My first impression Sunday was, “It’s going to be a long year at Robert Morris.” But if you step back and look at two games and the things that did and did not overlap, you do begin to get a better understanding of this WVU men’s basketball team.
Welcome back inside the Coliseum for this afternoon’s tune-up for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. West Virginia is playing its second game in 48 hours, which is nice preparation for next week’s tournament, when the Mountaineers will play Thursday, Friday and Sunday.
Bob Huggins can also move into 15th place on the all-time Division I wins list by beating Lafayette. Huggins tied John Chaney with career win No. 741. He’s never played Lafayette, though, and the Leopards are 2-0 all-time in the Coliseum. Lafayette feels good today, though, because it destroyed Robert Morris Friday. Destroyed. The Leopards led by 40 and won by 27.
Lafayette was picked fourth in the preseason Patriot League poll and returns five starters who scored between 10.8 and 16.4 points per game last season. It’s a big and experienced team and has some ball-handlers, so you’d think the Leopards should be able to handle the pressure better than Monmouth.
WVU is again without Brandon Watkins and BillyDee but will also go without Elijah Macon. He’s not with the team today because his mother is very ill.
Let’s look inside.
This is going to take a while, for certain, but Bob Huggins sounds like a guy who believes his team will get better once its players get to log some games together. Friday night was not easy, but it wasn’t a loss, and neither of those is bad for this team. Perhaps that explains why the Mountaineers were somewhat content with the come-from-behind win against the team picked to finish sixth in the preseason MAAC poll.
“Tonight was great for us,” WVU point guard Juwan Staten said. “This wasn’t a game we were expecting to be as hard as it was, but it’s good to get as many hard games as you can out of the way. Even though this game was harder than it was supposed to be, a lot of our players grew. When you have a lot of new players, you’re going to have growth every game.”
Staten, the Big 12’s preseason player of the year, and Devin Williams, who had as bizarre a game as imaginable, scored the team’s final 17 points. The defense forced turnovers throughout and held the Hawks to one basket in the final 7:36 to pull away.
Staten scored 10 of his game-high 20 points in the final 4:47, starting with two free throws that put the Mountaineers ahead for good 49-48 after they trailed from the 2:52 mark of the first half onward.
“This is early in the season, and we’ve been bragging on this team all year,” Staten said. “You can’t come out and lose a game early like that. Me being the captain and having a lot of experience kind of being put in that situation before, I felt it was my job to carry the team through it.”
You are looking live at the surprisingly intimidating logo for the Monmouth Hawks. This opponent tonight isn’t to be taken so lightly, either. They look kind of young with two sophomores and a freshman starting with an eligible transfer, but they’ve got some seasoning.
Any maybe “some” isn’t the right words.
Monmouth has its top six scorers, 89 percent of the scoring and 82 percent of the minutes back from last season, and Bob Huggins said yesterday he believes this is the season fourth-year coach King Rice has been building toward.
Deon Jones, who averaged 15 points as a sophomore last season, and Andrew Nicholas, who averaged 14 points as a junior last season, are 6-foot-6 wings. Former Providence forward Bruce Kofane is eligible this season. Max Dileo made just about half his 3-pointers off the bench last season. They’re going to play 10 or so guys tonight because they can.
From top to bottom, it’s a pretty good test for the Mountaineers to start this season, and WVU has complications to deal with, too. BillyDee Williams caught an elbow in practice that fractured an orbital bone and will keep him out indefinitely. Brandon Watkins is sick and will miss the game as well.
I haven’t seen WVU do anything live yet this season, so if you’ll indulge me, most of my commentary will be first impression stuff we can look back at and laugh about later.
Find me in the post…
Welcome to the Friday Feedback, which gets right down to business. Guess where we were a year ago! Breaking down a loss to Texas and wondering whether it’d carry over into the following game! (Spoiler: It did.) (Reminder: That Texas game featured some shaky red zone play, too.)
A year ago, WVU bombed during a road game at Kansas and said the Texas loss happened twice. A year later, it’s the TCU loss that’s happened twice after the Mountaineers half-bombed on the road at Texas. This open week precedes a Thursday night home game against equally salty Kansas State, which was controlled by TCU from start to finish. Your squad returns to practice tomorrow, and the final two games of this season will write what has yet to be written about the 2014 team. Are they any good? I think we’ll find out. Perhaps more intriguing: Where is this headed? I wrote about it Wednesday. You asked vetted it this week. We’ll talk about it today.
Onto the Feedback. As always, comments appear as posted. In other words, don’t bury the lede.
Mike — It Ain’t Hard to Tell that I will be a fan of yours forever for how to kicked off TFGD
Felt good when it left my hand.
Sorry, gang. I’ve got Real Life Stuff to tend to today, but I’ll be back tomorrow with the F Double. No Walkthrough, obviously, or chat this week, because it’s an open week. If you’ve got items waiting in queue on your mental inventory, here’s your chance. I’ll get to them tomorrow, as can.
Thank you for your support.
Dana Holgorsen addressed perhaps the most discussed topic surrounding his offense and thus his football team at his news conference Tuesday. Dreamius Smith, he of the three longest runs of the season and one touchdown in each of the past four games, to say nothing of somewhat superior statistics at that position, will get more carries against Kansas State.
“He had his best game last week,” Holgorsen said. “Against TCU, I can’t tell you he had his best game. It wasn’t. He got one run on them, but he didn’t have his best game. Last week, he played his best game.”
Smith sparked a scoring drive against Baylor four games ago and scored on a 9-yard run as WVU outscored the Bears 27-7 the rest of the game. He closed the win at Oklahoma State with a 40-yard touchdown run, which then was the team’s longest run of the season. He eclipsed that against TCU with a 50-yard run on a drive that ended with his 5-yard touchdown run to put the Mountaineers ahead 20-14 in the third quarter.
WVU’s offense stagnated for much of the game against Texas, but Smith’s 9-yard touchdown run cut the Texas lead to 24-10 and his 62-yard run and his 11-yard reception a play later set up Smallwood’s 4-yard run to make it 26-16.
Smith was the fourth running back to carry the ball in the first half, where he had one carry for no gain. He was the first to carry the ball after halftime.
“One thing we talked about at halftime was we were playing a lot of backs at the beginning,” WVU offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. “As some point, we’ve got to figure out which one has the hot hand. We felt like Dreamius did, and he’s shown time after time he’s going to make big plays, which he did again.”
Not certain it’s the officials but people who got off bus, were greeted by “Welcome to UT, officials!” are out snapping photos on the field.
— Mike Casazza (@mikecasazza) November 8, 2014
I’m not sure where to begin today because there’s a lot to get to and there’s a lot on my mind and I don’t know how long you or I will last. So let’s start at the beginning with that pregame tweet that’s everything you’ve ever suspected about the University of Texas. (Also, one of the guys taking pictures barely fit into his sports coat, so I’ll just assume, without any proof, it was swole referee Mike Defee.) (Also also, I don’t really care about the pictures. I take photos of things when I go places. And though I was being witty, it is strange to see officials doing that.)
I didn’t think the officiating was good or bad, so I don’t think it was great or terrible. They missed things and they saw things and they made calls the had to and calls they didn’t have to. I was, I guess, whelmed. Those eight were just there and had nothing to do with the outcome, but they were, at times, something. Defee couldn’t call a penalty right. The goal line play on the first series was, at best, faulty. No one explained what happened to disqualify K.J. “Flagrant Striking” Dillon. There was more, but, whatever. Minimal stuff that, again, had nothing to do with the final score. But this was fun …
That was a big-time play in the game of football this year. Texas played a ton of zone (more on that in a bit) and the defensive backs made plays. Mykkele Thompson nailed this and, of course, palmed Wendell Smallwood’s head. The linesman is right there and goes to his back pocket, I guess, to tweet: At Texas game. Thompson’s all like, “BIG hit for SMALLwood.” Lol
Other linesman tweets:
1) Defee was in the gym at 5. I slept till 9. Who’s the dumb bell?
2) Arrived at DKR for Texas and WVU. Ima get a selfie with Trickett’s hair. #GarnierGang
3) Why’s Holgo so mad? He seemed so nice with @notthefakeSVP
4) …the Mounties thought the Alamo went poorly!!!
5) WVU’s No. 2 needs more carries.
More fact and fiction coming at you as we enter the open week with WVU at 6-4 overall, 4-3 in the Big 12 and holding a two-game losing streak. How did we get here? Let’s find out by taking a look at the Good and the Bad of WVU v. Texas.
This play was a scene from a bad day for WVU. The blitz comes in and Dillon sees a little too much and gets a tad sidetracked and Tyrone Swoopes just chucks it into the corner. I have to think Icky Banks was totally surprised and wasn’t expecting the ball that fast. He gets caught and he interferes and he gets yanked and directed to the far corners of the sideline.
