Oklahoma’s defense is nothing like what it was that night, when Dana Holgorsen sprung one of the great cat-and-mouse surprises ever. The Sooners are a 3-4/3-3-5 now that gets by on a mean front and uncomfortable coverage in the back, and they made changes due in large part to getting pantsed that one night. There was a cumulative effect, of course, and things had been trending that way, but it reached a crescendo right there. In the past season-plus, Oklahoma’s been as disruptive, as stingy, as good as anyone at defense.

It’s interesting, because one of WVU’s great positives when playing Oklahoma was familiarity. They run, in essence, the same offense. One may differ from the other in certain areas, but how they’ve learned and how they teach the offense is so similar that it’s easy for one to understand and anticipate the differences of the other. And since they are operating the same offenses, they understand how to defend it because they know what they don’t like to see from opposing defenses.

Then the Sooners go off and change what they do on defense, and you wonder, until you say, “Whoa, hey, it’s a 3-3-5!” It is and it isn’t. Eric Striker is that swing guy, like K.J. Dillon is for WVU. They’re not the same player, as Dillon is more safety than linebacker and Striker is more linebacker than safety. Striker makes Oklahoma more of a versatile 3-4 whereas Dillon completes the 3-3-5. And, please, stop me if you’ve heard this, but WVU rolls with the odd stack. Oklahoma is an odd front and with its own preferences for how it plays the gaps and such. It’s different, but, again, the basics are close enough that there’s some value in it as one gets ready for the other.

The major and, I don’t know, overlooked and underpublicized part of this? WVU’s offense is — prepare yourself — better this season than it was in the influential 2012 game. Reason being? Having two outside receivers is more beneficial than having one outside and one slot receiver.

“I think overall we’re probably a better offensive unit than we were then,” WVU offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Shannon Dawson said.

Bailey and Austin — with sizable contributions from Geno Smith — made the 2012 offense the best the school has seen. White and Alford do more for this offense because of what they do to the defense. Bailey was an outside receiver and Austin was an inside receiver. White and Alford are both outside receivers.

The difference matters.

“If you ask defensive guys, I think the overall threat level from outside guys is more threatening than from inside guys when those (outside) guys can take it to the house whenever,” Dawson said. “An outside guy being a threat, I think that probably scares a defense a little more than an inside guy, so having two of those guys is a good thing.”

Onto the Feedback. As always, comments appear as posted. In other words, copying has consequences.

JP said:

Kevin White looks like a man among boys on the field. I guess he’s the answer to my where’s the next Dez Bryant/Michael Crabtree complaint. He let a pass to him in the back of the end zone bounce off his hands though.

I am surprised about Alford’s proficiency at catching fade route jump balls, since he doesn’t have the height advantage that White has.

Our defense came up with so many big stops. It’s nice to have a couple decent corners so that you can bring more pressure more often. And when they dropped 7 or 8 into coverage, they still consistently pressured the Md QB with a 3 or 4 man rush. Who is the d lineman coach again? Oh that’s right, Scrap Bradley.

Starting with Scrap, you’re seeing Hyman and Nwachukwu benefit from game reps. I thought they were better at the end of Saturday’s game than they were when it started. As for White, he’s jumping up draft boards, and this is not thought to be an especially strong draft class for receivers. One drop — and it was somewhat defended on the way down — won’t damage him. Alford has underrated body control, too. He can play bigger when he measures his strides, which then expands his catching radius for fades and deep balls.

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You’ll Never Talk Alone: S3E4

September 18, 2014 by Brad McElhinny

We’re live at 11 a.m. for the weekly football chat and all your thoughts and questions about WVU v. Oklahoma plus whatever else calls to mind. Tell the world!

Live Blog You’ll Never Talk Alone: S3E4

Daryl Worley charged

September 17, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Daryl Worley turned himself in to city police this afternoon, not long after a warrant was issued for his arrest Wednesday. Worley is accused of grabbing a woman by the throat and shoving her to the ground during an altercation at a downtown nightclub. The misdemeanor battery charge is punishable buy up to a year in jail and a $500 fine. He was arraigned in Morgantown Magistrate Court and released on a $10,000 bond.

The Morgantown Police Department press release from this afternoon:


It cements many of the whispers we’ve heard the past 36 hours, and there are other extenuating details and circumstances in the wind that have not yet been solidified. Whether those are part of the reality, and whether that even matter given the offense, is to be determined.

