West Virginia University’s football and men’s basketball teams were in action over the weekend and each came away with satisfactory results, at least to some degree. Neither the football team nor the basketball team will get the highest grade possible though.
The football team kept its chances for a Big East championship alive with a 17-10 win over Louisville on Saturday. The game followed a pattern that has many Mountaineer fans unsatisfied with this year’s edition of Mountaineer football. That pattern is a seemingly inept offense relying on a dynamic defense to save the day. There was hope the WVU offense would be more productive following a 37 point performance a week earlier against Cincinnati.
It is difficult to pinpoint just what is wrong with the offense because there are likely multiple components to the problem. Quarterback Geno Smith is fine when given time to throw, but he is all too often forced to run or take a sack. Sometimes it looks like the sophomore could have thrown the ball away instead of taking the sack. Louisville’s only touchdown Saturday came when the Card’s pass rush forced a Smith fumble and recovered it in the end zone.
This was supposed to be a huge senior year for running back Noel Divine, but that hasn’t developed as well as West Virginia fans hoped it would. Devine suffered a foot injury in the September loss to LSU and his explosiveness has been compromised since. Devine doesn’t get much help with play calling or blocking either as WVU keeps running him on an off tackle play that consistently gets no yardage or loses yardage.
So, the fans are getting frustrated watching the offense continue to run the same plays that don’t work while not going with plays that work better, or not getting the ball to players who are having success. Compounding that frustration has been the play of the nation’s fourth rated defense. This defense is going to go down as one of the best in WVU’s history, yet the Mountaineers are left to scramble and hope for favorable results to win the Big East and get the BCS bowl.
Updating the latest on the Big East title chase. West Virginia has to beat Pitt this Friday at noon on ABC because Pitt wins the conference if they beat WVU and Cincinnati. West Virginia would also need to beat Rutgers on December 4. UCONN is squarely in the mix after steam rolling Syracuse Saturday night. UCONN wins tiebreakers against both WVU and Pitt so the Mountaineers need UCONN to lose to either Cincinnati or at South Florida.
West Virginia’s basketball team fell just short of winning the Honda Puerto Rico Tip Off Classic falling to Minnesota 74-70 Sunday night. The Mountaineers beat Davidson and Vanderbilt to reach the championship game. WVU is 3-1 so far this season.
Coach Bog Huggins has to figure out how to move forward from last year’s final four appearance without three starters from that team. Gone are DaSean Butler, Wellington Smith and Devin Ebanks. The cupboard isn’t exactly bare though as six players from last year’s rotation are back. Early on it looks like Huggins will need to find some consistent scoring threats to go along with the explosive Casey Mitchell who scored 31 and 27 points against Vanderbilt and Minnesota respectively.
In the three tournament games, foul trouble was a big reason for the lack of a balanced scoring attack. Kevin Jones and Deniz Kilicli were strapped with fouls for much of the tournament. In the opener, Kilicli fouled out in six minutes of court time. It should be a safe assumption that Big East games will not be officiated like the games in Puerto Rico were, but on nights where games are called in such a manner, WVU will need to adjust. Kilicli and Jones are the two scoring forwards on the team and need to be on the court.
The Mountaineers were picked to finish fifth in the Big East this year. Based on the personnel losses that would seem about right. There are potential rough spots for this team, but plenty of upside. This team looks tough and anyone wanting to beat these Mountaineers will have to work hard to do it.