I’ll give you one guess when this happened — hopefully you don’t need a timeout to gather yourself. There were many frustrations for West Virginia during its 16-7 loss to Oklahoma and Dana Holgorsen (pictured) promised changes Monday on the Big 12 coaches’ teleconference.
Hours later, we received a depth chart in our email and there were five changes to the starting lineup:
1) Ronald Carswell has overtaken Ivan McCartney at one outside receiver.
2) Kevin White has supplanted K.J. Myers at the other outside receiver position.
3) Mario Alford leapfrogged Daikiel Shorts at inside receiver.
4) Pat Eger, who played center and both guard spots against the Sooners, is starting at center over Tyler Orlosky.
5) Kyle Rose is the new No. 1 at defensive end, ahead of both Dontrill Hyman and Eric Kinsey, who started the past two game. Kinsey is now a backup at Buck linebacker behind Brandon Golson.
Oh, and all three quarterbacks are bound to the starting spot by the omnipotent “or.”
This is … well, this is something, isn’t it? The QB1 thing is what it is, which is to say it’s entirely unsettled. I think it’s fair to say Carswell, White and Alford have won their spots, more than I think it’s fair to say McCartney, Myers and Shorts lost theirs. But Shorts was a non-factor against the Sooners, which, true, was his second career game and an estimable step up from William & Mary. McCartney had a bad moment in the end zone that didn’t turn out well and had other iffy plays that surely did not impress. Myers just hasn’t jumped off the page much, though he let a pass go through his hands Saturday, while White is healthy and looking dangerous.
Orlosky had a rough night and Eger was pretty good no matter where he went, but that move saps the depth at guard. So far in two games, offensive line coach Ron Crook has freely substituted players along the line. You’d prefer not to do that at center, because it’s so vital.
As for Kinsey, well, I thought Rose was great and that Hyman was active and effective in his first extended action. Kinsey was, I don’t know, all right, but putting him at Buck is interesting. He’d replace Dozie Ezemma and you have to think the coaches believe he has a chance to be good against the run or pass without putting his hand in the dirt.
Or it’s another frivolous depth chart. But it gives us something to discuss after Saturday’s 16-7 loss to the Sooners, who, by the way, hadn’t won a game with fewer points since 1967, and before what I assume will be a terrible game Saturday against what will rank among the worst FBS teams to visit Mountaineer Field .
How did we get here? Let’s find out by looking at the Good and the Bad of WVU v. Oklahoma.
Good: Smart safety
Gabe Lynn intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble and aggressively avoided Quinton Spain on both returns. I loved this live. I love it later.
Bad: Not this again
A season ago, WVU lost five straight games. After every loss, the Big 12 offensive player of the week award went to a WVU opponent. The Mountaineers start Big 12 play with a loss and Lynn is the Big 12 defensive player of the week.
Good: Hello again, old friend
So good to see you, hot potato pass. Want to know what the Mountaineers think of Alford as a receiver, as opposed to a punt returner? They gave him Tavon Austin’s signature pass. Seventeen months ago, it seemed destined to be bequeathed to Jordan Thompson.
Aside: This had a chance before it never had a chance, but Carswell, the wide receiver up top, merely occupies his defender and Dreamius Smith (more on him later) can’t clear a path. I do wonder how much the Mountaineers have practiced this, especially with Carswell with the first team and with Smith blocking, but it does have to work better.
How close was this to being a touchdown for the Mountaineers? Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight made, for real, a great play to get to the ball, field it cleanly and manage to seemingly hover above the goal line while flinging the illegal, though fortuitous pass.
Side good: Check out Jon Kimble, sans coonskin cap, getting after it while objecting the call on the field.
I know the numbers added up after a while and that Oklahoma ran for 316 yards and 201 after halftime, but attrition and injuries took over and the Sooners ran on 27 of 33 plays after halftime and 20 of 22 plays to end the game. They were chunking up yards and time of possession on their final two drives. It all conspired to make things look worse, I think, than they were. The Mountaineers did a pretty good job for most of the night against the run.
This is an exception, a rare one, but what did it matter early in the game? Oklahoma should have punted after this play and possibly as part of a free kick if K.J. Dillon makes that play for a safety. But even a short gain precedes a punt and WVU has good field position early in the game. Dillon needed to get outside that block. Ickey Banks has to get off that receiver quicker. Cook needs to be more cautious on his approach.
