The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

October 13, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: One tough question for WVU 

MORGANTOWN — Midway through the 2013 football season, one question lingers above all others – and there are more and tougher questions than you will find on a chemistry midterm – and that question is this:

Who are the real Mountaineers?

Are they the West Virginia University team that stunned the college football world with an upset of Oklahoma State and a solid performance against Oklahoma, or are they the team which lost to Baylor, 73-42 – two of their touchdowns gifts after falling behind 42-7 midway through the second quarter – and which struggled to beat William & Mary?

This is a team that gave up just 16 points to Oklahoma but also gave up those 73 to Baylor.

It is a team midway through that has either too many quarterbacks or none at all.

It is a team that lost 37-0 to Maryland which then watched that same Maryland team go to Florida State be on the wrong end of a 63-0 shutout.

It is a passing team that runs better than it passes, yet doesn’t run well.

It’s a team whose coach seems completely overwhelmed by what has happened, who has created an offense that he used to say was easy to learn and could be adapted to any style of quarterback but that, in reality, has proved to be difficult to learn for a quarterback who began taking college courses in high school and graduated early from college.

It is a team that was muscled around on the line of scrimmage by Baylor both sides of the ball while also being shown to be far too slow to keep up with the Bears.

Worse, five games into last season there was talk of playing for a national title and of giving the Heisman Trophy to quarterback Geno Smith without playing the final seven games.

That all dissipated into five victories over the last 14 games — four of those victories being against Big 12 doormats Kansas and Iowa State and FCS opponent William & Mary and Georgia State, perhaps the worst FBS school as it transitions into major college football.

Through it all, head coach Dana Holgorsen, to his credit, has tried to keep matters as upbeat as he can … accepting the bulk of the blame for what has happened and actually saying he sees things to build up beginning with No. 20 Texas Tech arrival in Morgantown at noon next Saturday following WVU’s first bye week of the season.

“You can see some things happening that show improvement,” Holgorsen said, perhaps trying to fool himself, perhaps his players or perhaps the public. “Whether you want to believe that or not, you can see some things. We need to improve so we can win some games.”

The truth is that there have been some signs on defense of a team that can play better than Baylor allowed it to play, the Bears being a member of the Big 12 but playing as if they came from a far, far better conference.

Offensively, though, there is much to do for the line has been bounced around badly, not at all taking to the offensive football new line coach Ron Crook brought from Stanford.

Being a team without a quarterback – caught with Clint Trickett nursing an injured shoulder and still learning the language a Holgorsen QB must speak and with Ford Childress also injured and too inexperienced to put a football team on his shoulders when healthy – is enough to drag a team down without having a center who just recently moved to the position and who is still in the process of being consistent with his snaps.

“We need to understand what to do. The guys are playing with effort. They care,” Holgorsen maintains.

It isn’t effort. It isn’t “want to,” but it is a matter of being technically deficient.

“They are trying. (Redshirt-senior offensive lineman) Pat (Eger)’s the new center. The snap is a little off at times, which affects the run play,” he noted. “The backs can’t hit it because the timing is all screwed up.”

Eger is working hard at perfecting his snapping ability, but this doesn’t come easily when you are forced to engage in on-the-job training.

“We try to attack, and we will try again,” Holgorsen said. “We are going to try and put ourselves in the best situation we possibly can. If it doesn’t work, we need to do it again and again and again until it works out. You can’t use a magic wand or put some sort of a spell over them to make that stuff work. You just have to play. You need reps, time and practice. It’s a hard game, and we’ve played good teams. It is what it is.

The same can be said of Trickett and/or Childress or Paul Millard – all of them starters in two games this season, working with a new offense line and new group of receivers.

“We’ve got a quarterback trying to throw a post route to five different guys that he’s never thrown that to. Based on how fast the receivers are and the relationship between the quarterback and that specific receiver, the ball needs to be thrown accordingly. This is stuff that happens in the course of a second.”

Trickett has had two games – not years – of working with these receivers.

What do you do for the second half of the season?

Certainly, you don’t give up. You need to get at least six victories to receive a bowl bid, which will allow you to have an extra month’s work.

You expect two to come against Kansas and Iowa State, although nothing is assured, but you still have to find a victory from among Texas Tech, TCU, Texas and Kansas State.

It is not a gimme by any means.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Watson tees off a new century at The Greenbrier

    You knew this was going to be one of those unpredictable, memorable days when you drove into the Greenbrier Resort and headed to the Old White Golf Course and found the best parking place in the joint.
    As Bob Uecker would say, right there in the front rooooow.

    April 20, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules

    At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.

    April 18, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Jackie Robinson’s impact extends beyond baseball

    It is Jackie Robinson Day as I sit here writing this today, and I feel as though I am doing it in a world gone mad.
    Every player in Major League Baseball wore No. 42 on Tuesday in honor of Jackie Robinson, the man who took racism’s best shot and integrated the game that was known then as the National Pastime even though it was as white a Ku Klux Klan robe.

    April 16, 2014

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

    From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

    April 15, 2014

  • WVU signs guard; Adrian arrested for DUI

    There was something good and something bad for West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins this past weekend as Kansas junior college player Tarik Phillip committed to play for the Mountaineers but rising sophomore Nathan Adrian was charged with Under 21 DUI after he was stopped at 1:20 a.m. Sunday for an expired registration sticker.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Garrison still proving he can carry the ball

    The running back raves from the West Virginia coaching this spring have been directly mostly toward Wendell Smallwood, and rest assured he earned every one of them with his versatility, but it was a reborn running back who well may have taken the biggest jump up the depth chart.

    April 14, 2014

  • WVU baseball drops seventh straight game

    One’s athletic skills are tested on a daily basis but every so often other aspects of an athlete’s makeup are tested, often far more important aspects in the game of life.

    April 14, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads