You don’t pull the quarterback you feel good about when it’s 28-12 with half a quarter left to play. You don’t say experience is no longer an acceptable excuse for missing open receivers. And you don’t get to play four games, complete fewer than 50 percent of your passes, make iffy reads, throw three interceptions, fumble five times and lose two and automatically keep your job.
I think it’s open again and I do wonder if you could to hear about Ford Childress before long. But someone has to start Saturday against a TCU defense that, welp, leads the Big 12 in sacks and interceptions. Both teams are 3-5 overall and 1-4 in the Big 12 and both are fighting for a bowl bid. One is all but precluded from the postseason with a loss Saturday.
How did we get here, let’s find out by taking a look at The Good and the Bad of WVU v. Kansas State.
I like the kid. I’ve always been a fan of his demeanor. I liked how he used to come in while Geno Smith was being reminded to buckle up his helmet and fling it. I liked that he came in Saturday for two drives and was a stunning 4-14-1 for 37 yards in like three minutes on the field. Something happens when he’s on the field. He’s basically an action hero. OK, OK, maybe just Must See QB. And when you listen to the coaches say he’s the best at running the offense and at hurrying things up, you have to recognize he might be the best you’ve got.
Bad: Then again…
You also have to remember the arm. It’s not the best of the three. It was a factor in the loss to Oklahoma. It stood out again Saturday, albeit in limited action. Trickett made both of those throws Saturday … and that sideline stick route is something the QB has to do. Trickett nailed it with Ivan McCartney early in the game.
One thing safeties coach Tony Gibson has worked on with his players is not jumping out of their shoes and thus out of the play. Darwin Cook, Karl Joseph and K.J. Dillon are/were missing tackles because they’re trying to blow people up, which isn’t entirely undesirable. But there are times and places for the simple play and for recognizing a good tackle is sometimes just a tackle. Joseph plays under control here — really, how often has he thrown himself into a play like this? — and forces a fumble. It’s proper.
Good: Or is it bad?
First, I have to think this is a straight draw like it was against Texas Tech last week. Second, I’m torn on what exactly Trickett is supposed to do here. Lean in with his shaky shoulder? Slide way short? I think he makes the most calculated play here and slides when he thought he was safe (important!) in position to get the first down (more important!). He just misjudged it. It’s a bad play in the fourth quarter. It’s not a bad — I mean, “Boo this man!” bad — here. Just unfortunate. That said, he was coached up on the telephone about it.
“In the first quarter, he slid and didn’t get the first down and all I told him was, ‘Look, if you’re going to run it, know where the sticks are and then get down. Don’t get down before that point,’ ” Dawson said. “The second one wasn’t anything other than him not holding onto the ball.”
And here’s Trickett’s Saturday in 61 seconds. He flat out misses the throw to Jordan Thompson and he’s lucky it wasn’t intercepted, but he can’t make Kansas State pay for that error. He tries and he smartly scrambles, but he’s trying to get 16 yards here when he needs six. He probably could have made better use of Daikiel Shorts (Aside: Shorts was pretty solid. He’s been far more consistent lately and looks like a piece of the puzzle moving forward), but perhaps with Dawson’s two cents in his mind, he’s running and cutting and doesn’t move the ball to the right arm and Ty Zimmerman is a shark. I think he could have slid and gotten the yardage he needed.
I also think Quinton Spain could have recovered that fumble. Speaking of …
Bad: Fumble drill
I’ve seen WVU work on this in practice in the spring and the summer. It matters in Octobers. Ronald Carswell was alone on this. Spain was at least in a crowd and is nowhere near as nimble as Carswell. By the way, I think Curtis Feigt might have whiplash after that spin move by No. 44. Yikes.
Good: Deep thinking
Kansas State doesn’t give you too many deep shots because their corners drop back and their safeties are pretty good. WVU didn’t have a lot of looks at it and didn’t take many shots. This is an exception and Carswell again flashes … but that pass with the wind could have been a touchdown. More and more, Carswell does just two things: Run deep and attempt to/sometimes actually block. I think he’s been a better blocker a few visible misses and subsequent hysteria have shown.
