The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

August 2, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: Crystal ball: WVU manages seven victories

MORGANTOWN — It was back in the winter of 1971 when my crystal ball was broken, shattered to pieces as I critically proclaimed the following after the trade that turned the Cincinnati Reds, whom I covered, into the Big Red Machine:

“For Lee May, you’d expect Willie Mays, not just another guy named Joe,” referring to Joe Morgan, who became a Hall of Fame player.

And the it was topped off this beauty:

“If the United States had traded Dwight Eisenhower to the Germans during World War II, it wouldn’t have been much different than sending May and (Tommy) Helms to Houston.”

Since then, my services as a prognosticator were not particular requested, yet here we sit on the opening morning of West Virginia’s 2013 season and since nothing really has happened just yet we thought it was time to predict the five key moments in the upcoming season.

Moment No. 1, Clint Trickett Named WVU Starting Quarterback

Coach Dana Holgorsen doesn’t figure to do this until after camp is complete, keeping the pressure on to make sure that he operates as maximum efficiency through the camp.

He will be pressed throughout by last year’s backup Paul Millard and redshirt freshman Ford Childress, but neither of them have the meaningful game experience of playing under pressure with important games on the line.

Trickett also, the son of a coach, seems to have “it”, whatever “it” is. Slight of stature, he stands in strong, doesn’t back down, makes gutsy plays and exudes a certain leadership that you can’t teach but that his dad, Rick, a former WVU assistant who is at Florida State, always exhibited.

Moment No. 2, West Virginia Travels to Oklahoma

Let us first of all, as much as WVU would want it, not go to Norman expecting to win.

WVU is a young, inexperienced team with that new quarterback, going to one of the toughest places in college football to play.

What’s more, last year the Mountaineers could not beat Oklahoma in Morgantown, losing 50-49, even though Tavon Austin had arguably – or, perhaps, not – the greatest day in WVU football history as he rushed for a school record 344 yards on 21 carries and accounted for 572 all-purpose yards.

If you can’t win at home with that, you don’t look toward doing it on the road without that.

But, if the Mountaineers can show a strong offense and an improved defense from last year, have a chance to win the game, as I believe they will, they will have a chance to grow during the season and lay groundwork for the future.

Moment No. 3, Maryland Gets Crabby After Taking Its Lumps

The Terrapins are supposed to be improved under an old friend, Randy Edsall, who shared a lot of warm moments with WVU in the shooting death of one of his Connecticut players but only once in eight games there was able to find a way to beat the Mountaineers.

Add that record to last year’s loss while at Maryland and WVU is 8-1 vs. Edsall.

This game carries importance in numerous ways, first because it is an area rivalry over recruiting rights to the area that sent WVU Tavon Austin and few more this year.

It is also a game against a team that moves into the Big Ten this season.

While Maryland may be on WVU’s mind, the Terps have to be caught looking ahead to their first-ever Big Ten encounter against Indiana the following week.

With a 2-1 record coming off minor victories and all the psychological edges, WVU figures to bust up Maryland and convince itself it can win on the big stage.

Moment No. 4, WVU Escapes at Baylor

Baylor is thinking improvement this season, gaining a pair of first-place votes in the conferences preseason media poll and coming off an 8-5 season and it believes that improvement will translate into a home win over WVU.

Last year’s game, of course, was memorable as it was WVU’s first Big 12 game and one that the Mountaineers survived by the rather ridiculous score of 70-63, initiating in an era of Texas-style shootouts.

This year, though, WVU will run a lot more than it did a year previously, maybe even find a way to control the clock some on the road and squeak another narrow victory … not 70-63, but not 3-0 either.

Moment No. 5, WVU Beats Kansas, Edges Iowa State for Seven Wins

WVU brings Texas Tech to Morgantown after an awful 49-14 loss in Lubbock last year but facing a new head coach and again with the best running skills in the conference will defend Milan Puskar Stadium with a crucial victory.

That, however, will be followed with a losing streak that leaves the Mountaineers exactly where they were last year, needing to beat Kansas and Iowa State to have a winning season.

Again it’s a pair of pressure games, again each against teams that are trying to climb up the Big 12 ladder, as is WVU, but for WVU to do it the Mountaineers must continue to beat these kinds of teams while finding ways to beat the establish conference leaders.

WVU will get the job done, not necessarily by any great margins but to win these games by a field goal or a touchdown will be all they need to continue in the bowl business, which isn’t bad in a transition year.

Email Bob Hertzel at or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides plenty of optimism

    This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.
    This is a time of year when no one has lost a game, not even Charlie Weis at Kansas, and it’s a time of year when opinions are more plentiful than tattoos in an NFL locker room.

    July 27, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU needs White to follow in former receivers’ footsteps

    A year ago Clint Trickett took a lot of grief as the once potent West Virginia offense came unraveled, but there is more that than meets the eye.
    The criticism was not unfounded, of course, although behind each incomplete pass there was the pain Trickett was suffering through to throw it, his rotator cuff in need of surgery.

    July 26, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: O’Toole joins long list of eccentric WVU kickers, punters

    The star of the Big 12’s annual football media day wasn’t a star at all.
    He intrigued the media far more than Bob Stoops, the coach of preseason favorite Oklahoma, and more than Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, the preseason player of the year.

    July 25, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.
    The Mountaineers are scheduled to play N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2018, and then play host to the Wolfpack on Sept. 14, 2019.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 24, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 23, 2014

  • Big 12 Media Days Foo_time(1).jpg Trickett’s play key factor for Mountaineers’ success

     In the end, it comes down to the quarterback.
    Always has with Dana Holgorsen, always will.
    Quarterback is the offense with the West Virginia University coach. When he does well, the team wins – almost always.
    When he does poorly, the team doesn’t stand much of a chance.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Saban, family happy at Alabama

    Alabama football coach Nick Saban, whose team opens the season against West Virginia in Atlanta on Aug. 30, denied receiving or turning down this offseason an offer of $100 million to coach Texas, indicating he planned to finish his career as coach of the Crimson Tide.

    July 18, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Quarterback child prodigy’ comes to WVU amidst very high expectations

    Has West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen finally put the arrow he needs in his quiver with the commitment received Wednesday from high school quarterback David Sills, who is a rather extraordinary story and may also just be a rather extraordinary quarterback?

    July 18, 2014

  • WVU kicker Molinari ‘All-American boy’

    West Virginia kicker Mike Molinari may not be an All-American but he is an All-American boy.
    He was honored for that on Wednesday when the Allstate Insurance Company and the American Football Coaches Association announced the West Virginia redshirt senior kicker/punter Michael Molinari is a nominee for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.

    July 16, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads