CFN Take: West Virginia Sloppy In KSU Loss
Posted Nov 20, 2014

West Virginia Mountaineers 2014 ... Head Coach: Dana Holgorsen

West Virginia Mountaineers

2014 Schedule
Record: 6-5

8/30 Alabama (in Atl) L 33-23
9/6 Towson W 54-0
9/13 at Maryland W 40-37
9/20 Oklahoma L 45-33
10/4 Kansas W 33-14
10/11 at Texas Tech W 37-34
10/18 Baylor W 41-27
10/25 at Oklahoma St W 34-10
11/1 TCU L 31-30
11/8 at Texas L 33-16
11/20 Kansas State L 26-20
11/29 at Iowa State
Nov. 20 Kansas State 26, at West Virginia 20
And You Care Because … Jake Waters had a huge day throwing the ball, but special teams saved the day for Kansas State as Tyler Lockett returned a punt 43 yards for a touchdown and Matthew McCrane connected on field goals from 36, 44, 19, and 32 yards away. The Wildcats got up early on a seven-yard touchdown pass to DeMarcus Robinson, and were up 20-3 in the third quarter, but West Virginia pushed back with a Skyler Howard seven-yard touchdown pass to Kevin White, and pulled within six on a 53-yard touchdown pass to Mario Alford, but McCrane’s fourth field goal with just under three minutes to play kept KSU ahead for good. What Else? Kansas State QB Jake Waters completed 22-of-34 passes for 400 yards and a score with a pick, and ran 12 times for a team-high 13 yards
- Kansas State WR Tyler Lockett caught ten passes for 196 yards, and returned a punt for a score. West Virginia WR Kevin White caught seven passes for 63 yards and a score
- West Virginia QB Clint Trickett completed 12-of-25 passes for 112 yards with two interceptions, but suffered a concussion. Skyler Howard completed 15-of-23 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns
- Penalties: Kansas State 10 for 102 yards – West Virginia 8 for 77 yards. Turnovers: WVU 4 – KSU 2
Game Rating: B

Nov. 8 at Texas 33, West Virginia 16
And You Care Because … Texas picked a great time to come up with one of its best rushing performances of the season as Johnathan Gray ran for touchdowns from 39 and two yards out and Nick Rose hit a 39-yard field goal for a 24-3 lead. West Virginia fought back in the fourth quarter with touchdown runs from Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood, but Gray put it away on a 15-yard touchdown run with just over three minutes to play.
What Else? Texas RB Johnathan Gray ran ten times for 101 yards and three touchdowns, and Malcolm Brown ran 20 times for 90 yards
- West Virginia WR Kevin White caught 16 passes for 132 yards
- Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes completed 11-of-29 passes for 124 yards and a score with an interception
- Third down conversions: Texas 4-of-15 – West Virginia 3-of-17 (3-of-5 fourth downs)
Game Rating: B-

Nov. 1 TCU 31, at West Virginia 30
And You Care Because … TCU rallied late down 31-20 with a six-yard B.J. Catalon touchdown run with over seven minutes left and, helped by a 40-yard pass play to Kolby Listenbee, a 37-yard Jaden Oberkrom field goal as time ran out for the win. West Virginia got up 13-0 on a 23-yard Mario Alford catch and two Josh Lambert field goals, but TCU had the lead in the third after Trevone Boykin ran for a two-yard score and with a first quarter 47-yard touchdown pass to Deante Gray. The Mountaineer momentum came back with a five-yard Dreamius Smith run and a 35-yard fumble return for a touchdown from Terrell Chestnut, but on the day, five turnovers proved to be costly helping the Horned Frogs take over. Catalon kept the Horned Frogs alive with a 23-yard touchdown run late in the third, but Lambert appeared to give WVU the lead for good with a 23-yard field goal. It was all TCU the rest of the way.
What Else? Turnovers: West Virginia 5 – TCU 2
- West Virginia QB Clint Trickett completed 15-of-26 passes for 162 yards and a score with two interceptions
- TCU QB Trevone Boykin completed 12-of-30 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown with an interception, and ran nine times for 49 yards and a score
- TCU RB B.J. Catalon ran 20 times for 105 yards and two touchdowns
Game Rating: A

Oct. 25 West Virginia 34, at Oklahoma State 10
And You Care Because … Clint Trickett’s string of 300-yard games came to an end, but the West Virginia quarterback was nearly perfect while throwing two first quarter touchdown passes hitting Kevin White for a 19-yarder and Mario Alford for a 79-yard play. Oklahoma State came back in the second with ten points, including an eight-yard Teddy Johnson touchdown catch, but that would be it for the Cowboy fun as the Mountaineers scored 20 unanswered points. Josh Lambert hit field goals from 39 and 43 yards out, Dreamius Smith ran for a 40-yard score, and the defense did its part in shutting down the OSU offense and getting a 52-yard pick six from Dravon Henry.
What Else? West Virginia QB Clint Trickett completed 21-of-30 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns
- Oklahoma State QB Daxx Garman completed 21-of-41 passes for 242 yards and a touchdown with two picks
- West Virginia RB Wendell Smallwood ran 23 times for 132 yards, and caught a pass for 14 yards
- Oklahoma State converted just 2-of-15 third down tries and one of five fourth down chances
Game Rating: C-

Oct. 18 at West Virginia 41, Baylor 27
And You Care Because … There wasn’t a late comeback this time week for Baylor, as West Virginia broke a 27-27 tie with 14 unanswered points on two of Clint Trickett’s three touchdown passes hitting Kevin White from 12 yards out and Mario Alford for a 39-yard pass play. Baylor was held to two Chris Callahan field goals and kept Bryce Petty to two touchdown passes to Antwan Goodley and Corey Coleman, and Shock Linwood ran for a score to tie it up late in the third, but that would be it for the Bear offense. WVU’s Josh Lambert hit a 54-yard field goal at the end of the first half and a 24-yarder in the third.
What Else? Penalties: Baylor 18 for 185 yards – West Virginia 14 for 138 yards
- West Virginia QB Clint Trickett completed 23-of-35 passes for 322 yards and three scores with a pick
- Baylor QB Bryce Petty completed 16-of-36 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns
- West Virginia WR Kevin White caught eight passes for 132 yards and two scores, and Baylor WR Antwan Goodley caught nine passes for 132 yards and a score
Game Rating: B

Oct. 11 West Virginia 37, at Texas Tech 34
And You Care Because … West Virginia’s Josh Lambert hit three field goals including a 55-yard bomb as time ran out to break a 34-34 tie and cap a wild comeback. Texas Tech held a 34-20 lead late, but the Mountaineers scored 17 unanswered points as Clint Trickett found Kevin White for a 26-yard touchdown, Rushel Shell ran for a one-yard score, and the O went 42 yards in the final 52 seconds giving Lambert the chance. Shell also ran for a 12-yard touchdown, but Texas Tech was rolling in the first half with Davis Webb throwing three touchdown passes including two to Devin Lauderdale from 34 and 76 yards out. Trickett kept the Mountaineers alive with a 56-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Thompson late in the third quarter, but Texas Tech forced the comeback attempt on a 69-yard touchdown run from Justin Stockton.
What Else? Total yards: Texas Tech 565 – West Virginia 550
- West Virginia QB Clint Trickett completed 28-of-44 passes for 301 yards and two scores, and Kevin White caught 13 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown
- Texas Tech QB Davis Webb completed 28-of-46 passes for 348 yards and three touchdowns with an interception
- Texas Tech RB DeAndre Washington ran 29 times for 132 yards, and West Virginia’s Wendell Smallwood ran 15 times for 123 yards and Rushel Shell ran 24 times for 110 yards and two touchdowns
Game Rating: A

Oct. 4 at West Virginia 33, Kansas 14
And You Care Because … In the first game of the post-Charlie Weis era, Kansas spotted West Virginia for the first 26 points of the game as Josh Lambert hit field goals from 42, 25, 43 and 53 yards out, and Kevin White scored on a 63-yard touchdown catch. Nick Harwell returned a punt for a touchdown for the Jayhawks, and Corey Avery ran for a four-yard score
What Else? West Virginia QB Clint Trickett completed 20-of-35 passes for 302 yards and a touchdown with a pick
- Kansas quarterbacks combined to completed 13-of-28 passes for 111 yards
- West Virginia RB Rushel Shell ran 21 times for 113 yards and a touchdown
- Penalties; Kansas 11 for 101 yards – West Virginia 5 for 45 yards
Game Rating: D+

Oct. 4 at West Virginia 33, Kansas 14
And You Care Because … In the first game of the post-Charlie Weis era, Kansas spotted West Virginia for the first 26 points of the game as Josh Lambert hit field goals from 42, 25, 43 and 53 yards out, and Kevin White scored on a 63-yard touchdown catch. Nick Harwell returned a punt for a touchdown for the Jayhawks, and Corey Avery ran for a four-yard score
What Else? West Virginia QB Clint Trickett completed 20-of-35 passes for 302 yards and a touchdown with a pick
- Kansas quarterbacks combined to completed 13-of-28 passes for 111 yards
- West Virginia RB Rushel Shell ran 21 times for 113 yards and a touchdown
- Penalties; Kansas 11 for 101 yards – West Virginia 5 for 45 yards
Game Rating: D+

Sept. 20 Oklahoma 45, at West Virginia 33
And You Care Because … Samaje Perine ran for four scores with three coming in the second half, and Alex Ross returned a kickoff 100 yard for a score as Oklahoma blew open a tight game. West Virginia stayed in it in the first half on two Clint Trickett touchdown passes and a Rushel Shell score, but the OU offense took over in the second half and finished with over 300 rushing yards. The Mountaineers only got into the end zone once in the second half.
What Else? Oklahoma RB Samaje Perine ran 34 times for 242 yards and four scores.
- West Virginia QB Clint Trickett completed 25-of-41 passes for 376 yards and two touchdowns with two picks. Kevin White caught ten passes for 173 yards and a score.
- Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight completed 16-of-29 passes for 205 yards with a pick and caught a pass for a four-yard score. He didn’t run.
- Total Yards: West Virginia 513 – Oklahoma 510
Game Rating: B

Sept. 13 West Virginia 40, at Maryland 37
And You Care Because … Josh Lambert nailed a 47-yard field goal to give West Virginia the win in a wild shootout. Clint Trickett threw for 511 yards and four touchdowns with scoring plays to Mario Alford from 43 and 36 yards out, but Maryland came back from down 28-6 helped by a 75-yard C.J. Brown touchdown run along with a slew of Mountaineer special teams mistakes. William Likely tied the game for the Terps on a 69-yard punt return for a score midway through the fourth, but the two offenses finally slowed down until Trickett led WVU on a 13-play drive leading to the Lambert game-winner.
What Else? West Virginia QB Clint Trickett completed 37-of-49 passes for 511 yards and four touchdowns with a pick. Kevin White caught 13 passes for 216 yards and a score, and Mario Alford caught 11 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown.
- Maryland QB C.J. Brown completed 19-of-35 passes for 241 yards and a score with a pick, and ran 18 times for 161 yards and a touchdown.
- Special teams almost killed West Virginia with a muffed punt, a punt return allowed for a score, and a missed field goal, but a blocked punt led to a key safety to give the Mountaineers a three point lead.
- West Virginia LB Nick Kwiatkoski made 12 tackles with two broken up passes and three tackles for loss.
Game Rating: A

Sept. 6 at West Virginia 54, Towson 0
And You Care Because … Everything clicked for West Virginia on the way to a 31-0 halftime lead and an easy win. Clint Trickett threw two touchdown passes and ran for a five-yard score, and Wendell Smallwood and Rushel Shell added two short scores. The Mountaineers rolled up 606 yards of total offense with 11 different receivers catching passes led by Kevin White’s ten grabs for 101 yards. Trickett completed 35-of-40 passes for 348 yards and two scores and ran three times for 14 yards and a touchdown.
Game Rating: D-

Aug. 30 Alabama 33, West Virginia 23
And You Care Because … Alabama broke open a tight game with two Adam Griffith field goals from 27 and 45 yards away, but it was a fight. West Virginia hung around with a Mario Alford kickoff return for a score and three Josh Lambert field goals, but the Tide controlled the clock and the game with the ground attack, keeping the Mountaineer offense out of the end zone after a 19-yard Kevin White touchdown catch early in the second quarter.
What Else? Dogs who chase cars, pro golfers who put for pars, and offenses that settle for field goals against Alabama – name three things that don’t last long. West Virginia was able to move the ball, and it had its share of chances, but there weren’t enough chances taken in key spots to turn around the momentum and take the game. There were opportunities, but WVU didn’t seize them scoring touchdowns on just one of three chances in the end zone.
- For the most part, everything went right for Alabama. The ground game was excellent, Blake Sims was fine, the team held on to the ball for 37:47, and the run defense was outstanding. But the team was a wee bit sluggish and needed too long to put the game away.
- Welcome back, Karl Joseph. The star West Virginia safety had a down 2013, but he was outstanding making 18 tackles with a tackle for loss. For the most part, despite allowing 538 yards, the Mountaineer defense held up.
- It’s not always going to be pretty, but Alabama can always pound away getting 126 yards and two touchdowns from T.J. Yeldon and 113 yards and a score from Derrick Henry. Blake Sims didn’t have to take many big chances and was solid hitting 24-of-33 throws for 250 yards with a pick and running for 42 yards. Amari Cooper made 12 catches for 130 yards.
Game Rating: B

2014 Preview 

Okay, so what’s missing? Why isn’t West Virginia better and why isn’t the whole Big 12 experience working out as planned?

In theory, this should be the perfect marriage between team and conference, but it's fallen on hard times. Head coach Dana Holgorsen knows how to crank up an offense and get it rolling, and the production was just fine when Geno Smith was bombing away and Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin were catching a bazillion passes, but the attack all of a sudden turned inconsistent midway through 2012 and it never pulled up out of the Too Low, Striker nosedive.

If you're going to hire an offensive-minded coach, it would be nice if the offense actually produced.

Meanwhile, the defense has been a complete and utter disaster under Holgorsen's watch, but that really shouldn’t be a big deal - you don’t need a killer defense to survive in the Big 12, and as Baylor proved last year, if the offense is explosive and dominant, then other issues tend to get overlooked.

Now, to be fair, the program was in a rebuilding mode after losing Smith and almost all of the top receivers, while the defense wasn’t able to pick up the slack. Again, it’s okay if the D isn’t Alabama's, but if you’re going to build a program around an offense, the attack has to be phenomenal.

Even with all the great parts of the puzzle in 2012, the offense sputtered and coughed a bit too much over the second half of the season, and now there might be a question mark about whether or not Holgorsen’s offense really does work against the better teams.

By most standards, cranking out 411 yards per game is okay, but that’s not getting the job done when Baylor yawns and rolls up 619 per outing, Texas Tech is averaging 100 more yards per game, and Oklahoma State and Oklahoma had more pop, too. Fortunately, the 2014 Mountaineers are loaded with experience to go along with some interesting new parts to potentially do all the things offensively it's supposed to.

It all starts with the quarterback situation that was never quite settled last year and isn’t likely to be a sure thing until someone comes out and steps under center against Alabama. The backfield is loaded with good running backs, and there’s upside at receiver, however, showing just how far things slipped, Daikiel Shorts led the receiving corps with 45 catches and 13 Mountaineers combined for 251 catches for 3,145 yards and 16 scores. In 2012, Bailey and Austin combined for 224 catches for 2,914 and 37 touchdowns.

The defense was young in key spots, but safety Karl Joseph and linebacker Isaiah Bruce are burgeoning stars for a group that returns nine of the top 12 tacklers. Now the experience has to lead to production, especially against the run.

So is this it for Holgorsen? Can the program that tasted so much success in 2011 with an epic Orange Bowl win withstand another losing season?

It’s not like there were a bunch of cheap losses last year, and the Texas and Iowa State defeats came in overtime. If those two had gone the other way, West Virginia finishes 6-6, goes to a bowl and the narrative changes. Yeah, there was a win over Oklahoma State, but that was offset by an inexplicable loss to Kansas. There was a great defensive performance in a loss to Oklahoma, but that was followed up a few weeks later with a 37-0 pasting from Maryland.

So what’s missing? Consistency. That, and an offense that blows up everything it its path. With 47 lettermen and almost all the key starters back, it’s time to make some real noise in Year Three of the Big 12 experience.

What to watch for on offense: The running back situation. Most of the spotlight will be squarely on the quarterback situation as the program looks for the next Geno Smith, but the Mountaineers have an abundance of riches in the backfield to play around with. Charles Sims turned out to be the biggest positive in a dismal season earning First Team All-Big 12 honors running for 1,095 yards and 11 scores while catching 45 passes as a do-it-all back who did everything possible to bail out the inefficient passing game. He’s gone, but Pitt star Rushel Shell is joining the fun after transferring over, and Dreamius Smith is a strong, tough back who finished second on the team with 494 yards and five touchdowns. Wendell Smallwood, Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie all have experience and could be the No. 1 back on the right day. Don’t be shocked if the Mountaineer offense concentrates more on the ground attack with this group.

What to watch for on defense: The front six has to be far, far stronger against the run, and the secondary can’t make all the big plays. Like every other area of the Mountaineers, there were way too many mistakes and inconsistency was the key word. Baylor’s ground attack ran in lots and lots of open spaces on the way to 468 yards and eight touchdowns, Oklahoma controlled a tight game with 316 rushing yards, and Kansas came up with 315 yards and four touchdowns – the Jayhawks ran for just five touchdowns and just over 1,300 yards against the other FBS teams on the schedule. Big Shaq Rowell was the mainstay in the defensive interior on the nose, and now the rotation of Christian Brown and Darrien Howard will have to get the job done. The linebacking corps has promise with Isaiah Bruce back, but if the front three isn’t holding up better, it won’t matter. By the way, Alabama is first up on the schedule.