Bad: Drive killer, game ender
Here’s WVU’s possession after the Wildcats took the lead. The defense needed a break. The offense needed to help. This is basically an out route to Cody Clay, with whom Trickett has nice chemistry. Kevin White runs the cornerback out of the play and Clay presses the linebacker beyond the first down marker. They do their jobs and it’s there to move the chains, but the throw is off by a good bit. The Wildcats took the ball, drove on that defense that still needed a break, scored again and had everything the needed in the form of momentum and points to win the game.
Good: Ball in play
I think the reason Trickett will play over Millard is because of plays like this. Millard can’t do this. Dawson and Dana Holgorsen talk about making simple plays and about putting the ball in play and this is both of those. Everything goes right on this and it opens the left side. Trickett sees no one avail themselves for a pass, but sees no one on the left. He gets a good block from Clay — he blocked that guy inside at the start of the play and then kept him inside at the end — and a good break from a cornerback who turns his back. It’s a simple play and it turns out just as good as a forced pass to a receiver in a crowd could have turned out in this situation.
Good: This play
I love it. I have no idea how you stop it. I’d run it 15 times a game. Nick Kwiatkoski is a good player and it makes him look hesitant and slow, which he is not. The Wildcats used it wisely throughout the game.
Bad: This play
OK, so Isaiah Bruce did about the best a linebacker can do when this play puts him in conflict. I mean, I suppose he could have caught the thing, but let’s be realistic. He threatens the run and tips the pass. I guess I’m wondering if Kwiatkoski could have caught that, or even tried to catch it. The defense still gets the ball because the Wildcats were forced to punt, but that looked like Kwiatkoski had a shot.
Brandon Golson had a nice game. WVU isn’t getting sacks, but Golson is at least serving a purpose by making plays in other areas. He ruined an option play. He stopped red zone run by destroying the fullback. He popped up at different times in different ways. This was fun to watch because I think we can agree that in other parts of this season he could be guilty of giving up on a play after the initial wave of action. The first wave washes over him, but he makes a splash to end it.
Bad: What the …
How does this happen? Wendell Smallwood is clearly standing to Trickett’s left. Trickett nevertheless takes the snap and hands off to no one to his right. And almost nothing went right with Smallwood in the game. He probably lined up wrong here. He missed a block on the Vernon Davis reverse. His kickoff returns were ordinary. He had three carries for four yards. Just a weird day.
Holgorsen loves screen passes. It’s documented.
“You’ve got to stick with it if it doesn’t work,” he said. “It’s just like running the ball. If you get two yards, are you going to quit running the ball? No. Run it again, you might get eight yards. Run it again, you might get two yards. Run it again, you might get 20.”
The Mountaineers (2-1) have thrown screen passes to running backs and wide receivers in every game this season -which is not at all newsworthy in Holgorsen’s offense – but never more than they did in the loss at Oklahoma.
“My opinion on screens is that when you get teams that charge up the field, and Oklahoma did, you have a chance to hit screens on them,” Holgorsen said.
Kansas State really doesn’t play like that.You saw token pressure Saturday. Yet the depth with which the corners and safeties played allowed for some room and some opportunities for the screens. And they worked.
This is a busy play with motion left that moved the defense that way and sucked in a cornerback, which yanks a safety that way, too, in response. The offense goes right and Charles Sims weaves through the line to get open for a pass and a nice gain. If Pat Eger’s a little taller, he removes Zimmerman and Sims has a chance to cut in and run up the field. But that’s being picky. There’s nothing wrong with this.
Bad: Then again …
Trickett probably should have hit the popcorn vendor in the head here. This is a busy play, too. The playaction fake is supposed to draw that immediate defender, but he doesn’t bite and chases Sims outside and the Wildcats have the play outnumbered on the right. Sometimes the defense has the right play called. You’ve got to keep calling them, though.
Where in the world has this play been? This has everything. The two inside receivers on the overloaded right side run vertical and shield White, who cuts under them. The throw is timed right and Spain and Tyler Orlosky (Side good: Bad start with a sack on his first play, but solid work in place of injured Eger.) make blocks to spring White. He has to make a defender miss to break the play, but he does and Carswell avoids a stupid penalty by not blocking in the back. More of this in the future, yes?
