WVU v. Baylor: Who is the sharpest?

October 18, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Ever shave with a disposable razor? You use it that one time and it’s all right. Not ideal. Not comfortable. Not the feel or the finish you were looking for. You’re used to better performances.

But when you’re done, you look down at the sink and you see that the job is done.

Now it’s a day or two later and you’re still on the road or you’re at home and in a hurry and you see that same razor next to the toothbrush in that cup on your sink. No worries, you think. Just run it under the water. Get the blade hot. Be gracious with the shaving cream. Cross your fingers.

But at the end? Yeesh. That didn’t feel too good. It wasn’t as easy as the first time, and come to think of it, the first time wasn’t that easy, either. This is definitely not the feel or the finish you were looking for, but you’re still happy to reach the end and know what’s done is done.

But what happens when you reach Round 3? If you didn’t call the front desk or run to Walgreen’s, if you didn’t learn from the first and especially the second experience, you’re in trouble.

I think that’s where Baylor’s at today. Playing Texas and TCU back-to-back is not easy. It’s not as hard as Oklahoma and Baylor back-to-back, but you see how TCU handled that toward the end. The Bears are 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the conference, but the past two games need to be explained better to you.

Baylor went to Texas, where the defense seems to be salty and the what remains of the roster is what Charlie Strong wants, which is to say tough and physical and determined. Baylor won 28-7 and had a tough time moving the ball on offense. A week later, Baylor played host to TCU, and you know of Garry Patterson’s thumb print on defense, but what of an offense that’s playing fast and snapping the ball a whole bunch. Baylor robbed the bank and won 61-58.

I’m not sure which one of those two takes a greater toll, but for the purpose of this conversation, I’ll say the second one because of the emotion involved and the cumulative effect I don’t think you can ignore. Texas-TCU in successive weeks is a task and the opponents tax you in different ways. This is a second road trip in three weeks, and it comes after the highest of highs. Baylor meets an WVU offers an offense that’s going to go fast and a defense that’s going to attach. That razor looks pretty dull and it can do damage if the Bears aren’t careful.

Now that we’re all lathered up …

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Want to call it a comeback?

October 17, 2014 by Mike Casazza

We should be so lucky to have history repeat itself Saturday and see a game at Mountaineer Field that’s as exciting as the ones in Waco or Lubbock last weekend.

Baylor scored the final 24 points in the last 11 minutes of a 61-58 victory against really good TCU. (Aside: What happens to the Horned Frogs this week? That’s the thing I’m most interested in the Big 12 this weekend.) WVU grabbed the last 17 points int he final eight minutes to beat meh Texas Tech 37-34. (Aside again: This is your chance, Clint Bowen! You can run all over the Red Raiders.)

Now, those are different achievements. The Horned Frogs looked everything like a national championship contender for 48 minutes. And WVU was on the road in place that oftentimes makes it difficult for opponents to pull off such reversals of fortune. The Bears have that trick in their bag because they’re so dangerous on offense. The Mountaineers, well, it appears they’ve learned a thing or two about getting back into games they would have walked out on in the past.

They’re both going to score points Saturday, but when is most interesting on the eve of Round 3 between these two teams. Early? Late? Throughout? In waves?

Whatever the answer there, you get a feeling these teams, whether in lead or in the rear view mirror, won’t let this one end until the bus driver is threatening to leave them in the parking lot.

“Just believing that you can win more than anything,” Holgorsen said. “You’ve got to have kids that are experienced that believe that they can win. You better have a tight team that sticks together when they’re down. They clearly have a tight team with all the games they’ve been able to win.

“I can’t say enough about our coaches and players. We had a great halftime, we were down 21-10, made a lot of adjustments, motivated, challenged each other. Nobody gave up, everybody stuck together and found a way to win there at the end.”

After Baylor trailed by three touchdowns against TCU, it had scoring drives of four plays for 45 yards, five plays for 92 yards and five plays for 91 yards to tie the game at 58-58. Meanwhile, the TCU offense had 18 plays for 53 yards on three drives that didn’t muster a point.

