Bad: That game!
Least enjoyable of the season, on my side of the glass. The Marshall game was entertaining and alluring. JMU was a little less than that, but you saw the defense flex a little after the offense sputtered. Maryland was oddly interesting and I liked watching Stefon Diggs.
Texas was one of the best games I’ve seen in person. Texas Tech, for me, was compelling because it was so unexpected — the style of defeat, more than the actual defeat — and then Kansas State forced all of us to ask some serious questions.
TCU, I’m sorry to say, was a blast for me — the momentum changes, the deadline writing, the fun finish — and Oklahoma State had by far the best postgame of the season. Oklahoma was a good game and Iowa State had a nice, easy story.
That thing Saturday was a mess and the Jayhawks offered the least resistance of any opponent, by far, this season. I honestly thought they’d be more competitive and that the coaches would be more imaginative, though credit WVU for minimizing the likelihood and the danger of both.
I also felt like TFGD and this would suffer as a result, but I was happily mistaken. Remember this?
Interesting that someone would bring the “D-Fence” sign to a WVU game.
Which makes me think . . . “D-Forest” sign?
Good: Excellent question
Now let me ask you a question: Which do we prefer?
… or …
… or …
It’s been a long season, but I’ve really enjoyed the Good/Bad features and I greatly appreciate your comments expressing approval and motivating me to push through games like Saturday’s. I wasn’t sure how this would turn out this year, but I thought we’d have something and I think we do as we move forward to the Pinstripe Bowl.
How did we get here? Let’s take a look by examining the Good and the Bad of WVU v. Kansas.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one, OK? WVU is in a short-yardage situation and it’s third or fourth down and — what’s that? You have heard it? WVU runs right? Probably gets stuffed? Maybe not, because it’s Kansas? But it’s definitely going right?
Check out Kansas on this. There are nine players lined up across center Joey Madsen and to his right and I’d bet all nine thought Tavon Austin was getting the ball and going right, either through the line or on a toss outside. WVU has run right in short-yardage spots all season and Tavon had a nice little addition to the package last week.
This just fooled Kansas and Andrew Buie had no trouble scoring.
Best game since Texas, though we got the answer to the “How will be be after 34 touches against the Longhorns?” in a prolonged form the past seven games. He’s not an every down guy and his wheelhouse sleeps 12 to 15 carries a game and 18 or so touches.
He can be very effective and you saw it in the second half when he was chunking up a gassed Kansas defense, but, man, do I think he can start and star if there’s a Shawne Alston like bully to soften things up just a bit.
Not to say WVU’s pass defense is a target, but Charlie Weis started the guy he benched five games ago to totally abandon the running offense that had been the team’s identity. Then Weis lets Dayne Crist go deep on the first snap which, let’s be honest, is perfectly understandable.
And Crist misses. You knew it was going to be a bad game right there.
Good: Kwiatkoski with KO
Confession: I’ve been ready to give Nick Kwiatkowski a Good a few times in the past. He seems to show up a lot for a guy who’s only asked to do a few things. But he makes plays on special teams and makes tackles or pass breakups on defense. I didn’t want to hurry aboard the bandwagon, or in my case, start the bandwagon.
I guess I have a reputation for these things with Jim Lewis and Cecil Level and K.J. Dillon, but also Karl Joseph. A week or so ago, someone — I Don’t wAnt to Name names — joked that I was off schedule and needed to be writing enthusiastically about Kwiatkoski. Let me just say I really like the way he’s played since the post-Kansas State open week.
Buie is the running back next to Geno Smith. Watch Buie fake action to the left, which pulls the defense that way. He then comes back right and attempts a block that, ideally, would spring Tavon through the right.
Creases and pursuit are keys for Tavon in the run game. He’s not a tackle-breaker, and WVU doesn’t want that, but he can speed through lanes and he can devastate a defense that’s out of position and has to pursue. The counter action creates both openings and pursuit.