Wednesday Walkthrough: Oklahoma

September 17, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Sorry for the delay. Working the latest on Daryl Worley.

Dana Holgorsen: Oklahoma Week

September 16, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Will you or won’t you read into the cryptic Darly Worley status?

The Good and the Bad of WVU v. Maryland

September 16, 2014 by Mike Casazza



This guy. Unbelievable.

He was in that very position on that very play for five full seconds, and you can see all the looks he was getting once it happened. He was driven into the ground and had to mess with his helmet and blink a few times once he did get back up to his feet. And it wasn’t that kind of hit, which underscores the caution Dana Holgorsen and Shannon Dawson insist upon when they praise and critique Clint Trickett.

But for a moment, however brief, I wondered and likely you wondered what was going to happen Saturday and the eight Saturdays and one Thursday that follow because of what happened on the ninth play here.

And homey plays 99 more snaps and throws for 511 yards. The starting quarterback for the New York Jets is the only guy to top that, but no one in WVU lore has thrown for more yards in a road game.

Let’s go with the Geno Smith comparisons, shall we? Physically, there aren’t many except that they throw the ball with the same arm and they had the early part of their WVU careers altered by injuries. I guess when they want to be or have to be they’re similarly capable, if that’s the right word, with their legs, but Geno was bigger and had a better arm.

But Clint has more yards through three games here than Geno had in the first three games of his three seasons … and Peak Geno only had one three-game span at any point in any season with more yards (1,405 yards in the second, third and fourth games of the 2012 season against FCS James Madison, game Maryland and atrocious Baylor … though that remains the gold standard for quarterback play.) Clint’s done this against Alabala, two-plus quarters of FCS Towson and game Maryland. This is heady stuff.

Geno had more touchdowns in the first three in 2012, but just as many in the first three in 2011 (seven) that Clint has now. Geno’s completion percentage in 2012, with rare exceptions, was ridiculous, but Clint is better in 2014 than Geno was in 2011, and he shouldn’t be made to apologize for 75.4 percent merely because it pales in comparison to Geno’s 81.4 percent to start the 2012 season.

I think Clint sees things Geno saw, whether before or during the snap or when things get dicey, and that speaks to an awareness, a comfort, a zone that is hard to reach and harder to attain. WVU can do and set up and take the things it wants, where that almost never happened last season, with or without Clint, who I just realized secured First Name status here. Anyhow, the ball is going to the right place with very few exceptions, and when you’re snapping it 90 or so times a game and throwing on about half of them, to say nothing of being in charge of whether to run or throw on most of them, that’s sort of special.

The weapons around both matter, but that’s another comparison and another conversation for another day.  How did we get here? Let’s find out by taking a look at the Good and the Bad of WVU v. Maryland.

Good: Hidden yardage
My head was not down and I was not writing as this happened because this whole drive was captivating. Consider it started with Jordan Thompson’s decision to let a punt bounce at his 22-yard line and roll back 17 yards to give his team a chance to win the game and a directive to not set up Maryland’s game-winning possession. Then Dreamius Smith gets four straight carries after carrying just three times all game and only days after his running backs coach sized him up. Then Dustin Garrison trots on the field and catches that laser screen that always looks a tick away from disaster, but he manages to turn it into a 13-yard savior on third-and-9. Then Daikiel Shorts makes a play. Then … well, you get the point. But those are three reserves in the critical sequence of the game, and all along the clock is ticking away and the Mountaineers seem lost in “Well, we wanted to be careful and at worst punt with just a little time left and Maryland showing no timeouts, and now we might win and we have three timeouts and every reason to believe we can do this, so how do we not screw this up to put a cherry atop this sundae?” And they didn’t screw it up. It was fantastic and you sort of have to believe Holgorsen when he says they executed it perfectly. You’re inclined to believe that was the plan. Look, his brand of football requires constant audibles, so you have to allow for some wild moments, and that was one drawn-out wild moment. And it worked, right down to the scream-inducing pass here that is actually necessary. I knew the numbers: Josh Lambert is 1-for-5 from 50 yards and out in his career, and 35 + 17 = 52. A 52-yard kick requires a low trajectory, and Lambert has had two kicks blocked this season that were inside 50 yards. So, yeah, four yards is valuable. WVU knew it and Maryland didn’t. Call a timeout there, as many wanted Holgorsen to do, and then go run a play and Maryland can cover it. There was no timeout and there is a huge cushion in front of Mario Alford. That set up the game-winner, which was inside 50 yards.

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