“It’s just amazing to me the team that we have,” Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty said. “I was going up and down the sideline like ‘Hey guys, we got this’ and they would look at me like ‘Yeah, I know.’

“It’s just confidence, that I got your back, you got my back, we’ve been through worse. It was just a matter of time before things started picking up.”

But before all of that, you have tonight and the Gold-Blue Debut at 7 p.m. at the Coliseum.

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Celebrity enorsement

October 16, 2014 by Mike Casazza

You know what was a tricky and ultimately awesome part of the book-writing process? Getting the right person to do the foreword and the proper combination of people to do the blurbs. I got lucky on both. The blurbs were amazing and to this day I’m sort of moved by the foreword, the guy who wrote it and how it all came together. It’s one of my favorite things from my career.

Anyhow, the point is you need clout. I don’t even have the most sway in my house (the beagle and the wife can duke it out over who’s No. 1), so how was I going to sell books on a topic many people know and write about with my name alone, right?

Something funny has happened in the past week or so. I’m determined (and I can’t use that word lightly enough) to lead a charge to name Morgantown’s minor-league baseball team the Moonshiners. I’m not hung up on the stereotypes, and I hate to tell you this if you are, but naming the team the Rhodes Scholars wouldn’t make those disappear. I know most of the players won’t be 21, but most of the fans won’t be baseball players. I tend to think Gatorade will suffice as an in-game beverage, too.

I know people who had family members who ‘shined back in the day and the story is one of a pioneering spirit and survivalism and other positive attributes. It fits, not unlike all the redeemable qualities people draw from the coal business. I keep going back to the day I spoke to Bob Rich, and the guy who owns the team sighed when I suggested, hypothetically, the team could be named the Miners or Black Diamonds. Even he wants something different.

“That ‘Wild and Wonderful,’ I take that seriously being a sportsman, a hunter and a fisherman,” Rich said. “That’s one thing I love about this state, and I think West Virginia has a chance to explode when you realize what great resources you have for outdoor living.

“That, to me, strikes to the essence of the community. Clearly coal miners and mountain men, those things are part of a great past, but I think it’s going to be a fun experience to see what people have to say about the name of their team.”

My quest has been on Twitter, because it doesn’t belong here, and there have been some interesting exchanges with people for and against. It’s all been fun, which is the point I’m trying to make. Moonshiners is just a fun team name, and these minor league experiences are, by and large, based on being fun.

But now I have people actively working against me, which is kind of cool. But you have no idea how competitive I am. I’m the most competitive person you do or do not know. And yesterday, I sought out the heavy artillery and shook up the world.

Look, I asked with a tinge of trepidation and knew it could backfire because he’s always talking about coal this and miners that, which is fine. But I went there and he went there with me and now I’ve got a face for my campaign.

Speaking of that face, here’s the much-more-mobile Huggins speaking yesterday at Big 12 media day.

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Bill Self goes hungry

October 15, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Bob Huggins and Bill Self spent a moment chatting together before breaking off to speak to the media for about an hour Tuesday at the Big 12′s basketball media day, and that little window into their friendship inside the Sprint Center reminded me of a story from last season.

Huggins and West Virginia beat Self and Kansas inside the Coliseum on March 8, the final game before the conference tournament. Huggins has a clause in his contract that pays him $25,000 for winning a regular-season game against the Jayhawks.

You’ll remember that clause was the source of some confusion. Huggins wasn’t sure why it was included in a deal that he felt would take care of him nicely without it. His agent, Richard Katz, was responsible for it and athletic director Oliver Luck didn’t think it mattered much to slip it in at the end of the negotiations.

And truth be told, Self wasn’t even that concerned with it, which is not to say he was beyond having some fun with it.

“I think the world of Bob Huggins and consider him a good friend,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I’m going to do everything I can to keep money out of his pocket, and if I don’t, I know who’s buying dinner.” 

