Upside for Georgia Southern situation? Upshaw!

August 31, 2015 by Mike Casazza

Good news, you were made to believe, arrived two weeks ago when Georgia Southern announced starting quarterback Kevin Ellison would miss the first two games of the season because of academic issues. I assumed the point spread would careen again, but it’s barely moved. What started at 31.5 points and dipped to 18.5 is only a point or two higher than that now.

I’m not saying this is why, but this is nevertheless reality: Ellison’s backup understudy teammate, Favian Upshaw, is no joke. The Eagles really, really like him, and there’s good reason. Actually, there are good reasons: They know what they’re capable of with Upshaw in the game … because Upshaw played a lot last season.

Ellison stirred the drink, for certain, but Upshaw would keep the spirits flowing when he was in the game.

“There was never a situation where everyone said, ‘Oh, man, now we’ve got to play our backup,’ ” Ruse said. “Favian’s been out there doing it with the first team. In his teammates’ mind, he’s always been a starter because we’ve always treated both of them as starters.”

Upshaw played in 11 of 12 games last season, but when he played mattered more. In every game, he played in the first quarter or early in the second quarter. It was never planned as a way to get Upshaw ready for a situation like this. It was designed to help the offense, either when Ellison needed time to shake something off or when Ruse wanted to get one of his best players into the game.

Upshaw was also a track and basketball star in high school and was ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 25 nationally in the high jump.

“We played the guy because he’s a good football player and a heck of a quarterback,” Ruse said. “We needed him to play. There haven’t been too many times over 28 years I’ve been in a situation like this where I feel comfortable like that. I seriously look at the two as my No. 1. It wasn’t any plan or any vision I had to have a guy ready. He’s a heck of a player who needs to play and deserves to play.”

Starters … sort of

August 31, 2015 by Mike Casazza

You know how these things go, and you know it can change this week, which is when Dana Holgorsen wants to see and evaluate responses to Saturday’s mock game. It was clandestine, but it was also revealing.

Gibson is not a surprise. I thought the “or” he shared at Z two weeks ago with Gary Jennings seemed odd — he’d always been an X — and probably purposeful — “I tell him every day he can be his own worst critic,” Lonnie Galloway said. — for somebody who maybe needed to redirect his focus from himself to someone or something else.

Bosch isn’t a shock, either, because we knew he was an immediate asset. (Yodny Cajust isn’t going anywhere.) Durante, well, that shouldn’t be riveting either. This was coming, was it not?

Holgorsen sounded Monday like he’s pretty pleased with the speedy and apparently well-rounded freshman.

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It’s Monday, which means …

August 31, 2015 by Mike Casazza

… Texts From Game Day!

I have three offerings to get you in the mood, and it they make for a full circle sort of thing. One is vintage TFGD, dated and not as nuanced as things are now but plucked from what I perceive to be, with that one exception, the lowest moment since I’ve been on the beat.

It’s TFGD UConn 2010, and it features one of the all-time texts after WVU used two timeouts to make the Huskies punt into the wind in the second quarter. It’s so weird to read that now and know Oliver Luck was jettisoning Bill Stewart a short time later.

The next submission is from, without question, the highlight of my time on the beat. Times get no higher than the Orange Bowl TFGD. It’s perhaps the best and a memorable mosaic from an unforgettable night.

And finally, one from last season and the swing point of 2014, an occasion that could have seen Dana Holgorsen carried in the arms of the masses for ages and instead sent the team spinning the wrong way. It’s TFGD TCU. Personally, it’s one of my favorites and contains, like, six years of inside jokes.

It’s also a neat juxtaposition for all the promise and encouragement that precedes this season. It was not pretty after that game, but to think, a properly communicated play in the secondary or a mishit field goal attempt gives WVU that win and a 7-2 record. It didn’t happen, of course, but it was close.

It’s also a reminder that anything can happen, good or bad, and nothing ought to be taken for granted.

Anyhow, just think: A week from now, you’ll be reading Texts From Georgia Southern Game Day, and no one knows what wonders that edition holds.

Happy game week, gang.

Odds makers

August 28, 2015 by Mike Casazza

These may or may not interest you, but the idea is you can make it interesting. Bovada unveiled some fun odds-based scenarios for the 2015 college football season. Not one involves a West Virginia player, which got me thinking. Let’s read this and figure out what marks we can set for the soon-to-debut 2015 Mountaineers.