I hadn’t seen WVU do this and it would have worked if Buie finished the block. WVU didn’t give up on it, though…
Here’s some knucklehead from September, staring at a laptop screen with wide eyes:
How far is Smith from something even crazier than what he’s been doing, like completing every pass?
“He’s very close to it,” WVU quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital said.
So, how close? How about this close …
That’s Geno’s only incomplete pass and I assure you the Mountaineers were miffed about it after the game. The blitzer makes an athletic move to get around Alston’s block and that disrupts Geno just enough to spoil this play.
Stedman Bailey is the target. You can tell he’s open early before Geno has to reset because he feels the pressure. Bailey’s timing is interrupted and he has to look around for other defenders if he’s going to extend the play. Geno is ready to throw and Stedman is in his spot.
By now, defenders are looking for the ball and Tyler Patmon has enough time to leave his assignment and get to the ball before Stedman.
I was furious.
WVU has used a lot of pre-snap motion the past three games. I’m not sure if it’s more than any other time, but it’s more effective. We’ve gone over this previously, but the motion is just another thing to worry about on defense. You’d hate to think all the things you’ve identified before the snap is going to change and rain chaos on you immediately before the snap, but that’s the threat WVU poses.
There are the sweeps and the hot potato plays and the simple way how moving one receiver from one side of the field to the other changes all the matchups.
What WVU has done of late, though, has aided the running game. A lot of the motion takes away the defender on the back end of the play who can catch WVU’s running back. Defensive end, outside linebacker, defensive back, whoever, but WVU had slowed that.
WVU wants to get Tavon to the second level where he can run by defenders or make them miss. Alston isn’t as fast, but he’s dangerous, too, if he gets to the second level and can impose himself on tacklers.
Getting rid of that one defender with motion that either blocks the defender on the back end of the play or makes him hesitate has worked nicely and it really hurt Kansas, which liked to send pressure from the outside.
Good: Did I say motion?
Four receivers, send a fifth out, where the fifth is a 230-pound running back evacuating the backfield. And this is near the end zone. Two defenders move out of the box in the middle of the field. Everything is leaning to the right here, but WVU runs the play left, where there is a 4-on-3 advantage on middle screen that is easier than you could have ever imagined.
Motion helps the pass game, too, I guess.
Bad: Once more, with feeling
WVU’s defense didn’t do many bad things and it would be wrong to make more of this than what it was, which was a bad play on an otherwise good day against a bad offense that got behind a very good offense.
That said, Garrett Hope misses a sack, the quarterback gets outside and Pat Miller gets spun around and lets his receiver get behind him and Miller never recovers to make a play on the ball. This happens to teams, but it happens to WVU a good bit.
(Coaches like Hope, by the way. He or Francis get the mentions as the best blitzer and he really makes a good move to get to the quarterback, but he’s got to remember it’s a quarterback and he’s a linebacker. Just go get the guy. That’s what’s made him such a player on special teams.)
Good: Run defense
The worry WVU’s coaches had was defending the Kansas option. The Mountaineers hadn’t seen it all year and it’s a hell of a thing to get ready for.
Obviously, Joe DeForest didn’t tell me his plan, and I didn’t ask him about it later, but it seemed like WVU kept it very simple and took away the pitch man and was willing to live with the quarter back running and getting hit and having to deal with the likes of Karl Joseph and Darwin Cook.
But it wasn’t quite that easy, and here’s why. Watch Terence Garvin totally ignore the pitch on the fourth-and-short play — the one that all but ended the game for Kansas. WVU crashes inside. If there is a fake inside and a pitch outside, it goes a long way. The pressure won the play.
Bad: Karl Joseph
No idea if the safety for one of the nation’s worst defenses can be named the Big 12′s defensive freshman of the year. I suspect TCU defensive end Devonte Fields will get a lot of votes and probably win the award and I’d be all right with that.
But Joseph is no less deserving and the No. 3 hitter in your lineup could have made this really interesting if he catches the pass and scores the touchdown here. So close! Instead, it’s just a pedestrian pass break up.
(Also, let’s be serious and acknowledge Joseph gets a good for this. It’s a very nice, fundamental, technique-sound play in coverage. I’m just having fun with him because he’s gotten so man Goods this season. And deservedly so. Quite a 12 games for the young man.)
Good: No jukes needed
See what I mean? Another good play. He’s just in the right spot here, where he can get a deflected pass. And what might a two-interception game have meant for Joseph and the Big 12 award? I’m also a fan of his total lack of open field moves. The bulldozer move is more Joseph than a spin move.
Good: J.D. Wow
No need to get too wordy here. It’s just a wonderful play by J.D. Woods. Note the playaction and the route, though …
How much of WVU’s damage was done on passes in the middle of the field? Most of it, right? Tavon was sweeping across the middle. Stedman and Woods were was running deep posts in 1-on-1 coverage. Woods scored a touchdown in the middle of the end zone. You get the idea.
There was an occasional throw to Woods or Stedman on the sideline or to Ryan Nehlen on a quick screen, but the Mountaineers did a lot of work in and across the middle of the field because they seemed to love the matchup against the Kansas secondary.
Here we are near the end zone and Geno rolls right and WVU actually goes to the outside and Stedman is completely uncovered. How in the world does that happen? Follow Stedman at the bottom of the screen. Before he ends up alone in the left corner, he fakes inside and crosses up the cornerback covering him.
Said corner had to think the middle was the target again, especially on a play-action fake, which is how WVU has hit so many deep posts, like the one to Woods above.
WVU switched it up at an ideal moment
Good: Tavon Austin, vertical threat
I suppose this wasn’t a middle-of-the-field play, either, but how often has Tavon run a deep route and made a wide receiver-type play on the ball to get a catch? Not often. The cornerback is Greg Brown, a pretty good player who teams tend to avoid on account of his 14 passes defended this season. Tavon’s jump is at the right time and in the right place.
This was a showcase game for him. If not for Heisman voters, than for judges of NFL talent. There is a Percy Harvin-esque quality about Tavon. That’s the common comparison I hear, and I can dig it, but I’ve heard Dexter McCluster’s name a lot, too, and that hasn’t worked out well. Whatever success he has is going to depend perhaps almost solely on whether the team that drafts him has a clue how to use him.
This is not Miller’s fault and it’s not Cook’s fault. It’s just bad circumstances. WVU sent Miller on a cornerback blitz. You see Miller and Cook communicating as they are supposed to do before the play. Cook slides right over in coverage when Kansas sends the running back out wide.
The offensive play just beat the defensive play, but really only because Miller couldn’t be a factor before the quarterback made a perfect throw to a running back who happens to be a talented receiver.
Good: Charlie Weis can’t believe this
I have to admit that I was surprised this was called, too. Was I as incredulous as Weis? Probably not, but it’s never happened to WVU this season and I can’t recall it being called in any other game I watched.
This was one of the things officials were supposed to pay closer attention to this year, but the culprits were supposed to be centers. I’m not even sure the Kansas quarterback is so flagrant here that he deserves a penalty. Just an odd call, though I suppose by the letter of the law it is illegal.
The lip-reading is quite fun, though.
Good: Counter example
Back to the well here! Dustin Garrison is the running back to Geno’s left and the defense keys on the “blocking” back to see where the play goes. Garrison fakes left, gives the defense a brief delay and then slashes right and helps Tavon to the edge.
And, oh, the drama …
I could tell from the press box throughout the game that Shannon Dawson and Dana Holgorsen were goofing on Tavon for not getting a touchdown despite his array of high lights — and Dana even said as much during his pre-halftime interview.
At one point in the second quarter, Tavon got close and then held up his right index finger to ask for one more play. He was deprived the touchdown. The play before this one is the clip before this one and the Mountaineers and the fans were just dying to get Tavon a touchdown. Good for them.