Self updated the situation Tuesday as to whether Huggins has picked up a check.

“You know what? He hasn’t,” Self said. “He’s too tight. Tell him that.”

Wednesday Walkthrough: Baylor

October 15, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Good morning. I’m in Kansas City for Big 12 basketball media day. Here’s the Walkthrough.

And below, I’ll try to update things from the Sprint Center, which is the worst place for WiFi and me.

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Dana Holgorsen: Baylor week

October 14, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Thanks to BlueGoldNews.com for the video. We had equipment issues today that I haven’t experienced before, but here’s today’s presser.

The Good and the Bad of WVU v. Texas Tech

October 14, 2014 by Mike Casazza

TTUmen2

So there’s Saturday’s second half in a nutshell. It’s the third-and-9 when Clint Trickett and Kevin White finally connected on a deep (deepish?) pass for a momentous touchdown. And Texas Tech not only has 10 players on the field, but is pulling a player off the field before the snap. There’s a level if disorganization on that side of the ball, in case you didn’t know.

Texas Tech also started the second half with a delay of game, which might require practice, and committed seven other penalties after that. In one very special sequence, senior James Polk committed back-to-back holding penalties, laid low for a snap and then committed a false start.

Eight penalties in a half is above the average for the Red Raiders, but not by much. Eight penalties in a game as an average would be No. 107 nationally. Texas Tech is, by a full penalty per game, the most-penalized team in the country.

After going up by two touchdowns with half of a quarter left in the game they really had controlled, the Red Raiders ran nine plays and picked up 30 yards and but one first down the rest of the way, and that first down was a fluke where a hurried pass fell into the lap of a receiver who had tripped and fallen. DeAndre Washington carried twice for 1 yard in that sequence. He carried 27 times for 131 yards before that.

WVU’s offense, meanwhile, snapped it 22 times for 195 yards to close on a 17-0 run. WVU had, up to that point, 72 snaps for 355 yards.

Texas Tech lost the game and WVU won the game, but my point here is that these games, as we have already witnessed, come down to singular moments and single plays, and who are you going to trust when one side is running 10 players on the field and the other team not only has 11, but has No. 11, who is a GAM?

Thought so.

And here’s the weird part: I’m not certain 10-on-11 hurt Texas Tech here.

The defense is missing a defensive lineman, not a cornerback or a safety who might cover White. The safety who spent most of the game double-teaming White instead stepped forward to step on the shallow cross … on third-and-9 … and the deep safety is not deep enough to get over to keep White out of the end zone. Bad form there, and bad timing, because truth be told, Texas Tech played a nice game defensively and didn’t have those issues. But when it slipped, the Mountaineers caught it and took advantage of it.

I think what you’ll find is WVU was fortunate to have it happen for them there and to not have it happen to them earlier in the game. The Mountaineers won late due in large part to the fact the Red Raiders didn’t put a lot of distance between themselves and the visitors earlier.

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

Good: Dodge!
Not to be confused with (Seth) Doege, who obliterated the Mountaineers the last time this game was played in Lubbock and is now behind Darian Durant and Tino Sunseri in Riderville. Anyhow, here’s a touchdown pass that never happens. WVU is out of sorts and you see Cullen Christian, the fella with the pants towel, run up and cover absolutely no one and nothing and instead let Jakeem Grant go free. Icky Banks sees it and takes a line between his man and Grant and more or less says a prayer. It’s answered when Davis Webb makes a bad read and doesn’t see six points running up the rail. That’s one.

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Texts From Texas Tech Game Day

October 13, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Allow me a moment to indulge and expound, this is from Thursday’s chat:

There’s a subtlety I rather enjoy about Holgorsen. He seems uniquely aware of the concerns and critiques people have about his decisions or his management or his coaching staff.

