by Jim Buzzerd
Yours truly was anticipating an exciting weekend of West Virginia University sports and, while there was excitement, the exuberance belonged to the opposing side. The plan was simple. I had secured tickets to the Myrtle Beach Invitational basketball tournament that was held in the 3300-seat gym on the campus of Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina. Such a small arena provided me with the opportunity to get an up close look at the Mountaineers for three games.
The basketball tournament was played on Thursday, Friday and Sunday, so Saturday was a game watch for the WVU at Oklahoma State football game. The Mountaineers could clinch a spot in the Big 12 Championship game with a win coupled with a Texas win over Iowa State in a game played later Saturday. A win would have also kept the Mountaineers remote hopes alive for a playoff berth. In case anyone missed it, the football team blew a 17-point halftime lead and lost to the Cowboys 45-41. Oddly, the Mountaineers will still make it to Dallas for the conference championship with a win over Oklahoma this Friday night.
Saturday’s football debacle followed Friday night’s 63-57 loss to Western Kentucky in the semi finals of the basketball tournament. Three weeks ago WVU was considered a strong favorite to win the Myrtle Beach event. After watching two regular season games and an exhibition game, I was not surprised to see WVU fall to WKU. Quite simply, much of the optimism for this team I had been hearing was premature. The Mountaineers may ultimately become a factor in the Big 12, but they are not close now.
After 18 turnovers against winless Monmouth in the tourney opener win, the Mountaineers committed 22 against the Hilltoppers that left only three teams out of 347 division one basketball teams worse than WVU at turning the ball over. West Virginia looked a little better in their third place game against St. Joe’s; a 97-90 win with 12 turnovers with four coming in the second half. We’ll check in on Bob Huggins’ group in a week or two.
I don’t know what to say about the WVU football team. I mean a win Friday night against the Sooners will help erase the taste left by Saturday’s game, but the Mountaineers are 0-6 against the Sooners since they joined the Big 12. The game looks like it will come down to which defense gets abused the worse. Oklahoma’s defense is horrible and, after Saturday, I would put West Virginia’s in the same category.
Coming off the 47-10 win over TCU I thought the defense was rounding into shape. And yes, I realize TCU’s offense is anemic, but I still thought there was some life on that side of the ball. For one half Saturday the WVU defense was inspired in helping the Mountaineers to a 31-14 halftime lead with a couple turnovers and forcing several punts. The second half was a nightmare for the defense. OSO had 208 total yards in the first half, went for 396 in the second half to put 604 yards in the books, not to mention the 31 points.
WVU is really banged up at linebacker, but it seemed like the Mountaineers quit being aggressive and not pressuring quarterback Taylor Cornelius, who was able to run and throw at will in the second half. In that regard, it is the opinion of many that the coaching staff gets some blame here. OSU adjusted, WVU did not. Head coach Dana Holgorsen began going for first downs on fourth down, because the defense was getting torched and that didn’t work well either.
While we’re playing the blame game two plays by the offense were huge. A quarterback sneak by Will Grier on fourth and one at the OSU five was stuffed. On the first West Virginia possession of the second half, following a 69 yard touchdown drive by the Cowboys, Grier lost four yards on third and one from the nine yard line and, after a review, it was ruled a fumble and OSU possession.