And, man, that confuses me. Terrell Chestnut was called for pass interference on the first drive and he, too, spotted the ball at the 2-yard line. He didn’t come out at all. Marquis Lucas and Adam Pankey were getting turnstiled all game and Pankey was stuck on June 14 and the only time one of those two came out was when Pankey’s lid flew off (Aside: No penalty!) and Marcel Lazard played one snap. There are people who want to marvel at the quantity of snaps the linemen play, and there’s a nobility in that when the five play as well as they did against, say, Baylor. Those might be the best five, but that doesn’t mean it’s a great five or that this situation is a strength. It’s hard to believe those two played the way they did and played all but one snap, but that’s the reality when you have no backup. You can bench Banks when there’s a player behind him. WVU can’t sit Pankey and Lucas, and teams have gone at them the past two games. Have the lack of competition in practice and the lack of consequences on the field affected WVU? I think that’s a fair topic.
And then special teams happened.
I really want to stop talking about it, but they keep giving us material. How, in the 10th game of the season, does the third punt returner decide this is a good idea? At some point, someone has to think, “You know what, I’m only out here because two guys before me made bad decisions, and the second guy was on an extraordinarily short leash, so patience is wearing thin. This ball is going to the left. I’m out here to be smart. I’ve witnessed so many things that were not smart and therefore gifted me this spot. We’re down three touchdowns, but our offense is getting loose and our defense is nice. I probably shouldn’t try to catch this.” That has to drive Dana Holgorsen absolutely berznope he’s patting Davis on the helmet.
Eh, OK. Get his head up. He’s been the best of the three so far and, more fairly, very secure. So run him out there again and hope Icky isn’t watching from the trunk he was locked inside.
Then Davis goes out there, lets a ball hit and roll and, for some reason, goes at the gunner and nearly kicks the ball. And to top it off, Al-Rasheed Benton is guilty of holding on that return and the ball goes back to the 2.
You know what happened next.
I think this is the earliest the texters have called a game. There were also heavy traces of resignation to certain fates and acceptance of various truths. I don’t know if WVU had this one coming. That seems harsh, and we can debate that and whether trends were bending the wrong way and were bound to break. I’d also point out that everything went and was wrong.
WVU wasn’t taken to task for just bad run defense or just bad passing offense or just bad third-down execution or just bad management or just bad special teams play or just bad energy or just about anything else you can throw out there this morning. A lot of things came together at once, and you’d like to think the team that was able to hang with and even beat teams with a flaw or two or maybe more would have been able to do the same against Texas … if the bads hadn’t so far outnumbered the goods.
No, I’m more convinced, and concerned, that the Mountaineers earned that one.
Very rarely have I witnessed a team not show up and then not combat that allegation afterward. They’re too proud or angry, or the accusation is too unfair or misguided. I feel like “They weren’t ready!” or “They didn’t want it enough!” is a bit lazy and frequently misplaced. And honestly, you have to credit the team for having a little verve after halftime, especially on defense, and you could understand players and coaches leaning against that as they resisted the implication they weren’t ready for Texas and didn’t want it enough.
Didn’t happen. With one exception, every player or coach admitted the team was flat and unprepared, which is to say every player or coach but one admitted the apparent. That was weird, to me, but if you’re not terribly competitive at the start of a game, why then would you be after it?
Look, I run this line around here every so often when I say that no matter how complicated players and coaches make it seem, football isn’t that complex. But football’s hard, and there’s a difference between what I mean when I say that and what players and coaches go through during a season. I hope we recognize the difference in those two points. Six games in six weeks is not easy. Alternating home and away those six weeks is tough. Changing the writing in the book that’s out on you takes more time and effort than an expiring season provides. Beating the 10 count after TCU is obviously damn difficult.
But to talk all week about TCU was in the past and everyone was putting everything into the Texas game, and to come out and play like that — “Like how, Caz?” Like this: “We wanted it to be easy and it was really hard,” Dana Holgorsen said. — comes with a price. WVU paid with a 33-16 loss that makes the Mountaineers a meddling Big 12 team again, and that doesn’t seem right, does it? Two weeks ago we were unrolling scenarios, plausible scenarios, in which the team could win the league. I have them, in my head, as the fifth team in the Big 12′s Pecking Order … and watch out for bowl eligible Texas taking that spot and pushing WVU to sixth … and watch out for Iowa State fighting for its coach’s job at home in the final game of the regular season. Because sometimes teams play for something.
Speak with criminal slang, begin like a violin. End like Leviathan, it’s deep, well, let me text again. My edits are in [brackets].
First pass interference against Kevin White. Who had 11 seconds in?
Glad to see White didn’t forget how to play
Clock Troll will never tell whether that FG attempt was legit or if he planned a delay all along
Was he trying a 58 yarder into that wind? Was he trying to get an offsides? Was he getting room for O’Toole? Why is special teams so hard?
I can’t really handle watching a game anymore with 2 teams wearing their regular uniforms.
I can’t get over that delay of game except that it worries me.