The Times West Virginian

Sports

October 2, 2013

FURFARI COLUMN: What a difference a week can make

MORGANTOWN — Isn’t it absolutely amazing how much a tremendous difference of one week can make on the college football field?

On Saturday, Sept. 21, West Virginia University suffered its worst shutout defeat against Maryland, 37-0, in Baltimore, since 1975 (39-0 vs. Penn State).

Head coach Dana Holgorsen took all the blame — “100 percent.” But many people thought that there was plenty of fault to go around for coaches and even some players to share.

But I’d think that those 57,280 cheerful fans in Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium last Saturday who saw the Mountaineers shock Oklahoma State, 30-21, would tell you there was a heap of praise to go around.

The Cowboys came to Morgantown 3-0 and ranked No. 11 nationally in both major polls. Were they overrated and WVU vastly underrated? Only time will tell.

Both teams still have most of their Big 12 opponents to play.

While there are numerous players who made big plays for WVU, I firmly believe most of the credit should go to quarterback Clint Trickett.

The 6-foot-3, 185-pound home-grown Morgantown-area native, who had been given just six snaps in the first four games, started and played very well virtually the whole game against OSU, a 19-point favorite.

He completed 24 of 50 passes for 309 yards and one touchdown. He had two interceptions, as did OSU quarterback J.W. Walsh.

The talented, experienced and courageous Trickett had left the game briefly when hurting his shoulder. But he returned after one play by backup Paul Millard.

You may recall that Holgorsen and his offensive coordinator, Shannon Dawson, revealed after the 16-7 loss at 16th-ranked Oklahoma on Sept. 7 that they considered changing QBs at halftime of that contest. But they decided to stick with a struggling Paul Millard.

I was surprised that it turned out to be a winnable game for WVU. Could a switch to Trickett have pulled out an upset win for the Mountaineers?

If so, West Virginia’s record would be 4-1 instead of 3-2 at this stage in the season.

Is it fair to suggest that coaches, like players, can make mistakes, too?

Besides Trickett, other standouts last Saturday included wide receiver Kevin White (17-yard TD pass reception), Josh Lambert (who made three field goals) and senior running back Charles Sims (top rusher, 18 carries-60 yards-1 TD and top receiver, 5 catches for 82 yards).

Defensive standouts included defensive back Ishmael Banks (58-yard interception return for TD), safety Darwin Cook (12-yard return of his interception) and top WVU tacklers Jared Barber (6 solo, 3 assisted), Travis Bell (8-0) and Darwin Cook (6-2).

Special-team standouts, in addition to Lambert, were Michael Molinari (7 kickoffs for 64.9-yard average) and Nick O’Toole (8 punts for a 44.6-yard average).

Team-wise, West Virginia had 90 offensive plays for 388 yards to OSU’s 87 for 433 yards. WVU’s ground game netted just 68 yards on 39 carries.

Obviously that’s chiefly the reason WVU’s offense remained below its potential.

However, its defense continued to show great improvement since being one of the nation’s worst defensive units a year ago.

Hopefully, the strong success against Oklahoma State (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) will provide a big boost to the Mountaineers’ confidence for their battle at Baylor at 8 p.m. Saturday.

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