The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

September 29, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: Banks turnover changes more than the game

MORGANTOWN — It was early Saturday morning, earlier than any football team likes to pile into a group of buses and leave as lovely a place as Lakeview Resort and head to a stadium for a football game.

Noon is a nice time for lunch, but really you’d like a little more time to get the competitive juices flowing, especially West Virginia University on this lovely morning, coming off a 37-0 embarrassment at Maryland a week ago and headed toward a perceived slaughter.

Awaiting them was the nation’s No. 11 team, undefeated Oklahoma State, a three-touchdown favorite.

Ishmael Banks, a cornerback they call “Icky,” nestled into his seat for the 15-minute ride or so, and lots of thoughts were rolling through his head.

“On the way over here on the bus, all I’m saying to myself is, ‘Make plays, make plays,’ know what I’m saying? Do something to help this team win. Make a play,” he recalled about six hours later, one of the most stunning upsets in WVU history having been put into the record books, a 30-21 victory over Oklahoma State.

Indeed, similar thoughts were on all the defenders’ minds. They had actually played well at Maryland. In fact, they had played well all season but were being challenged because the offense had struggled so badly.

The coaches this week had told them that just getting turnovers wasn’t enough. They had to be meaningful turnovers, done in opponent’s territory at an important moment in the game.

That is a huge challenge, of course, for just getting a turnover is hard enough.

“That was one of the things we emphasized this week, to try and set up a score so they could build up some confidence,” defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said.

“That’s West Virginia defense,” Patterson continued. “That’s what made West Virginia great over the course of how long they have been playing football. It’s just tough, physical-minded, mentally tough game. It seems like it’s always been that way. Studying West Virginia back 10 or 15 years ago, it seems they always came up with the key turnover at the right moment in the game.”

And so it came to pass, so to speak, that in this game the Cowboys had struck first and in no small way, connecting on a 73-yard middle screen pass for a touchdown.

No matter how you looked at WVU had now given up 44 consecutive points over two games and when they immediately turned the ball back to Oklahoma State it looked like night was falling in midday.

That was when Banks stepped in front of a J.W. Walsh pass, picked it off cleanly and raced into the end zone to tie the game, 7-7.

The game changed.

Perhaps the season changed.

Who knows, maybe even Dana Holgorsen’s career path changed.

“It was a big play,” Banks admitted. “Last week, we knew we were better than that. We didn’t let it sink in and get us out of our morale.”

Patterson was asked if it could be a season-changing play.

“I think it could,” he said. “That remains to be seen. It depends on how we come back next week and come off the bye week after that.”

And Holgorsen, whose job security has been slipping, what did he think of the play?

“It was huge. That’s what we talked about all week,” he said. “We think we are playing better defense, but if you want to go from good to great, you have to make bigger plays. Darwin Cook’s interception in the fourth quarter was huge. Icky’s interception was enormous. That fumble set up a field goal was huge.

“That’s the reason we won the game. I don’t want to call them great yet, but they improved.”

Indeed, this has become one of those West Virginia defenses that used to be, a defense that looks even better than it may really be in the shadow of the abysmal defensive group that was put together a year ago.

“Obviously, they are playing much better,” losing coach Mike Gundy said. “They are more gap responsible. They are running to the football. They are better tacklers than they were a year ago.”

Mainly, though, they are tougher than were a year ago, and you can’t ignore the importance of that in a sport that is doing all it can to take the toughness out of the game through the rules.

In the end, toughness is what it football will always be about.

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

1
Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • 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

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Smallwood puts future in jeopardy

    The last thing West Virginia’s struggling football program needed as twilight was setting on Bastille Day in Morgantown was to have one of its own whisked off to the North Central Regional Jail on a fugitive warrant from another state, especially a player who had figured to play a key role in the resurrection of a program gone bad.

    July 16, 2014

  • WVU player arrested in Delaware case

    West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood has been arrested by university police and is being held at North Central Regional Jail awaiting extradition on a felony warrant out of Delaware.

    July 15, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads