Monday, September 12, 2011

Deep Thoughts, WVU Style

I am certainly caught up in the ESPN College GameDay scuttlebutt. However, there is a lot of football before that choice will be made. There's no doubt that both WVU and LSU will have to be undefeated. The Mountaineers need to take care of business in College Park, while LSU has to take on Mississippi State. If both win, then ESPN will probably choose between, Morgantown, College Station (Oklahoma State v Texas A&M), and Tuscaloosa (Arkansas v Alabama)...of course, assuming those four teams are undefeated as well. All have good storylines. LSU is a national championship favorite, Texas A&M is on the way to the SEC, and Tuscaloosa is coming back from devastation. If ESPN were to combine best matchup with best storyline, they would probably go with College Station. Two top-10 teams, with one leaving the other's conference.

I've been impressed by Darwin Cook. The new bandit seems to be fitting in nicely, especially agains the run. He has shown very good speed and technique, while leading the team in tackling. He has also shown the confidence that I'm sure Jeff Casteel wants to see in the rest of the young defense. Cook was awarded for his superb game against Norfolk State by being named the Defensive Champion. Look for Cook's name to be called quite often this year.

Yes, I have West F***ing Virginia shirt. And no, I would never wear it to a game. It has a great place at home, maybe to a young, hipster bar. But not in public, where there is at least an allusion of a family atmosphere. Plus, you look like a jackass wearing profanity in that environment. Kudos to Olver Luck sending out the open letter to the fanbase. Hopefully people adhere to it.

The very best goes out to Bobby Bowden, who revealed that he is cancer-free following a bout with prostate cancer. The legendary coach was diagnosed in 2007, and was actually treated by a former player of his. The radiation treatment Bowden received seemed to do the trick, and has been cancer-free ever since. Certainly great news to hear for the former West Virginia coach, and hope that he remains free from cancer for the rest of his days.


Matchup: West Virginia at Maryland

When: Saturday, 12p, ESPNU

WVU Players to Watch:
Geno Smith, QB: 620 yards, 6 TD, 0 INT
Tavon Austin, WR: 9 rec, 114 yards, 1 TD, 1 return TD
Ivan McCartney, WR: 9 rec, 110 yards, 2 TD
Bruce Irvin, DE: 6 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack

Maryland Players to Watch:
Danny O'Brien, QB: 348 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Davin Meggett, RB: 126 total yards
Cameron Chism, DB: 6 total tackles, 1 INT, 1 FF


Can the defense take the next step? Sure, the group hasn't allowed a touchdown in two games, but they only have one sack and no takeaways. While the Mountaineers have kept teams out of the end zone, they are short on big plays. The pass rush needs to get better, especially when they start playing better offenses. The secondary will get strained if Burce Irvin and company can't get to the quarterback. WVU also needs to start taking some risks. This may be a case of Jeff Casteel not having enough faith in his young players at this time, but at some point this defense needs to start creating.

What will the WVU offense look like in the first half? Maryland won't let them take a half off. The Mountaineers will put a lot of pressure on their defense if they fail to show up. The Mountaineers are also too one dimensional. The running game needs to improve as soon as possible for the system to work well. It will be interesting to see Dana Holgrosen's playcalling in the first quarter. Will he try to open it up right off, or go more conservatively to try to get his team in rhythm.

First road game in 2011 for the Mountaineers. It's a road game against a non-conference opponent that wears funny uniforms. However, it's a team that can put some points on the board. WVU will have to deal with a hostile crowd, while still trying to get comfortable.

Thinking about the LSU game yet? I hope the team isn't. If they are, then forget about the possibility of ESPN coming next week. Nobody will care unless both WVU and LSU roll in undefeated. Maryland will walk to a win if the Mountaineers are looking ahead.

WVU-Norfolk State Reaction

It ended up being a blowout, but it took a half for the Mountaineers to wake up. There are probably more questions than answers heading into the third game. At least WVU was able to play four quarters in game two.

Most Valuable Player: Geno Smith. The quarterback once again got the job done, throwing for over 370 yards, with four touchdowns. It was a slow start, but the junior brought it big time in the second half to wrap up the victory.

Least Valuable Player: Anyone who Played in the First Half. Just an embarrassing first 30 minutes for WVU. The offense couldn't move the ball, and the defense couldn't get off the field. I can't imagine what that halftime speech sounded like. Well, maybe I can.

Most Surprising: Still no turnovers forced. Sure, the Mountaineers haven't coughed up the football in two games, but they also haven't forced any. It's great that the defense hasn't allowed a touchdown this season, but playmaking is non-existent. Jeff Casteel will have to get his boys playing at a higher speed to try to win some field position, and start forcing some mistakes.

Least Surprising: Geno's Efficiency. Smith is off to a solid start in the new offense. Yes, there have been some slow starts, but stats don't lie. Through two games, Smith has six touchdowns with no interceptions. He also has his highest completion percentage of his career (67%), and 620 yards. Smith will have to keep these numbers up while the Mountaineers try to figure out the ground game.

Play of the Game: Ivan McCartney's 39 yard TD catch. Early in the fourth quarter, Sticks got loose. Geno was able to throw a perfect dart to Sticks in the end zone for the score. It was a beautiful pitch-and-catch


Quarterback: Smith was very good in the second half, going for four scores. His progressions were very good, but needs to get his wideouts playing at a quicker rate. Now Smith will have to put four quarters together.
Grade: B

Running Back: Better but still nowhere close to where it needs to be. The youngsters have struggled finding the holes, and don't accelerate enough when they do. Vernard Roberts may have a leg-up on the competition for the starting job.
Grade: C

Wide Receiver: Mixed results for this group. While they found the end zone quite a bit, there were more drops than week one. And Holgorsen continues to complain about lack of tempo between plays.
Grade: B-

Offensive Line: Good in pass protection, but Norfolk State only rushed three. Run blocking is still a disaster.
Grade: C

Defensive Line: Didn't break, but still struggled to get pressure on the quarterback. They do deserve a bit of leeway, considering their opponent wasn't dropping back to pass very often.
Grace: B-

Linebacker: Did well against the run, but was on the field just too much. Need to be more aggressive on contain.
Grade: B-

Secondary: Darwin Cook was all over the field, but the rest of the group struggled. Just too easy to complete a pass right now.
Grade: B-

Special Teams: A mixed bag for the group. Better in kick coverage, but not the best day for the actual kickers. Tavon Austin nearly took a punt back to the house.
Grade: B

Coaching: Offensively, the scheme worked for 55 points. It just took the team half to figure it out. Jeff Casteel needs to get his defense playing with more fire. It's great that they haven't allowed a touchdown yet, but this sam needs pressure and turnovers. Special Teams did improve as well.
Grade: B