Chip Shots

by Jim Buzzerd

Not passing the eye test

If you picked up a paper Monday morning and went to the sports page you would have noticed that the West Virginia University football team is 5-0 and ranked sixth nationally in both polls. If you’ve been watching the Mountaineers actually play the games you might not agree with that lofty ranking. West Virginia entered the season with high expectations and being a top six team seemed attainable if the team clicked. It did not feel like the team could do enough by the first weekend in October to reach that level.

Low and behold teams in front of WVU in the polls continue to lose while the Mountaineers have stumbled to two straight wins and have been moved up the chain. Don’t get me wrong, the recognition is great, but in the last six quarters the Mountaineers have looked anything, but Top 10 worthy. Since racing to a 35-10 halftime win over Texas Tech two games ago WVU has looked confused on offense.

Against Kansas on Saturday Heisman hopeful Will Grier threw three red zone interceptions in the first half and fumbled away the ball once in the second half for a four-turnover day. Grier still managed to throw for four touchdowns in a 38-22 win, but his struggles were somewhat alarming as they came against the weakest team in the Big 12.

Perhaps more concerning is that two of the interceptions were thrown as a result of WVU being unable to run the ball into the end zone after having two first and goal situations inside the five yard line. Yes, the offensive line has also looked shabby recently, perhaps more so than any other area on the team. They could not push lowly Kansas off the ball on the goal line on Saturday; they gave up three sacks and the game started with Grier having to field the first two snaps of the game from the ground.

The good news is the Mountaineers have managed to survive even though it’s clear that survival won’t continue without quick improvement. WVU’s five wins have come against teams with a combined 11-16 record. That trend will change dramatically in November with Texas and Oklahoma looming. Even this week’s opponent 2-3 Iowa State looks like a handful coming off a 48-42 win at Oklahoma State.

This game is eerily similar to the setup going into the Texas Tech game. Like Tech, ISU will be hosting WVU following a road win in Stillwater and, like Tech; a freshman quarterback led ISU. A significant difference is the kickoff in Lubbock was at 11 a.m. central time and the kickoff in Ames this Saturday will be at 6 p.m. central, or 7 p.m. eastern, so we’ll see how crazy Iowans get for a night game. The game is on FS1.