Between this run and Knight’s recovery, the Sooners dodged a cannonball on this possession.
No clip, but Saturday night was the best they’d played in a long, long time. Banks and Travis Bell were sound against the run and held up nicely playing close and physical with Oklahoma’s receivers. Don’t think that that play by Banks was part of a trend. It wasn’t.
Good: One more
The defensive line met every challenge, too. I mentioned Rose and Hyman, but Shaq Rowell was stout and Christian Brown gave Erik Slaughter good snaps. I’m can’t recall a better game from Will Clarke. Extremely promising performance from that group. One one drive, he played defensive end, defensive tackle and outside linebacker standing up — the latter two in a two-man defensive line.
Good: I lied … one more
Thanks to the pre-game Joe DeForest tumult, we learned that Keith Patterson is also making $500,000. How does that make you feel?
Bad: All of this
What an odd play this was. I don’t know what was supposed to happen, and whatever did happen nearly worked, but it’s worth a look. The cornerback, Aaron Colvin, blitzes from the bottom of the screen. Kevin White looks like he sees it and considers hitting the breaks, making himself available and gobbling up yards, but I think he follows orders and sweeps across the play. He takes a defender in the middle with him, which opens a window for a pass to Shorts. It’s a soft throw by Paul Millard and it’s behind Shorts, who should still catch that.
Good: It was all a dream
Gus! That was a hilarious call as he went to the commercial, but the play to precede it was very nice, too. Smith does a lot of this on his own. Show of hands: Who thought he could do that up the rail? But he gets help, too, which he needed because there are four defenders through the line when he gets the ball. Then he carries a defender, probably smiled when Eger, here at right guard, dominates a Sooner, gets a nice assist from McCartney (!), bypasses Millard and his right hand and then gets another block from McCartney. That’s how a 75-yard play happens.
Side good: Shannon Dawson’s August promise. “Well, if they do pigeon hole him, they’re making a huge mistake. If that kid gets in the open field, he’ll outrun you as quick as anybody.”
Good: Trevor Knight
Well, good for WVU. He, like his counterpart, left a lot on the field. He finds an open man here, but WVU was all over it, likely anticipating Knight making quick reads and short throws. But the slot receiver angles out in the second level and the outside receiver is getting by Bell at the top of the screen when Knight throws. K.J. Dillon hammered this one.
He’s coming. He had to play big for WVU and he did for as long as he was in the game. For some reason, I thought this was him at his best. He blows it up first by going, I don’t know, nowhere, but he scurries back home and then defends and nearly intercepts the pass.
Trey Millard, that is. He’s really good. He’s what WVU would like for Cody Clay to be.
Good: Cody Clay
That was not meant to say Clay isn’t there or can’t get there. I mean, he’s not, but he’s valuable and his role is expanding as a tight end and a receiver who runs routes not as a decoy, but as a threat. And he’s WVU’s best run blocker. Watch Smith on that play, by the way.
Bad: Three rushes, 77 yards
So that was a talking point after the game. Why wasn’t he used more? I had a had time coming up with an answer, so when I was re-watching the game, I paid attention to Smith. I think I have an idea why Smith wasn’t used more. He had the chop block penalty. He more or less got in the way of Sims as he tried to run with a reception. He didn’t exactly inspire on the Sims run we just saw. He let a smaller defensive back run through him and force a turnover in this play. I have to think his blocking was a reason he didn’t play more.
Dana from Aug. 26, which, sure, is a long time ago in a football season:
“We’re in pretty good shape at running back,” Holgorsen said. “If the last couple of years have shown us anything, it’s that we’re going to need more than one. That’s for certain. We feel pretty good about our depth at that position. We’ll see who gets the hot hand and try to get him the ball as much as we can.”
Questions about the way Smith and Sims were used — or weren’t used — are valid.
Another one from the vault. Remember when we sang a song about how defensive coordinator Keith Patterson wanted his defense to slow down in an era where speed was at a premium? Track Doug Rigg on this play. He sees it and attacks it, nice and slow. Also, he’s WVU’s best against the run. Losing him is a big loss for the run defense.
