by Jim Buzzerd
A work still in progress
The West Virginia University Football Team finished the September portion of its schedule with a 3-1 record thanks to a 29-24 win at Kansas Saturday. The Mountaineers will enjoy a week off before hosting Texas on October 5 in a 3:30 p.m. contest to be televised by either ESPN or ABC. That West Virginia is 3-1 at this juncture may not surprise some, because many, including yours truly, thought in the pre-season that this team could go into the Texas game with a 3-1 record.
Those notions faded quickly after an unimpressive 20-13 win over FCS foe James Madison and a 38-7 blowout loss to Missouri. WVU came away from those two games with the nation’s worst rushing yards per carry averaging just over one yard per attempt. At that point it was hard to look at the schedule and see more than one win. Of course looking at it from that perspective isn’t advisable, there was simply too much season left to throw in the towel.
Fans are fickle like that and I went from being hopeful for a 6-6 season to hopeful for a 3-9 season. Well, good news for Mountaineer fans is the new coaching staff, headed by Neal Brown, and the team didn’t look at the remaining season like fickle fans sometimes do. Instead, the staff went to work challenging the team with more contact in practice heading into the North Carolina State game. The result was new faces along the offensive line and a more perimeter oriented running attack.
The result was a win over NC State with 173 yards on the ground and a win Saturday over Kansas with 192 rushing yards. Obviously there is improvement there that can be attributed to the coaching staff making adjustments. Still I’m not going to go all in and say the running game is fixed, because I look at the remaining eight Big 12 games left this season and I’m thinking all eight may have better defensive fronts than the last two WVU has seen. I do think six wins is back on the table, but it will take continued improvement to get there… and some luck.
Briefly, I can only imagine how frustrated most of you and all Mountaineer fans are with the advent of Big 12 Now, which means more and more games will be streamed on ESPN+. WVU disgruntled fans flooded athletic director Shane Lyons’ inbox last week. He sort of admitted that perhaps our fan base wasn’t as informed as it could have been.
“Maybe it wasn’t as clear as it could have been, but it was understood we were going to roll it out this way this year,” Lyons said after suggesting the move to ESPN+ had been the plan all along. Like it, or not, the Big 12 has made the move and Lyons is toeing the party line. It doesn’t sound like any amount of complaining will help, but have at it. The up coming WVU basketball schedule was released last week and five Mountaineer basketball games will appear on ESPN+.