WVU Sports with Mike Casazza

Dana Holgorsen: BYU week

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Josh Lambert’s suspension is over, and he’ll be a part of what we can assume will be many changes on special teams.

He should help. He should help with that. We’re going to evaluate it. I’ve been very happy with (redshirt junior kicker) Mike Molina. He stepped in without any experience at all. He stepped in five or six on field goals, made every extra point, handled all the kickoff duties and didn’t have his best day. He needs to continue to get better by having Josh come back. He will be able to create competition and alleviate the fact that Mike’s (Molina) is our only guy to be able to handle those duties. What exactly Josh does, we’ll work hard this week to see how we divvy it up, and what we end up doing this week may change the next week. It’s good to be able to have two guys who can handle those loads, and we will evaluate where they are and see what they need to do, but they’ll both see action.

Texts From BYU Game Day

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A quick story about my keys, one that some of you have apparently heard already. Last Friday — the day before WVU didn’t play — I went to the food store and bought many items. When I got home, I decided to carry all the bags in at once. So I kept my keys in my hand, threaded my arms through the handles of the plastic bags, took the short series of steps from my car to the front door, unlocked the door and put the groceries on the counter in the kitchen.

My dog started going nuts, and I noticed two people on my front porch and that the storm door was closing. So I walked from the kitchen to the door and calmed my dog along the way. The two youths were gone, and I spotted them going up on the porch of another house on the block. This did not seem unusual. I figured, from the kitchen, they were bible salesmen or people looking to sell magazine subscriptions to fund a trip to France. But they were dressed like hobos. They weren’t Jehova’s Witnesses. I couldn’t find a takeout menu in the mailbox. I didn’t recognize them. And now they were going to a third house.

Something was wrong, so I called the non-emergency number for the police department. It wasn’t long until I realized my keys — the keys to the house and to my car and my wife’s car — we gone. Pilfered!

The past 10 days have been as much of a nuisance as you’d imagine. A saga. I changed the locks on the house right away, and we’re parking one car in our one-car garage. The other car? I bought that one used. I only have one key for it. That key is gone now, so I can’t move the car. I took a tire off so no one could drive away in it. My wife slept on the couch the first night. (She said she was being vigilant. I don’t think she was mad at me.) We had a neighborhood watch-ish bonfire the next night. My keys have The Tile, and the only time it’s dinged lately was the morning after. That was a fruitless and desperate search, except that we discovered the two suspects had, I guess, harassed an elderly couple in the neighborhood, up to and including asking the woman at the door, “Are you here alone?” That was not cool. We’re keeping an eye on that.

Fortunately, I have exquisite auto insurance. I was sure I was going to get screwed by some technicality, but all the locks and keys and key fobs are being replaced at no cost. But this is infuriating, to say the least. You didn’t do anything wrong, but your world gets flipped. You think you’ve taken precautions, but just when you start to feel normal — or as normal as you can when people have your keys, to say nothing of the troubling nerve to come up on your porch to take those keys — you hear a house noise or a car starting. The dog barks at 1 a.m. The UPS guy drops a package between your storm door and front door. Someone is behind you when you walk from the football stadium to your house.

You’re antsy. You get rattled. You really can’t relax until you know it’s finished.

It’s hard to explain, or so I thought. Then Saturday happened, and as I read these texts, I felt that maybe you felt how I’d felt. Things are going perfectly normal, and then something unthinkable happens. You never saw it coming. You don’t know who to blame. You’re sure it’s going to end badly, that someone’s out to get you one way or another, but you discover there’s a redeeming finish to the story. You want to just exhale and get back to normal, but you know better than to let down your guard until everything is complete. And you know it’s going to take a while to get there, so you better brace yourself for all the headaches that have to happen before then.

Here comes the rain again, falling from the stars. Drenched in my pain again, becoming who we are. As my memory rests but never texts what I lost. My edits are in [brackets].

11:59:
Gameday crew unanimously picks WVU. Should i throw in the towel now?