Like, we bring up topics and never in a way to say, “Yo, you’re driving people nuts with these timeouts.” We finesse it, but he knows what’s being asked. And not only that, he seems to ever so slightly touch on the most common complaints and address them directly, but never in a way to say, “I know what you’re saying and you’re out of your minds and I’m the coach and that’s that.”

It’s a delicate balance and it seems to, well, not disarm the disapproval, but at least temper it. Just something I’ve noticed of late with regard to timeouts, DeForest, special teams, punt returns, Jordan Thompson, so on and so forth.

Thursday October 9, 2014 11:15 

And this is Holgorsen from Saturday’s postgame press conference.

I think everybody was happy, was excited that I finally used a few timeouts and got our kicker in a position to make a school record 55‑yarder, which we knew he could do, had confidence that he’d be able to do it, which got us the victory.

Fantastic. Frustrating, I’m sure, for you because you’re living and dying on these moments and openly and justifiably questioning decisions and indecision, but it’s still fantastic. In one moment, you’re wondering why you picked this Saturday to quit sniffing glue, but then all the pieces come together and you exhale. In another moment, he comes out all cool and calm and even celebratory with a victory and like 11 timeouts in his pocket and he just traces his finger around that nerve of yours and you go from wanting to throttle this man to wanting to muss his hair and call him a scamp.

It’s chaotic, it’s not easy, but it’s 4-2 right now and 2-1 in the Big 12, and for all the seemingly disheveled moments, they haven’t conspired to cost the Mountaineers a thing except maybe a little sanity. The best part, or perhaps the worst, depending on how you look at these things, is WVU seems content and comfortable with this identity its crafted.

“We’ve shown pretty much all season that our guys keep fighting,” WVU offensive line coach Ron Crook said. “They keep fighting and they play to the end. We don’t do everything perfect. We make things hard sometimes. But our guys keep fighting to the end, and as long as we keep doing that, we’ve got a chance to win a lot of football games.”

It ain’t supposed to be so hard. I always said I’d quit if it felt like a job. I’d rather be pissed than pretend that I’m not and try to text along with the whole facade. My edits are in [brackets]. 

11:18 am:
Metroing in to DC on this rainy day to show my cousin around. Did the same thing during last year’s Maryland game. Hoping history doesn’t repeat itself.

12:02 pm:
Did you know the girl on Friday Night Lights, Jess Merriweather (east Dillon, dated”Lance”) was Michelle Tanner’s friend on Full House?! Mind Blown.

12:06:
Did Zorro go to TT?

12:11:
Three yards and a cloud if turf

12:23:
TG! JT ain’t on punts!

12:34:
WVU GETS TAVON’d

12:34:
Is this team going to get well on WVU?

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WVU v. Texas Tech: Here they come

October 11, 2014 by Mike Casazza

You are looking live at pregame warmups at Jones AT&T Stadium, warmups that would include on the far right erstwhile suspended cornerback Daryl Worley. He went through all the drills and looked every bit like someone who is going to play today.

Not that that comes as any sort of surprise.

What I found interesting — and, again, maybe not all that surprising — is that quarterback Clint Trickett, who is to Worley’s right and wearing the white Beats by Dre headphones, did all this after doing all of the quarterback warmups and his extensive throwing routine.

Speaking of quarterbacks, William Crest traveled, but is not in uniform. And that’s about all I can tell you about personnel because West Virginia is now not even giving its sports information employees dress lists for the game. So now not only do the people who cover the team have to make guesses about who’s traveling, dressing and playing, but so do the people who are employed by the team.

More importantly, a word about the wind: Mild.

That’s all I’ve got for you about that. As for the game? I’ve got plenty. See the rest, see the rest, made of real gorilla chest.

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There can only be one

October 10, 2014 by Mike Casazza

You can will vote now to help pick the name for Morgantown’s new New York-Penn League baseball team. There are 10 options. Some of them are pretty good. Only one is the Moonshiners.

The pressure is on. Minor league teams are clever with their names, and the NYPL is no exception.