The team will be far better if … the offense can convert on third downs and the defense can stop a few. The Mountaineers were dead last in college football in fourth down conversions – getting the job done just 4-of-18 times, and with two of those coming against William & Mary and Georgia State – but the bigger overall problem was on third downs, converting a horrendous 32% of the time and only hitting the 40% mark three times. By comparison, the 2012 offensive juggernaut converted 44% of the time and was only under 40% four times. On the other side of the ball, the defense wasn’t even close in Big 12 play against everyone but the Oklahoma teams, and it allowed Baylor, Texas Tech and Kansas State to each convert over 60% of their third down chances over a three-week stretch.

The schedule: Yeeesh?! Who wants to be the team that faces Alabama team looking to get back on the field after a rough Sugar Bowl performance? West Virginia will be the sacrificial lamb, and after getting a win over Towson, there’s a possible make-or-break game against the Big Ten’s Maryland on the road. Lose that, and there’s a real problem with Oklahoma up to open the Big 12 season.

The Mountaineers get a week off before hosting Kansas as part of a run of three home games in the first four Big 12 dates, and the road games are spread out without two coming in a row. However, they have to go to Oklahoma State and Texas. Baylor has to come to Mountaineer Field, and so does Kansas State after WVU gets a week off. It’s likely the road game at Iowa State to close out the year will matter in the bowl picture.

Best offensive player: Senior OG Quinton Spain. There might be flashier players on the Mountaineer offense – at least that’s the hope – and it’s quite possible that a star emerges at quarterback or any one of a number of good running backs becomes an All-Big 12 star – again, that’s the hope – but Spain is the one who can kickstart the offense, at least for the ground game. Very big and very strong, he likely would’ve been a mid-round draft pick had he left early, and now his stock could go up in a hurry as a team captain and an anchor to work around.

Best defensive player: Junior S Karl Joseph. Linebackers Nick Kwiatkoski and Isaiah Bruce might turn out to be just as important, and the linemen need to be better, but Joseph, when his game is on, is a true difference-maker. Fine, so he suffered a sophomore slump after a phenomenal freshman season, but he still had a decent year and he was active at coming up with big plays. With good size and great range, he’s a tremendous hitter who’s great in the open field and a good last line of defense against the run. Expect a bounceback.

Key player to a successful season: Anyone who can take over the quarterback spot and make it his. No one’s asking for Geno Smith – at least not right away – but JUCO transfer Skyler Howard has a world of upside, top freshman pickup William Crest will get his chances, and Clint Trickett can be the easy option once he gets healthy after overcoming a shoulder problem. Is Paul Millard going to make a big statement? Millard and Trickett are low-ceiling, no-risk options, and Howard is the one everyone is hoping becomes The Guy with good mobility and more flash and pop to his game. Whatever happens, there can’t be a revolving door at the position again.

The season will be a success if … the Mountaineers win eight games and get back to a bowl. That might be a little bit of a reach for a team that has to start out the season against Oklahoma and needs to go to Maryland. There’s just enough experience to be two games better – there won’t be a home loss to Kansas this time around – and it might take road wins at Texas Tech and Iowa State to get the job done, but if this really is going to be a good Big 12 program, it’s time to turn things back around and be able to ball against the better teams. With Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State coming to Morgantown, the chances will be there to make a statement.

Key game: Sept. 20 vs. Oklahoma. The Mountaineers played one of their better defensive games of the year in a 16-7 loss to the Sooners, and while this year’s OU team is better, a win in the Big 12 opener could do wonders. The alternative is a potentially disastrous start with Alabama and a trip to Maryland to deal with in September, but with winnable games against Kansas and Texas Tech to follow, beating OU could make WVU one of the hot teams everyone would be talking about.

2013 Fun Stats:
- West Virginia 3rd Quarter Scoring: 44 - West Virginia 4th Quarter Scoring 105
- 3rd Down Conversion Percentage: Opponents 85-of-199 (43%) - West Virginia 59-of-185 (32%)
- Penalties: Opponents 86 for 720 yards - West Virginia 63 for 591 yards

-  2014 West Virginia Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players

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