WVU Sports with Mike Casazza

Traveler’s checks: Oklahoma State

Share This Article


I was thinking, that’s the biggest play the special teams has had for West Virginia this season. Clearly. Behind that is  … I guess it’s the other fumble recovery in the same game. Or is it a good punt by Billy Kinney or a kickoff that stayed away from Aaron Ross? Do we count Matt McCrane missing a potential game-winning field goal for Kansas State? It’s nondescript stuff.

Truth be told, WVU’s special teams have been unspectacular — some yuck rankings — and somehow mostly inconsequential, which is really an improvement on some prior years. And yet, it’s concerning Saturday. Oklahoma State is really good on special teams, with rankings that look even better next to WVUs.

The Cowboys treat every rep like a chance to score or at least alter the game. They blocked three extra points against Texas, which means they saw something in their preparations and went after it — they have two blocked PAT two-point conversions this season. Vincent Taylor is a monster. The kicker is the school’s all-time leading scorer. The kickoff return guy has good genes. Watch out.

“It’s huge here,” Scott said. “You look at their coverage units and they’re right at the top of the Big 12. So we’re going to have our work cut out in the return game, whether it’s [Jalen] McCleskey in the punt return or Barry Sanders Jr., who has gotten loose on a couple punts and kickoff returns.”

Oh yeah. Barry Sanders’ son is returning kicks. All he has is the genes of the best running back in the history of football. (My opinion. Argue amongst yourselves.)

“He’s extremely quick,” Scott said of Sanders. “He and McCleskey are different guys. Barry Sanders Jr. is a thick kid. He’s almost 200 pounds and he still has quickness and elusiveness. McCleskey is more of a speed guy. He’s one of their top slot receivers. He’s got wiggle and straight-line speed.”

Back to that kick-blocking stat though.

“They’re going to come after two to three punts every game,” Scott said of OSU. “We’ve got to teach our guys what to look for. Obviously protection is No. 1 always when it comes to punts. Protect your gap. If there’s no threat, we’ve got to get out with the same type of speed as we did against Kansas State and last week [versus TCU]. We’ve got to use our hands. You can’t run away from a block. We’ve got to be violent. We’ve got to be the aggressor. We’ve got to get those hands off and get down into coverage.

“We’ll work on that all week. It’s hard to say this week is more important than any other, but we want to continue to get better.”

Continue reading…

Something’s (allegedly) got to give

Share This Article


Kansas is once again the preseason favorite in the Big 12, and the Jayhawks are one regular season championship away from matching UCLA’s record for the most in a row. John Wooden’s Bruins once had 13 in a row, and Kansas is on its way.

Right? Or doesn’t this have to end at some point?

WVU is No. 2 in the preseason poll, and maybe no one the past two years has been as close to dethroning the king as were Mountaineers. Three home wins in three years and a handful of hair at Allen Fieldhouse and the Big 12 tournament. But no wins in those other venues, which is the only way someone is ever going to knock Kansas off its perch.

WVU finds the No. 2 distinction to be “bittersweet,” because it’s redeeming recognition, but it also clearly states the Mountaineers are not expected to be No. 1, and no matter how close that is to the truth, that drives them crazy.

That said — and we’ve been over this — the Big 12 is not The Big 12. It does not appear, as we sit here and write and read this today, to be what we’ve witnessed the previous three years. So, why not WVU or why not someone else this season? Well, Kansas is still pretty good, and everyone – Jayhawks included – lost some pieces to the offeseason.

“This is my 14th year,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Coach Self and I came in together, and I can’t remember a year more competitive Nos. 2-10. I think Kansas is a clear favorite, but other than that, it’s a crapshoot.”

Kansas lost its top two scorers from last season, and there’s a similar situation around the league. The entire first-team All-Big 12 team from last season is gone, as are three players from the second and third teams. The 2016 player of the year, defensive player of the year, coach of the year and sixth man of the year are all gone, too.

“With our teams in the league, you lost a lot of valuable members of teams, some of the greatest players in the history of Big 12 basketball, from Buddy Hield to Georges Niang to Perry Ellis, and I think if you look at teams, they seem to have parts back, but you’re not sure about all the other people,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “So I think you could make a case for a lot of teams.”

How tempo led to 6-0

Share This Article


Not a lot of scores through six games, but a lot of variation. Look at last week alone. Six scoring drives. The first three are from the first half. The next three are from the second half. West Virginia was prompt and opportune in the first half and then deliberate and effective in the second half.

Continue reading…

They were framed!

Share This Article

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This was supposed to post yesterday afternoon. It appears we had blog problems again, and it didn’t post until much later in the day. Apologies. New word: bloglems.

