by Jim Buzzerd
Dazed and confused
It’s Monday evening and I’ve basically had three days to think about West Virginia University’s 59-56 football loss to Oklahoma last Friday night and I’m still all over the place on some of my thoughts. So, I’m going to jump in with no real plan, which will likely make me look like a rambling fool, which will likely cause an abrupt end to this because I’m on a word count that will be exceeded before I can cover all that has me dazed and confused.
West Virginia has scored 97 points in its last two games and both were losses. That only happens when the opponents can combine to score 104. No, the defense doesn’t get all the blame, because two of Oklahoma’s touchdowns Friday night came on fumble returns. Both fumbles were by quarterback Will Grier. Even so, the WVU defense gave up an average of 10.3 yards per play. I did not realize WVU was one of two teams in the country that hadn’t given up a play over 50 yards this year, but Oklahoma had three plays over 50 yards in the first half.
Oklahoma is a great offensive football team and Kyler Murray is as talented as any quarterback I can remember at Mountaineer Field, but watching WVU score 56 points, that’s eight touchdowns by the way, and lose is a bitter pill to swallow. Naturally on line chatter the last three days has had a focus on defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. The most boisterous of the lot are demanding he be fired, then there are the more tempered who suggest Gibson should abandon his 3-3-5 defense for a defense with a four man front.
On two fourth down snaps against the Sooners, Gibson rushed just three men and Murray simply danced around until a receiver broke open. Hindsight is 20-20, but at what point does one decide to get beat by being aggressive?
In the stadium I did not have a handle on what happened to WVU wide receiver Marcus Simms after a 14-yard reception where he was helped off the field following the tackle on the play. Turns out Simms appeared to be the victim of a clear targeting violation that went uncalled on the field and the subsequent replay officials failed to call it targeting as well. That could be my biggest beef with Big 12 officiating of the season.
It’s one thing for the officials on the field to miss the call, but I’m calling bull dung on any and all replay officials who looked at this play and determined it was not targeting. Sooner safety Robert Barnes clearly initiated helmet-to-helmet contact with Simms and got away with it. I would like to hear more from the Big 12 on this call, but it’s doubtful we’ll hear anything. Simms, WVU’s best vertical threat, was ruled out of the game after concussion protocol while Barnes remained in the game and was one of a couple of OU defenders who actually made plays the rest of the game.
In the fourth quarter the officials called wide receiver T.J. Simmons for a personal foul when he blocked a Sooner defender into the West Virginia bench area. Simmons’ block helped spring Kennedy McKoy for what looked like a 73 yard run to the Oklahoma two yard line, but Simmons didn’t disengage and drove the Sooner well out of bounds. Simmons was called for the personal foul. Three plays later Grier fumbled again and instead of a likely 56-52 lead WVU found themselves down 59-49.
A heated debate raged all weekend on the call. There are many WVU fans saying it is not a personal foul to maintain the block into the bench area, as long as there is no other impermissible contact. I’ve seen neither side provide anything written to prove their point. Until I see anything definitive, the play looked like a personal foul and a dumb one at that. Simmons could have been engaged several yards out of bounds and been okay, but took it far enough to give the officials a chance to make the call and they did.
That’s it for now. Next week’s topic will likely be coach Dana Holgorsen and his name already being mentioned as a candidate for jobs at Texas Tech, Louisville and Colorado as well as Grier potentially opting to not play in the bowl game.