Good week, everybody!

October 2, 2015 by Mike Casazza

I guess I earned this one? I don’t know. I just enjoyed the true irony of his quotes on communication and leaders this week. Truth be told, I was a little embarrassed by this. But just a little. Because when I thought, “How am I going to get interviews with players next fall?” I quickly snapped out of it and remembered the next game is in 2020 and Edsall will have surely gotten over this by then and he’ll be more worried about who Quinnipiac is playing that week.

Dana Holgosen tried to block me in the news conference Tuesday when I said “red zone” and he saw red and tuned me out. But Elijah Wellman is a part of WVU’s red zone resurgence. Fact.

You can read all you want about the game if you like, but I have three other diversions for you.

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New threads

October 1, 2015 by Mike Casazza

Bob Huggins explains the motivation behind the new look:

“When I went to Kansas State, Brad Underwood was there. Brad was my assistant, and it was always K-State. When Brad played there, it was K-State, and he said when you’d take the head-and-shoulders photos, every one says ‘Kansas.’ You can’t see ‘State.’

“It occurred to all of us — and actually, Matt Borman brought it up, which is shocking that he had an original idea — all you see in ours is ‘West.’ You don’t see ‘West Virginia.’ I think the Flying WV has become so synonymous with West Virginia athletics, that it seems like a natural.”

Other highlights from the first basketball news conference of the season, what with practice starting tomorrow?

  • WVU will scrimmage Temple
  • Casey Mitchell was the most talented player Huggins has had here
  • Esa Ahmad can play shooting guard
  • Teyvon MYers is struggling, and that was expected
  • Jon Holton and Nate Adrian are making 3-pointers


You’ll Never Talk Alone: S3E4

October 1, 2015 by Mike Casazza

All done, and you can relive the questions and answers now. We’ll fix the presentation for the next edition.

Live Blog You’ll Never Talk Alone

The Good and the Bad of WVU v. Maryland

September 30, 2015 by Mike Casazza

Saturday was a fun one. Beautiful weather. Hall of Fame occasion. Brad Paisley cameo. Lots of offense. Tremendous defense. On and on it went, and it lent itself to a festive atmosphere in the stands. The place was packed and earlier than normal. It’s not often West Virginia pulls 61,000-plus into the stadium in non-conference play these days and then hammers the opponent. Those are the type of beatdowns reserved for lesser teams from conferences that aren’t quite as B1G.

I saw a number of people wearing costumes, but for obvious reasons, Shredder, clad in gold and blue, seemed apropos. He was great, and he actually showed up at my house with pizza after the game. That’s not a joke. That’s a true story, and I wasn’t there for it, which is another reason I feel like covering games is a bit overrated. You miss so much!

But that’s the sacrifice as well as the beauty of this here feature.

We knew the Mountaineers were much, much better than Maryland after 60 minutes Saturday. Truth be told, it was 15 minutes and possibly 10, despite the objections of Mr. Andrew Zeller afterward. For whatever reasons, WVU was that much better, and understand the on-task home team had as much to do with that as did the undisciplined-upon-unraveling visitors.

I was trading texts with one of you before the game, and I confessed I couldn’t instinctively assume WVU was indeed better than Maryland. I picked WVU to win, but I saw Maryland play Bowling Green, and I thought a weather delay after halftime slowed the Terrapins down and that they weren’t able to keep up once the Falcons got going. “A bad quarter,” I reasoned. Then I saw them outclass USF, a team with talent, despite three Caleb Rowe interceptions. Maryland matched up well and better at most of the spots, and I was probably right to wonder if WVU would enjoy a wide roster-quality disparity in Morgantown.

I was wrong, but I was right to wonder. You hadn’t seen enough of Saturday’s WVU to just expect it when the opportunity is there — and, man, was it there — but I think it’s fair to believe Saturday’s WVU exists, that 45-6 wasn’t the consequence of circumstances but rather a good team doing what it’s supposed to do. Ultimately, it was what we did know about Maryland that proved most meaningful: Not exceptionally led, will turn it over, will commit penalties and will get exposed in the secondary. The Mountaineers did their homework and finished early to saunter into the polls at 3-0.

How did we get there? Let’s find out by taking a look at the Good and the Bad of WVU v. Maryland.