I’m off to Cleveland for Game 2 of the World Series. Back at it tomorrow. See you then. In the mean time, you can see some stills of Saturday’s WVU v. TCU game.

If you’re reminded that Kyle Hicks was pretty good, you should know that Justice Hill has been a pleasant surprise for an Oklahoma State running game that has needed a boost like that. The Cowboys received another last week when 6-foot-1, 215-pound Chris Carson returned from a hand injury.

In OSU’s 44-20 victory, Carson provided quality depth behind freshman Justice Hill, carrying the ball eight times for 59 yards with two touchdowns. Carson was also effective in the receiving game with two catches for 27 yards — including a 15-yard touchdown reception facing third-and-10.

“Chris Carson was good, right?” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “He was explosive for us, made some good runs, caught the ball. He was huge on the touchdown catch on third-and-long.”

It’s 6-0 WVU v. very nearly 7-0 Oklahoma State

Share This Article

Though I was one the road, football went on as planned Tuesday, and the head coach as well as his assistant coaches and their players met the media.

Assistant Coach (Defense/Special Teams) Mark Scott

On Redshirt Junior Safety Shane Commodore’s play against TCU

We sit in here every Sunday and every single player on the team and every coach, we watch all the special teams’ plays. All I said was, ‘if you want to get in on one of these units, play like this.’ He did a great job avoiding a block, making a tackle, forcing a fumble, he could’ve gotten up and started celebrating but he got right up, chased after the ball, after it was fumbled around one or two more times he ends up getting the recovery. That’s what special teams is all about, that effort, that non-stop getting after the ball, especially on the coverage units. That’s what we want out of all 10 of our guys running down the field.

It’s Wednesday, so … Good: Shane Commodore’s play. That would have gotten a spotlight if the G&B were a Thing this week. He forced the fumble 15 yards from where he recovered the fumble. Think about that. I have no proof to support this theory, but I do think it’s generally acceptable to say that when a team has it going good, you see plays like that happen. It’s a bit of good luck, and WVU is definitely due for some, but it’s a play by an otherwise anonymous player who nevertheless wants to do something to be a part of things.

Continue reading…

Bob Huggins, a noted media day fashion icon, was dressed down Tuesday.

He understood his reputation and aware of the expectations. He was the unfortunate victim of circumstances.

After media day last year, Huggins received a box of similar slacks from the people who make them.

“Gold ones, blue ones, khakis,” Huggins said.

Ever appreciative of the gesture, Huggins had designs on that design again this year. After practice Monday, Huggins stopped by his house to pack a pair and then head to the airport.

“They weren’t hemmed and they were really long,” he said. “They needed cut and hemmed.”

Big 12 media day: “… if they’ll have me.”

Share This Article

You are looking live at the back-and-forth Wellington Smith and I had this morning. Turns out I was mistaken and the cover is in honor of Bob Huggins. Simple mistake. Anyhow, Huggins is beginning is — a-ha! — 35th season with a team picked to finish second in the Big 12 and ranked No. 18 in the preseason coaches’ poll.

It feels … well, it still feels like the same team that lost its best post player, best rebounder and best scorer and is going use and perhaps even need three freshmen, two of which will be in the frontcourt. But we’ve been over this: The Big 12 is not quite so big. I guess it’s not a bad year to position yourself to make a jump in a Big 12 sport. We’ll explore that further today.

You know the drill for this event. If not, I’ll bring you up to speed: Despite the sponsors name on the building, the WiFi here is ordinarily atrocious. I will update this as can.

Continue reading…

Texts From TCU Game Day

Share This Article


You want to talk about surprises? Jovon Durante, heretofore muted as he completed some sort of personal restoration project prescribed upon being deemed unfit to participate in the Cactus Bowl, was allowed to talk to the media Saturday.

think I understand interview eligibility rules — you need to finish a full year on campus before you talk, unless when there’s an exception — so I always ask for Durante when we have to submit a list of names for interviews during the week or after the game. (I also ask for Marvin Gross, who made a big play Saturday and was still nixed, but I also think I understand targeting, and that keeps getitng nixed, too.) I’ve had a few people tell me Durante is one of the funniest guys on the team, and I happen to think he’s extremely intriguing as a player, as a person and just as a story as a whole.

He, like the rest of his burgeoning teammates, did not disappoint Saturday.

Perhaps the most important note, however, is this: West Virginia is now squarely in the hunt for a College Football Playoff berth at the team’s halfway point.