2:53:
Hey, Mike. Do you have any KEYS to this game you want to share with us?

3:12
17 yo son begged me to take him to this game. Apparently, kids today have much different definition for Cougars.

3:32:
I have friends who went to Utah. They hate BYU palpably. They want us to hurt BYU.

3:33:
The Pitt SID has announced the crowd at FedEx Field at 90,000. Amazing!

3:34:
The game hasn’t even started and I have already muted ESPN 2!

3:35:
The crowd in the upper deck has come dressed as Pitt fans.

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Sunday Brunch: WVU 35, BYU 32

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Dana Holgorsen is 3-0. He’s still not clear on the three-second rule, though. That was my question. A while later, he and I spoke, and I mentioned that the three-second rule applies to a stopped clock. He said the official told him that and that he disagreed with the official. I’m pretty sure the official was right and that, despite reputations, the officials handled the entire ordeal properly. (Hickman!)

Now, this doesn’t mean the rule itself is not flawed. That was Holgorsen’s issue. It didn’t seem to me that he believed the justification of the decision to allow the play, which is that you can spike the ball on a running clock and not on a stopped clock.

“See, why would you clock it if the clock stops?” he said. “If the clock is stopped, why would you clock it?”

Good point. Easy counter. Say the Taysom Hill pass to Mitch Juergens was good or a first down and that BYU was still without timeouts. BYU would have spiked — “clocked,” if you must — that ball and brought its field goal team on the field. It’s too hard to do a line change there. Use the spike.

But it seems there’s a problem with that rule. How is two seconds not enough time in one instance, but one second is enough in another? The rule book is due for some changes in the offseason. (That said, I repeat that it appears the officials got it right. The rule, no matter what you think of it, was interpreted properly. The replay clearly showed the spiked ball hitting the turf with 1 second to go. I now look forward to the Big 12 conference call Monday when we learn the [SEC] officiating crew screwed it all up and either misinterpreted the rule or reviewed something they’re not allowed to review or something else.)

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WVU v. BYU: They’re on a mission

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You are looking live at FedEx Field, site of today’s football game. You’ll note your team’s name and colors in the near end zone here. The nickname is in the same colors in the opposite end zone.

The West Virginia Mountaineers are the home team, so they get special end zone treatment. Contracts!

This is our last September game, and Dana Holgorsen has been quite good in the ninth month, winning 16 of 20 games with a 15-2 record in non-conference play. He’s also 5-0 in the third game of the season. With a win today, the Mountaineers would have a seven-game non-conference winning streak. That’s the best at WVU since a 14-game run from the 2005 Sugar Bowl to the 2008 season-opening win against Villanova and Dear Friend Andy Talley.

And if BYU wins, well, the Cougars are automatically in the Big 12. You hadn’t heard?

No? That’s because it’s a non-starter. This isn’t Oklahoma v. Houston — or Memphis v. Kansas! — and BYU isn’t in need of a marquee win against a Power 5 opponent. It’s beaten a Power 5 team in 11 straight seasons, including Arizona this year. And if BYU wins today, it matches Navy for the most win against Power 5 teams since 2003. The Midshipmen currently lead 22-21.

That said, BYU does want in the Big 12, and a showcase game in the shadow of the Nation’s Capital on national television against one of the league’s two unbeaten teams is, if nothing else, an opportunity to pop pecs.

“No secret that they’re trying to get into the Big 12, which is probably going to give them a little extra motivation to be able to play this game,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said.

His players, who know very little about expansion and seem content with that, aren’t convinced.

“Those guys show up every game, no matter who they play,” said linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton. “Pac-12, Big 12, those guys show up. This may be something the fans are feeling, but I don’t really think it’s [BYU’s] motivation as much as it is an opportunity to play another opponent.

“I don’t think BYU came in and circled West Virginia and said, ‘This game is more important than Utah or UCLA.’ I think anytime they play, they come prepared each game equally and put their best foot forward.”

Let’s put one foot ahead of the other, starting now.

