2017-11-01 / Sports

Chip Shots

by Jim Buzzerd

Not what I expected

Enduring the 50-39 loss by the West Virginia University Football team at the hands of Oklahoma State last Saturday brought much into focus to yours truly. First, I clearly overpaid for the preseason hype I bought before the season began. I thought the Will Grier led offense would be virtually unstoppable, which would allow the young defense to mature.

The offense has been good and the defense has shown signs of progress, but the reality is the offense could only score 24 points in 31-24 losses to Virginia Tech and TCU respectively, while piling up points against teams that don’t really know how to spell defense. At least against Tech and TCU the offense was productive and had WVU in position to tie those games in the final minute.

On Saturday OSU put the clamps on the WVU offense in a manner that would have been hard to see coming. The WVU defense recovered Cowboy fumbles on their first two possessions, but couldn’t put points on the board following either turnover. In fact, following the second fumble recovery Grier threw his first of four interceptions of the game on the very next play. WVU has struggled to create turnovers this season, so when the defense gets two in the first five minutes of the game and WVU gets zero points, well, you know a huge opportunity was missed.

So, Grier threw four interceptions in his worst game as a Mountaineer, but his receivers had at least that many drops on very catchable passes. It was hard to watch.

And what is going on with the Mountaineers’ running game? WVU rushed for 62 yards Saturday after gaining only 44 against Texas Tech two weeks ago. New offensive coordinator Jake Spavital seems convinced that he can force a square peg into a round hole. He kept calling for runs between the tackles and the result was 62 yards on 30 carries. OSU is stout up front and the plays weren’t working, there is a point where running at other areas of a defense may be in order.

This game seemed all but over early in the third quarter when the Cowboys went up 30-10. The WVU defense would not fold and with 3:55 left in the third quarter the Mountaineers blocked an OSU punt at the goal line and Marvin Gross fell on it in the end zone for a West Virginia touchdown. Kenny Robinson picked off a Mason Rudolph pass 50 seconds later for 39 yard pick six.

West Virginia was back in business, but an errant snap on third and seven at its own 36 resulted in a 14 yard loss, sucking the air out of the Mountaineers’ new found momentum. OSU then scored touchdowns on its next two possessions to retake a 43-24 lead and control of the game.

West Virginia is now 5-3 and all three losses are to teams that are currently in the Top 15. WVU stood toe to toe with two of those teams, and while clearly outplayed by Oklahoma State, had a big opportunity in the third quarter of Saturday’s game to change the outcome. Spin that how you like, but the bottom line is that West Virginia is having a hard time beating good teams.

One of the more surprising developments on the college football landscape in 2017 is the emergence of Iowa State, which comes to Morgantown this Saturday as the leader of the Big 12 and ranked 14th in the country. Not many saw that coming, but second year coach Matt Campbell has the Cyclones in a spot where they haven’t been for a long time. ISU has two wins over Top Five teams winning in Norman and knocking off TCU 14-7 last weekend in Ames.

I had the Mountaineers as a three or four loss team this year. Four games remain with two more Top 15 teams on it, plus at Kansas State and home against Texas, 8-4 would require a spectacular finish.

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