Sure, it’s still early. It’s a significant position, though, considering Mountaineer coach Dana Holgorsen entered the season on the hot seat and WVU was picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 via the media poll released in July.

“All of us, we just see how great we are,” said West Virginia receiver Jovon Durante after Saturday’s win over TCU. “There’s greatness ahead. If we keep winning — we’re building that mentality of winning — it just feels great to be 6-0.”

Hey, everybody. WVU is a top-10 team, and there doesn’t seem to be much use debating that today. Will the Mountaineers end up in the top 10? That’s worth a conversation, but when you scan the landscape and attempt to make sense of the rankings, what’s wrong with putting and keeping WVU where it is today? I can’t give you an answer to that, and I feel obligated to tell you the Mountaineers are a three-point favorite Saturday. The Sagarin ratings, which, for some reason, I’ve followed closely this season and happen to trust, see a larger margin (it’s using a new predictive method, and it favors WVU by between 9 1/2 and 10 points … scan to the bottom). WVU might be favored in their remaining games.

As predicted, no?

I’m off to Kansas City and Big 12 basketball media day tomorrow. I expect to have no WiFi there, and I’ve planned accordingly for you here. @derekredd is covering the team in my stead tomorrow and writing the stories for the week. Pepper him with suggestions!

Welcome to the room of people who have rooms of people that they loved one day, locked away. Just because we check the guns at the door doesn’t mean our texts will change from hand grenades. My edits are in [brackets].

The dirt sheets are saying that Patterson didn’t have time to review much WVU film because he was so wrapped up in the James Ellsworth AJ Styles angle.

Seems legit.

Tailgate band is playing Copperhead Road hglllll yeahhhhh

Bob Bowlsby (spelling?) just walked past me in the concession line

Once this Louisville joke is over, I bet I get Nebraska/Purdue. [Fantastic.]

This game has me way spooked…and not in a Halloween kinda way

Oh…hello….what’s this? A special teams error WENT OUR WAY? Will

Continue reading…

Sunday Brunch: No. 12 WVU 34, TCU 10

Share This Article

Hi. I can’t stay long. I’m in Richmond as I type this for my nephew’s baptism, and then I’m heading back home. And then tomorrow I have class early end a flight to K.C. for Big 12 basketball media day on Tuesday. And then Wednesday — I don’t want to jinx in.

But none of that means we should eschew what happened Saturday. WVU took apart another really good offense — Uh, Texas Tech? That game had 49 possessions! — and, once again, never departed or was made to leave its comfort zone. That, to me, is the theme of this half-a-season. The Mountaineers have never not played their game.

Continue reading…

WVU v. TCU: Who is the more complete team?

Share This Article


You are looking live at the today’s head coaches following last season’s game in Fort Worth, Texas. Dana Holgorsen, of course, low-fived Trevone Boykin during the game and then said afterward that Boykin was the best player in college football. That was interesting, because after the prior game, Holgorsen said Baylor receiver Corey Coleman was the best player in college football.

His opinion must carry weight, because it was on the field after the game when the two coaches shook hands and TCU’s Gary Patterson asked Holgorsen what TCU’s chances were against Baylor. The Horned Frogs were No. 5 at that time. Baylor was No. 2. Holgorsen replied, “You’ll win. You’re a more complete team.”

I don’t remember the occasion or the reason why we were talking, but I do remember it was 2012. Holgorsen and I were talking about the Big 12 and the coaches, and he raved about Patterson. Not just for his coaching or his defense, either. You could tell he liked him, and that’s probably another reason Holgorsen enjoys playing the Horned Frogs.

Well, we’ve learned the feeling is mutual. Patterson was carrying on this week about how impressed he is by West Virginia and what the Mountaineers do on offense and defense and even special teams. The point was WVU didn’t always possess that balance or cohesion. “He’s really matured in all facets,” Patterson said. “He’s one of my favorite guys in our league, because he calls it how it is, he coaches hard and he goes about his business.”

Business could not have been easy this week. WVU got a lot of publicity and approval beyond the jumps in the polls. There were national stories and interviews, and everything was positive, which is mostly new to these players. They sort of operate on negativity and doubt.

Holgorsen attempted to control that this week —  “I know you all are thinking 2012.” — and the message is consistent throughout the Puskar Center.

“What’s 5-0?” running backs coach JaJuan Seider said. “We go out and lose the rest of these games, then we’re below .500. We haven’t done anything yet. It’s good to be 5-0, but we don’t take it for granted. It doesn’t mean anything if we stumble in the next seven games and don’t do what we need to do. We’re still coaching for something bigger than what we’ve got right now.”

And here comes TCU to change that.

Continue reading…