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Traveler’s checks: BYU

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We’re offer Landover, Md., today for tomorrow’s WVU v. BYU game. Friend of the Book Mike Patrick will call the game!

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Meet Druw Bowen

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Maybe BYU can borrow him Saturday? The Cougars have two 20-yard passing plays this season. One was a 39-yard catch-and-run by a running back. The other was a 23-yard throw to a receiver.

Plus, Bowen is 6-foot-2, and BYU seems to like those big targets.

That receiver is 6-foot-6 Nick Kurtz, who set a career-high with eight catches in the game and has caught a pass in 14 straight outings. Moroni Laula-Pututau, a 6-4 target, leads the team with 13 receptions for 131 yards.

“The bigger bodies are kind of hard to deal with, just as far as being aggressive with them because of how big and physical they are and how they can create separation, not necessarily with speed but with being able to body you up and leverage you and box you out,” safeties coach Matt Caponi said.

“That will pose a challenge for us. The first couple weeks, we saw more speed guys. They’ve got a couple speed guys who can run and are smaller, but the bigger wideouts, we’ve got to try to out-physical them on the line of scrimmage and battle for the ball and compete with them to try to make some plays.”

 

BYU, as you’ve probably already heard, is an unusual team. It’s old. The average player’s age is 21.4. That’s right around the age of a person in his or her fourth year on campus, and while that may not seem so crazy as it relates to football, consider the entire spectrum. You’re dealing with a lot of 18- and 19-year-olds, but also a lot of 24- and 25-year-olds. Taysom Hill is 26!

There is, of course, an explanation.

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‘I told him for BYU, I need a big game.’

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“When Skyler gives me that look, I already know,” receiver Shelton Gibson said. “He doesn’t have to say anything to me. He can signal some bull crap and I already know he’s about to go deep. It’s just a connection he and I have.”

It feels weird to keep saying this, because we’re sort of deep into the season by now, but the verdict has not yet come in for West Virginia’s offense or for it’s passing game. We’ve seen good and bad non-conference performances and we’ve seen encores that do and do not match in Big 12 play.

But what we can gather and safely state so far is that quarterback Skyler Howard has a — literally — unspeakably strong bond with his two favorite receivers.

 

Cue Dave Wannstedt

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Though I doubt I’m the only one, there can only be a few people who cover West Virginia college football and have spoken face-to-face with Kevin, Ka’Raun and Kyzir White. (Aside: That’s the end of the line for WVU. Their sister is committed to Auburn.)

Kevin is … you know how Kevin is. Kyzir is somewhat similar. He’s a sharp, confident kid, though he’s not emboldened by the life experiences that fueled Kevin’s bravado. Also, I only spent about 30 minutes with him one day, so I won’t pretend I’m his biographer. Ka’Raun is the quietest of the three. I wouldn’t say shy or soft-spoken. He’s just the quietest of the three. His voice doesn’t boom. He’s not as boisterous. His words aren’t a bold.

Or maybe not.

The Mountaineers (2-0) average 9.82 yards per attempted pass, which ranks No. 18 nationally, and one receiver likes the offense’s chances against the BYU secondary.

“The [cornerbacks],” outside receiver Ka’Raun White said, “I don’t think they can run with us.”

White caught a 53-yard touchdown pass against Youngstown State. Shelton Gibson caught 57- and 54-yard touchdown passes as well as a 45-yard pass. The Mountaineers averaged 19.45 yards per completion that day.

BYU ranks No. 92 by allowing 7.7 yards per completion, and WVU quarterback Skyler Howard said he noticed the Cougars don’t play much man-to-man defense. They start a freshman and a senior at cornerback and a junior and a senior at safety, and some players in the defensive backfield are older than normal after completing two-year church missions.

“They look solid, but they don’t look like they can keep up well,” White said. “They’re pretty old. I don’t know. I don’t think they can keep up with Shelton and me or Daikiel [Shorts] or Jovon [Durante]. We’ll have to wait and see.”
There’s only one thing for the Cougars to do Saturday. I think you know the advice.