Sims. Missed a 99-yard touchdown run by a wiggle last week and needed only to shake a safety here for a much shorter touchdown run. Either he’s magnetic or he can’t get rid of that last defender. And that mattered here because it set up the fake field goal nonsense. I said this last week, but WVU makes too many very good plays and not enough great plays. That was very good, but a great play ends up in the end zone and doesn’t put WVU’s special teams in a position to call a fake field goal that implodes.
I thought this was the way he’d be used all along. I’m not sure what was so prohibitive about this early in the season, either. He’s motioning outside and he’s lining up in the slot, but he’ s not running exotic routes. He’s catching screens and stick routes. More importantly, as you see here he’s able to stay on the field and WVU doesn’t have to sub or let the opposition sub. It keys WVU’s potential for tempo.
I know you’re down, but there were some signs of life in this game.
Shorts runs that post corner route, but it sets a pick for Thompson inside. Thompson would have scored. You’d like to see Trickettt plant and step into that throw, too, but I’m not sure Shorts could have gotten to the back pylon for a better throw.
Good: He speaks with his plays!
What’s better: The above play or this play? I’ll leave that up to you. But given that catch and the catch-and-scratch for a first down later, Thompson showed some things. I think he’s more reliable now than ever before, which was the first step he had to take. Let’s see him take the next one now.
Can’t leave the back line of the end zone open, but there’s a lot going on and going wrong here. Isaiah Bruce is pulled outside by the running back into the flat, and WVU shouldn’t care about that pass. When that happens, Karl Joseph flinches and has to jump on the receiver in the middle. That opens space in the back and it looks like Darwin Cook is too shallow and Ickey Banks, who’s had better days, doesn’t squeeze it like he’s supposed to. At the worst, one of them has to just push Tyler Lockett so he doesn’t get a foot down.
Good: Finishing sequence
Some teams try to run the ball to wear down a team. Here’s how Kansas State softened the Mountaineers. Three straight quick throws outside to force WVU’s defense to chase and tackle. WVU’s chasing and tackling wasn’t all that good throughout the game and this took a little bit more out of the defense as Kansas State went down for the game’s decisive score. Those are exhausting plays.
And you and I did not see that coming from Bill Snyder and his Wildcats. It was out of character, but damn if it wasn’t effective.
Bad: Here come the special teams
Yeah, I thought for sure that was going to be a turnover. Thompson stumbles over his teammate. Logan Moore nearly Hulks up and tries to field the punt. Justin Arndt is standing perilously close the the ball and has no idea he’s perilously close to the ball. Whew.
Smallwood was involved here, but am I crazy to say this holding call against Garrett Hope is picky? But when you’re bad, you’re bad. Picky or not, a spark was stolen.
Bad: Now you know his name
John DePalma would prefer anonymity, but he can’t escape it here. He’s the long snapper and he spins the turnstyle for Travis Britz, who blocks this extra point, which was apparently struck so hard that it sends the 295-pound Britz flying backward.
Bad: And finally…
Here’s Holgorsen’s explanation of the fake field goal after the game:
“Every call is my call. It was there,” Holgorsen said. “We had first-and-5 on the 5 and it was disturbing – and there are a lot of things that are disturbing that we do offensively. We had to settle for a field goal, which is fine, but we had the look (on a made field goal earlier) that we wanted, so the next time that we went out there, we said if (the look for the fake) was there we had to communicate it.
There are the two field goals. On the first, Zimmerman (12) is in the middle and three teammates are two his right. DePalma has four teammates to his left. So there’s a numerical advantage.
Is that “the look” Holgorsen references?
I ask because the Wildcats have a much, much different look the next time. It’s like they flop flopped. There is no numerical advantage for the Mountaineers because there are six Kansas State players over DePalma on the line and to his left. WVU has only four players to DePalma’s left and one is Will Clarke, who whiffs on his block.
And here’s where I mention Nick O’Toole averaged 32 yards on five punts, DePalma let a guy in to block Josh Lambert’s field goal and Michael Molinari flunked a fake field goal that the special teams called. O’Toole, DePalma, Lambert and Molinari were WVU’s game captains.