It’s Friday. Have as much fun with this one as you want.

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WVU backs proposed ban on troubled transfers

August 28, 2015 by Mike Casazza

Out of the ugly ashes of this Baylor mess comes a needed change to the transaction trade in college sports. Following the SEC, the Big 12 is presenting a rule that will keep schools from accepting a transfer who was dismissed from a prior school because of “serious misconduct.”

“I thoroughly support the new rule,” said WVU president E. Gordon Gee.

“I was supportive,” said Lyons. “We still have to get the language down and get it through our faculty reps, but, conceptually, we all agreed we need some type of language similar to that of the SEC.”

On Tuesday, WVU football coach Dana Holgorsen was asked about the situation.

“Whatever is happening outside of here is not for me to talk about,” Holgorsen said. “But we’ve always done the same thing. We’ve done background checks on guys based on high school coaches, junior college coaches and former coaches. We put everything in our administration’s hands. If there is an issue, then we make a decision on what is best for the university collectively.”

“You have to look at it case by case,” Lyons said, “but in our climate I expect my staff to look closely. Coaches make us aware of issues and the administration makes the call. I’m confident we’ve had steps in place.”

Don’t change that channel

August 28, 2015 by Mike Casazza

No Friday Feedback today, but that’ll be the last time I say that for some time. That’ll drop, as scheduled, a week from today on the eve of the opener. It will also cap off the opening week here on the blog.

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Karl Joseph wins a Herbie

August 27, 2015 by Mike Casazza

I suppose we can question the validity or the credentials after we see the playoff picks, but ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit honored WVU’s oft-honored safety with one of his preseason awards today.

No use in rushing Rasul

August 27, 2015 by Mike Casazza

Rasul Douglas, seen above pursuing new West Virginia teammate Ka’Raun White in a junior college game last season, was cleared to practice Saturday. The green light came just in time to put on his helmet, jersey, shorts and cleats and practice for the first time with the Mountaineers that afternoon.

All Douglas (highlights) really did was run. So began the NCAA’s five-day acclimatization period.

But that was nevertheless important because he needed to prove he was in shape. Cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell, who put a lot of time into recruiting Douglas from Nassau Community College, in Garden City, N.Y., stayed in touch with Douglas as the player awaited approval. Mitchell made it clear Douglas had no excuse not to be in shape and that there wouldn’t be time for him to get caught up with his conditioning. He had to be ready.

So on the first day, Douglas ran. A lot. It was a gauntlet of sprints and challenges to show he was where he needed to be.

And the reviews, according to Mitchell, were pretty encouraging. I think he came here in pretty good shape physically, and he’s willing to put in the extra time right now.

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Timely!

August 27, 2015 by Mike Casazza

My column was on point this week. We discussed alternate viewing options as part of the expected pinch networks might feel in the next round of television contract negotiations with major conferences. Oklahoma is going to be on national television just about every time it plays a game but has one exception on its schedule this season … and it’s the damn opener! The Sooners Tuesday unveiled a way to show the game in an unconventional manner.

The game is being televised on a pay-per-view basis because it was not selected for over-the-air broadcast or cable television coverage. It will be available on a dedicated pay-per-view channel on participating Oklahoma program providers, and nationwide via participating satellite and Telco distributors. Pricing will vary by distributor.

That same day, Iowa State’s men’s basketball team announced it’ll have six non-conference games on it’s Tier 3 model.

It’s coming.

Busy Saturday?

August 26, 2015 by Mike Casazza

High school football starts this week, which is sort of useful as you wait another week for WVU football. But if it’s not enough and you just you need that Mountaineer Field fix — something like the final preseason game before the first one that counts — then you do have an option.

The stadium will play host to a top-shelf prep game Saturday: Cleveland’s St. Edwards against Baltimore’s Gilman. St. Edward is No. 3 in Cleveland.com’s preseason state ranking and No. 19 in USA Today’s national ranking. Gilman is No. 2 in Maryland this preseason and No. 3 in USA Today’s Northeast regional ranking.

High school football is mirroring college football and staging elite matchups to start the season, and the one reserved for Morgantown is among the best available this weekend. The Mountaineers can’t be involved in any of this — and I mean, can’t be in the stadium, can’t have their scoreboard operator working the game — but they do indeed benefit. Neither prep program is far from here and two pretty strong prep programs are paying WVU to come visit.