I’m not sure how he didn’t make this play and get Knight on the ground, but that’s something he has to do. The play is funneled his way and he finds the hole. I have a feeling it bothered him.
That’s how a linebacker makes a play. Thunderous hit. Forced fumble. Slight posturing above the fallen foe. It wasn’t a demolition job, but Golson must have been shocked that that play evolved like it did. He had a good night and the reason I showed the prior play is because, in retrospect, it was unusual. He’s fast, instinctual and, obviously, able to strike.
This is how how the heavy diamond is supposed to go. In this space last week, the lack of big plays were lamented and I shared a play where the Mountaineers had something big in front of them, but let it roll off the table.
I feel bad giving him a Bad because he played pretty well, but I think he’d apply a Bad here. He was mad after the game he didn’t catch it and run it back for a touchdown. And this was another one that Knight messed up because if he goes over the top, it’s six.
Good: Cook & Co.
OK, so watch Isaiah Bruce miss this pass by just a little bit and then watch Cook miss the tackle that springs splendidly named Lacolton Bester. Note who strips the ball and recovers the fumble. That was fun.
Karl Joseph was the one who inadvertently knocked Rigg out late in the game when the Sooners running back saw Joseph coming and bailed, which left Rigg exposed, but Joseph flies into this play and smacks Bruce, who promptly left the game with a lower extremity injury and did not return. It’s bad luck and the side effect of aggressive play, but …
Bad: Center of the action
Tyler Orlosky has only had one other game, but he’s had better days than he did Saturday. Hey, the Sooners are markedly better than William & Mary and I’m willing to chalk a lot of his trouble up to not just the better athletes, but that Oklahoma played a three-man front whereas the Tribe played mostly a 4-3. Those are different worlds for the center. But this play did not go well. He’s got a chance to get his hands on a guy and maybe take care of two guys. He instead touches no one.
Good: Marvin (Need a new last name)
He was all right. Not gross. I’d be curious to see how he graded out because the Sooners went right at him a few times and he had his hands full and acted like it. But as he got some reps and started to sweat a little and run around, he wasn’t a liability.
And right here, I want you to remember he’s an outside linebacker who is 6-foot-5. Keith Patterson wants to put big bodies at linebacker on the open side of the field (also known as the “field” side) who can use their length to cover space and also get in the quarterback’s head. Bingo. Something to build on for Patterson and Gross.
Bad: Wait for it…
Was WVU setting this play up or what? In the first two games, the motion to the right tipped a pass to the back or something in the middle on the same side. The Sooners react, but the receiver, Shorts in this instance, who might normally be blocking for the pass to the back, takes the fire escape. He’s open. It’s a hard throw, but it’s one the starter at this level has to make.
This is just bad, and I don’t know why Holgorsen is yelling at Alford because, realistically, Alford is probably going to have a hard time improvising and running a comeback route in the middle of a route that’s supposed to go into the end zone.
But maybe it’s just frustration. Obviously, you can make a strong argument Holgorsen needed to yank Millard in favor of Trickett, but after re-watching the game, I came to what I think is an understanding that you might call a defense. And that’s fine. But in addition to the concern about communication, I have to think Holgorsen and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson thought, “He can’t screw come up empty on all these chances.” Turns out he could.
This is a mental lapse by Millard, but what bothered me most watching it was the time lapse. WVU played the final 19:32 with no timeouts. I can’t say for certain … but I’m certain that was the part of the sideline huddle whenever the offense took the field. I can’t help but wonder how Millard forgot that. It doesn’t forgive the coaching that sped through the timeouts, but it shouldn’t be forgiven either. He started calling timeout with six second on the play clock. He had time.
Bad: And finally…
Millard lost grasp of his mechanics throughout the game. It might have been fatigue or that the speed of the defense got to him or that the urgency of the game rattled him, but his arm wasn’t into all this throws and he threw hurried sometimes and ahead of pressure that never really materialized — and he wasn’t getting popped throughout the game, either. He made this happen faster than it needed to. The cornerback is coming, but Millard gets some space. Clay gets separation and he’s matched up against a linebacker. If Millard waits a tick, plants his right foot and steps forward, he’s got a chance to fit the ball into the targeted area and extend the drive.