The Old Master’s Views

After the Pitt game, I was actually encouraged by what I saw overall, despite the close loss. I saw a team hold up well at the line of scrimmage against a Pitt squad that figures to be very strong in the trenches. I saw a better offense, with a much better quarterback, and I saw an improved running game, highlighted by true freshman CJ Donaldson. The final key play was a flukish interception returned for a touchdown. I also like that WVU refused to quit, and nearly came back to tie the game.

But the Kansas game changed that. The improved offense was still there. They scored touchdowns on all of their real drives in the first half (I’m not counting the final drive which was one play to run out the clock). It wasn’t as potent in the second half, when they had to actually punt once, and settled for field goals twice – but the offense played well enough to win.

The defense on the other hand, had one of the worst performances at Mountaineer Field that I can remember. WVU has been shredded on defense before, but those were high powered offenses that often were loaded with talent. I don’t think that’s the case with this Kansas team. After stopping Kansas on their first drive of the game (which was due in no small part to several KU penalties), the defense watched helplessly as the Jayhawks scored touchdowns on their next four drives.

In the opening drive of the second half, the defense did force a punt, but WVU muffed that punt and Kansas recovered. They took advantage of that second chance, and scored a touchdown. They had another touchdown on their next drive. Their next drive (their final one in regulation), was stopped, but they were mainly trying to run down the clock. In overtime, they scored a touchdown, of course.

That’s 10 drives in all, and nine drives that Kansas wanted to move the ball and score. WVU allowed touchdowns on seven of those. That is simply unacceptable. And the ease at which Kansas moved the ball was especially concerning. They were gaining yards in chunks – their average gain on first down was five yards. They had success running the ball and passing. Receivers were often open, and WVU did not have any sacks. The defensive line rarely moved the KU offensive line backwards. It was extremely frustrating.

Now Neal Brown finds himself squarely on the hot seat. There will be calls for his job. The current buyout is pretty massive, so I doubt he will be gone soon. And there is still time to rescue the season, but it’s going to be very difficult. There should be no problems beating Towson this week, but the following game at Virginia Tech is an absolute must win. (I might add that it should be a solid win). And he has to figure out how to win at least four conference games.

Towson will come to Morgantown 2-0 after close wins over Bucknell and Morgan State. That doesn’t matter, the Tigers should not pose much of a challenge. What I want to see is a WVU team that comes out with some fire, and takes care of business. I want to see the defense flying around and making tackles. I want to see the offense continue to score points – lots of them. WVU needs to make a statement with a big win, even if it is “just Towson.” A good team is supposed to win these types of games easily, and that is what WVU must do. I’m still not sold on them, but I am taking them this week. WVU, 48-12.

Notes: Kickoff will be at 1p.m., and it is another ESPN Plus game…Condolences to family and friends of former WVU Coach Frank Cignetti…He was sandwiched between two Hall of Fame coaches, Bobby Bowden and Don Nehlen. Cignetti coached the Mountaineers from 1976-1979. While he didn’t have great success here (17-27), he went on to a great career at Indiana University, Pennsylvania. He had a 182-50-1 record in 20 years there, and that earned him his own honor in the Hall of Fame (so, yes, WVU technically had three straight Hall of Fame coaches)…He has two sons doing well in the coaching ranks: Frank, Jr. is offensive coordinator at Pitt, and Curt is head coach of James Madison…Congratulations to Bob Huggins, who was officially inducted this week at the Basketball Hall of Fame.

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