Charles Sims was named WVU’s offensive player of the week Monday, which is fine. I don’t disagree. I suspect others wouldn’t, either. Those 100-yard games have been hard to come by for the Mountaineers. More and more this appears to a team that either will or must lean on the run and Sims flashed speed and power and cuts across 23 carries to get 120 yards and a score.
I couldn’t get past Daikiel Shorts, though. Seven catches, 63 yards and the game’s quintessential contribution (we’ll get to that later). The Mountaineers, long without a third receiver until Shorts was moved fro the outside late in camp, were able to use three-receiver sets quite a bit, which subsequently made four-receiver sets an option. He had no stage fright and he gave Paul Millard, who, by the way, was new and in search for a good start, a target early, which Millard no doubt remembered later.
But on top of that, Shorts is exactly like the player you’d create in NCAA Football. Did you see him Saturday? An eye black strip under one eye. A pair of bicep bands on each arm. A half-sleeve up both arms. Gloves. Tremendous.
Personally, my Daikiel Shorts would have had a visor, but give the young man some time. He’s even technically Daikiel Shorts III. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t name a created player that. Don’t.
Oh, and your freshman receiver and mine would be good enough to start right away, which the 6-foot, 200-pound Shorts certainly is. His performance was promising and he gave us a replacement for “Everything’s coming up Milhouse!”
He gets the first Good of the season, and I trust it won’t be his last. We have so much more to cover, though, so let’s begin the Good and the Bad of WVU v. William & Mary.
Good: Is that Tom Dempsey?
So I was under the distinct impression WVU had no one who could get the ball into the end zone. I believe I was misled, though Michael Molonari had some help with a breeze that aided his first two career kickoffs into the end zone. Even the ones into the wind that came up short were better than decent.
I have to think that’s a significant and welcome development for Joe DeForest. Speaking of …
Good: Special teams
I wrote in the game blog that we were on the cusp of a special teams meltdown. Tre McBride — Good! — broke a kickoff return, Garrett Hope put his hands through someone’s back and then disagreed with the call, Jordan Thompson muffed a punt, Josh Lambert missed a field goal, Mark Glowinski forgot he was on the field goal team … wait a second …
Bad: Special teams
Molinari was sharp and Nick O’Toole was an indispensable part of the win, but you also saw, and just read, things that are common in an opening game. It happens. Truth be told, Lambert’s field goal was 55 yards and the first attempt of his career, and it was Glowinski and not DeForest who necessitated the timeout.
I’m not even mad about Dana Holgorsen opting for the field goal instead of running #TeamGoForIt out onto the field. It sent a very clear message to Lambert, and let’s be honest: There were 58,000 people who at that point thought field position in the first quarter was not going to be a big deal by day’s end.
First third down of the season for the defense and, as promised, Keith Patterson pounces. Allow me to tag in my partner, Mr. @SmartFootball …
.@mikecasazza 3rd down play WVU ran a 5-man rush fire zone with both nickel and strong safety (Dillon/Joseph) off the same edge
— Smart Football (@smartfootball) August 31, 2013
… and then Monday morning, because these are the things Chris thinks about at night …
— Smart Football (@smartfootball) September 2, 2013
So there! WVU didn’t do this much the rest of the game because the Tribe insisted on using seven-man protection schemes and two-man routes to protect their tackles and manage the strength/speed/agility disparity so that their QB could throw passes. It’s definitely in WVU’s repertoire.
Good: A fun question
Is K.J. Dillon (No. 9) WVU’s Honey Badger? I’ll hang up and listen.
(Oh, and look at the cornerbacks shrink that cushion before the snap. I’m not even a fan and I wanted to high-five folks there.)
Bad: Third downs
William & Mary was 5-for-10 on third down in the first half, but 0-for-4 in the second half. That gets in every story you write about the defense because, obviously, the defense was markedly better after halftime. Well, we are, if nothing else, fair here. WVU was 2-for-6 on third down in the first half and 0-for-4 in the second half. Go 2-for-10 Saturday and see what happens.
Bad: This is probably related
WVU’s running backs had one reception for 12 yards. That’s it and that was it above by Sims, a nice 12 yard gain. The Mountaineers attempted one nearly disastrous screen pass in the fourth quarter and otherwise didn’t pay much mind to the backs. I only counted five times when a running back motioned out to receiver.
We didn’t see much out of Isaiah Bruce at Spur and Brandon Golson was guilty of some first-game mistakes at Buck. The middle linebackers were troubling, though. The Tribe caught the Mountaineers again and again with passes to running backs slipping out of the backfield. Most of the time, that was a middle linebacker’s duty, and even when WVU’s guys read it and ran after it, they were too slow.
Oklahoma has a slot machine named Jalen Saunders. Trey Millard is a matchup freak. The running backs are much better receivers than the ones William & Mary have. WVU will see more passing formations and play more pass defense packages, but there’s going to be a linebacker or two out there at all times. That’s a matchup to monitor throughout the game.
Here, I have to think Jared Barber takes the cheese and covers the guy Karl Joseph was supposed to cover.
What a cut. That’s what Shawne Alston and Andrew Buie and Dreamius Smith and even Dustin Garrison lack. That play was doomed and it ended up in the end zone. Tyler Orlosky got put in the ground (that happened a few times, but William & Mary’s defensive tackles were big, tough guys) and the Tribe had numbers on the right side. Sims had the joystick, though.
Bad: The snail’s pace
William & Mary had four plays of 20 yards or more. WVU had one, and had to wait a long, long time before Millard connected with Ronald Carswell for the 69-yard touchdown. Holgorsen said he was content with the running game, but upset the backs never really got loose. Sims had a 19-yard run and that was the longest play by the backs. I’m sure Holgorsen talked this over with his team, because what are they without big plays? And I’m sure this was a play that was discussed.
When Smith gets the ball going left, there are three defenders on the play’s side. The Mountaineers have seven who will get there to block and there are two double teams. The two defenders getting double-teamed converge to make the play. I still can’t believe that.
Bad: White out
We have an idea about the quality of the inside receivers after offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson bombed them and Shorts joined them. We thought the wide receivers would take care of some of the slack in the passing game, but Ivan McCartney had a nice catch-and-run and Carswell had his play, but that was it from the wide receivers.
It didn’t help that Kevin White missed the game as he remains bothered by whatever injury is bothering him. He’s been out for a while now. We’re talking weeks. We were told it’s a foot, but that might be wrong or dated. He wasn’t on crutches or in a walking boot and he actually seemed to favor his upper body (I would think shoulder because of ginger hugs and cautious celebrations before and during the game).
Good: Hope at tight end
WVU had 11 plays with a tight end and a few of them featured the converted linebacker lining up next to a tackle. He did fine every time and that’s important because WVU can keep Cody Clay in the backfield as a fullback to better help the running game.
Have we mentioned WVU will be running the ball? There was plenty of workshopping Saturday.
Good/Bad: This quarterback switch
I thought Holgorsen did about as good a job as was possible managing the quarterback situation. I have to think that if he had his druthers, he would have had Clint Trickett in at the start of the second half, but I think Holgorsen knew he was in a battle and decided he could wait until Tuesday’s practice to learn more about Trickett. And that’s smart.
I even agree with pulling Trickett at the end of the first half. Trickett had nothing going and Millard gave WVU the best chance for points. I know I was interested to see how Millard responded. We know his history and this was the sort of situation in his past where he might have been guilty of forcing something. What does he do? He holds on too long and gets hit and fumbles.
Bad: Offensive line
During the game, I wasn’t a fan of the guards and centers. After re-watching the game Sunday, I thought the tackles were problematic as well. The Tribe pushed a lot of things outside and made the plays there. Millard puts Quinton Spain in a bad spot in the above clip, but Spain doesn’t finish his guy there. He’s got to put that guy in the front row, or at least try.
Anyhow, yes, William & Mary had a nice defensive line … but did you see Oklahoma’s Saturday? I hate to keep going back to that, but I’m stacking all these Goods on top of one another and I have to think some of it has to do with the quality of the opposition — and WVU was fortunate to win.
It was terrific for both teams, though I did give this play a “circle it” in my notes. Seemed large at the moment.
Good: Jerome Couplin III
He’s the Tribe’s very good — some will say NFL good — safety. He had 14 tackles Saturday, including the ones in the previous two clips. None was more impressive than this.
Seriously, he can get Sims in the open field near the end zone and then run through Smith in a one-on-one situation. Good player.
(Also, he’s another III. This is not a coincidence.)
McBride, as mentioned above, is a good player and he turned three receptions into gains of 40 yards, 28 yards and this second one for 40 yards. The first two were worthy of an explanation. Ickey Banks was right on McBride on the first, but didn’t track the ball at all. On the second one, honestly, I can’t believe Michael Graham threw the ball and lived to tell about it. The cornerback let McBride go and Joseph had him deep, but Joseph slipped trying to jump.
This third one is not all Cook’s fault. Travis Bell bites on the end around — and that was tricky because he’d just left that side of the field and I wonder if Bell thought that was the end of that — and Cook gets put in a bad spot. I suppose he might by now assume the worst on passing plays, but he had help screwing up that one.
Good: Help from the opponent
We had an interesting finish in store when this happened. The Tribe played with emotion and fire and poise and tact and then Zach Fetters lost his mind. It’s first-and-10 at WVU’s 40-yard line in the middle of the third quarter and all of a sudden it’s second-and-22 at the William & Mary 48 and Jimmye Laycock is calling a timeout to avoid a delay of game and the crowd is, at long last, going nuts.
After that, the Tribe had 76 yards in 19 plays on five drives, missed a field goal and threw an interception.
On the snap before this, Millard thew quickly to Carswell for a nice gain. The corner was deep and the safety was closer than a safety ought to be on a pass play, mostly because WVU ran with such success out of this formation. But Millard takes what he sees and everyone is happy.
That play ends and WVU hurries to this play, which has the same personnel and formation as the play before it. WVU now uses the success running the ball plus the previous play to its advantage. It’s easy to tell early on the Mountaineers won’t run the same play twice, which naturally suggests a running play.
It is instead a playaction pass and Carswell zips inside the cornerback and past the safety, who is still too close. That’s a win.
In addition to the plays with the tight end, WVU ran eight plays with the three-back set and 10 plays under center. We didn’t see much three-back stuff last year and we usually only saw Geno Smith under center near the goal lines and to throw fades.
Good: O’Toole boxes Tribe in deep
We had to get him in and this was one of the game’s most important plays. By this juncture, it was hard to see the Tribe having the energy, depth and success to mount a long drive.
Good: Carswell is a teammate!
Watch this closely. Shorts changes the channel for a moment, but manages to keep his wits and find the ball. That’s the biggest play of the game. It’s not even arguable. The highlight for me is Carswell, clearly inspired by his own touchdown, entering the fray late and mixing it up for no apparent reason. Shorts had K.J. Myers’ back and Carswell had Shorts’.