by Jim Buzzerd
Back on track?
I have to admit to being extremely skeptical of the West Virginia University football team’s chances of being 7-1 following their 30-14 loss at Iowa State on October 13. The offense played at a level so far below the level I had previously considered their basement I feared a blueprint had been established that might limit the Mountaineers’ offense moving forward. Luckily for me and the rest of Mountaineer Nation, my worries were unfounded as West Virginia bounced back by scoring 100 points in their next two games including a 42 in a thrilling one point win at Texas last Saturday.
One would have to think hard to come up with a more thrilling end to a WVU football game. Quarterback Will Grier lofted a 33-yard touchdown pass to Gary Jennings with 16 seconds left to answer Texas’ go ahead score at the 2:34 mark. To add drama to the mix West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen decided to go for the two-point conversion and the probable win.
After a Texas timeout the drama intensified as Texas was awarded another timeout when it appeared Grier had completed the conversion pass to David Sills. On the third time to the line of scrimmage Grier took the snap, took a step toward the goal line then ran toward the left pylon and crossed the goal line. WVU celebrated to the point Grier was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for flashing the ‘horns down’ sign.
Mini rant here; I’ve seen many Texas opponents flashing the horns down sign for years and it hasn’t been a penalty, but Sills was called for it in the first quarter after a touchdown catch, so Grier absolutely should have known better in this situation. Because of the penalty WVU had to kick off from their own 20 which gave Texas valuable yardage that could have allowed them an easier path to a game winning field goal attempt. That disaster was averted, but the officiating crew was horrid and Fox announcer Joel Klatt called them out during the game and in his weekly podcast.
On the extra point following the ‘horns down’ call on Sills, Yodny Cajuste was ejected for what we presume was determined to be a punch following the kick. All anyone could see on the replay was Cajuste retaliating with an outstretched arm with an open hand that never made contact. Literally the kind of shove seen umpteen times in any game. I’ve tried to find some clarification on these calls and haven’t yet. I find it interesting that 18 penalties were called in the first quarter and none in the third quarter. Hmmmm….
West Virginia is now in control of their own destiny for the Big 12 Championship, which is, not to be confused with being favored to win it. The Mountaineers opened as a two-touchdown favorite for their noon kick with TCU in Morgantown this Saturday. The game is on FS1. Their final two games are at Oklahoma State and at home with Oklahoma on Black Friday night. WVU may, or may not, be favored in those final two games; they will likely be very close point spreads set by Vegas. The path is clear; win out and WVU plays in the championship game in Dallas. A loss doesn’t necessarily exclude the Mountaineers, but it would muddy the water.
Finally the West Virginia basketball team will open at home this Friday against Buffalo. Buffalo returns their top three players from a team that won the MAC last year and knocked off Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year. This will be a tough opener for WVU. Game time is 9 p.m. on ESPNU.