by Jim Buzzerd
The 2021 edition of West Virginia University football has been a disappointment in multiple ways. Saturday’s 34-17 loss at Kansas State is just another example of WVU making it easy for an opponent to win a football game. The loss leaves the Mountaineers with a 4-6 record and WVU needs to win their remaining two games against Texas this Saturday and at Kansas next Saturday night to become bowl eligible. I’ve heard and seen comments suggesting West Virginia doesn’t deserve a bowl.
Those folks with that sentiment can probably make that point, but deserving, or not, the 15 or so extra practice sessions afforded to bowl participants can be quite valuable. Especially for young players as they move into the next season of their career.
The first quarter of Saturday’s game was just about all any Mountaineer fan could take. WVU takes the opening possession and Leddie Brown runs for nine yards on first down. On second down quarterback Jarret Doege finds a wide-open Winston Wright on a crossing pattern, but the ball bounces off Wright’s hands and into the awaiting arms of Wildcat defender Russ Yeast.
Huge turnover right there. Wright was going to run a long way with the ball, possibly score a touchdown. Instead, KSU gets the ball at the WVU 45 where they took six plays to go ahead 7-0.
On KSU’s next possession West Virginia looked to be getting the break they needed when linebacker Exree Loe intercepted a Skylar Thompson pass and returned it to the KSU 16-yard line. The play was nullified because WVU’s VanDarius Cowen was flagged for targeting. I’ve seen more vicious targeting penalties, but never seen one more obvious than this one. Dumb and costly penalty.
On the next West Virginia possession Brown ran for nine yards on first down from their own 22 but the Mountaineers were whistled for an ugly chop block nullifying the gain and forcing first and 21. On fourth and 16 West Virginia had its punt blocked and run in for a 14-0 KSU lead. If WVU catches one pass and plays smart football, they could have been leading 14-0 instead of trailing by that number.
And so it goes. For post season hopes to remain alive WVU needs a win over Texas this Saturday and the early line has WVU as a 2.5-point favorite. The Longhorns are coming off a surprising home loss to Kansas last weekend.
Moving to basketball, the Mountaineers have begun the 2021-22 season at 2-0 with wins over Oakland and Pitt last week. WVU will be playing a lot with four guys on the perimeter. That will most often be Taz Sherman, Sean McNeil, Jalen Bridges and point guard Kedrian Johnson or Malik Curry.
This personnel grouping has made it challenging for the Mountaineers to rebound the basketball as they have been out rebounded 84 to 53 in two games. You know that number doesn’t sit well with head coach Bob Huggins, so keep an eye on that to see if there is improvement.
The Mountaineers are playing in the Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic this Thursday, Friday and Sunday in Charleston, SC. West Virginia plays the nightcap in the eight-team event against Elon on Thursday night at 9:00 on ESPN2. Friday’s opponent will be either Mississippi or Marquette. Sunday’s times and matchups will be determined after Friday’s games. All games are on one of the ESPN channels.