Bad: Scheduling conflicts
We don’t have all the footage from the game because men driving in circles went long and took up some of the football telecast. Without getting too involved with contractual arrangements and obligations or any debate about the money in automotive sports advertising, let me just say it’s absurd that a third-tier NASCAR event, a truck race sponsored by a generic ass Cabella’s, took up a chunk of a college football game on a Saturday afternoon. Look, Fox is party to an enormous 10-year, $8.2 billion television contract with NASCAR, and that’s a bigger deal — literally and figuratively — than the stake it has in the 13-year, $2.5 billion deal with the Big 12.n I’ll probably surprise you here when I tell you the truck race had higher ratings Saturday. But let’s not pretend the NASCAR pact is for rights to the UNOH 175 and for that race to bleed into a football game. The Big 12 deal is for rights to football games, first and foremost. There has to be a way around this.

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Dana Holgorsen: Oklahoma week

September 29, 2015 by Mike Casazza


Tuesday Taboo: Episode 3

September 29, 2015 by Mike Casazza

Special thanks to Rushel Shell for balling up last week’s question and throwing it in the receptacle. He was good Saturday, which then begs the question: Was he ever bad? JaJuan Seider would argue no.

Seider’s grades for Shell in the first two games were 100 and 96. He liked the reads Shell made. He didn’t have a problem with how he was attacking the areas that were supposed to open up for him. All that was missing was yardage, and Seider trusted the line would develop to open those holes and Shell would keep finding and attacking them.

“Sometimes it just doesn’t work out,” Shell said. “Sometimes you don’t get the ball. Sometimes you don’t get big holes. I felt like that was part of the issue, but as long as we’re winning, it doesn’t matter.”

Today’s edition? Similarly silly!

Texts from Maryland Game Day

September 28, 2015 by Mike Casazza

We hit the game pretty hard in the live post and yesterday’s brunchtime post. The Good and the Bad is going in on a few players and highlights Wednesday morning. No one’s complaining, of course, because West Virginia has been operating from the Best Case Scenario section of the playbook and that’s been good enough for a 3-0 start and a spot in both polls.

TFGD remains undefeated, too. Why wait any longer? I can hear the drummer drumming. And the trumpets, someone’s trying to summon someone. I know something’s coming, but I’m running from it to be texting at the summit. My edits are, at long last, in [brackets].

Randy Edsall just lodged a formal complaint with the NCAA that WVU ran too many plays in today’s game

Given his track record lately shouldn’t that overrated no talent hack Paisely have a jersey that’s half ESP today?

Will Brad Paisley wear wire-rimmed glasses in honor of John Denver?

If Paisley plays 7NA my head might explode

As song written in Maryland about Virginia played at a WVU game. I loved it, though.

Heard a rumor Train would be doing a set before kickoff. Pretty pumped

Maryland QB is poop

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Sunday brunch: WVU 45, Maryland 6

September 27, 2015 by Mike Casazza

It began like that, and then wild and wonderful made room for weird and whimsy. Randy Edsall’s team tried to play too fast and was warned, then Edsall decided to go for it on fourth down in what might wistfully be considered the wrong place and the wrong time. Odd tone for him to try to set.

Karl Joseph’s tackle ended that drive, and then linebacker A.J. Hendy tried to end Skyler Howard’s day with a late hit out of bounds. Dana Holgorsen said his team didn’t need one play, the other or both to get rolling, that the Mountaineers were ready to play and didn’t need that sort of motivation.

His players were nevertheless moved to make a statement in that 45-6 trouncing.

“Not that we weren’t fired up, because this was a big game with a big atmosphere, and obviously we respect our opponent, but we don’t really care for them, but I think that fired everybody up,” Howard said, “including me.”

Howard internalized his anger. Right tackle Marquis Lucas did not. He spent the time the officials needed to review Hendy’s ejection for targeting by yelling and gesturing at Maryland’s sideline. The call was overturned and Hendy was allowed stay in the game, which was fine by WVU.

“I told Skyler after that play, ‘Now you go kill them,’ ” said receiver Shelton Gibson. “I told him, ‘I don’t even want [Hendy] to get out of the game.’ When they were reviewing the targeting thing, I was like, ‘I don’t want him to get out of the game. I want him to stay in the game. I want him to feel this pain.’ ”

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WVU v. Maryland: Sing me a new song

September 26, 2015 by Mike Casazza


Some 35 years ago, John Denver opened Mountaineer Field with Country Roads. It remains one of the seminal moments in the history of the field, the program, the athletic department, the university and, heck, the state. Just a proper and memorable merger of state and sentiment at a place that’s oh so sentimental for so much of this state.

We’re going to insert an addendum into the history today. Brad Paisley, who hails from Glen Dale, will play Country Roads before kickoff against Maryland … and then hurry to a concert tonight in Bristow, Va.

I know this because I just watched him warm up on the 50-yard line.


It’s a nod to the past — note the marching band taking a knee in both photos — with a new finish for the present and the future. Let’s have some fun with the photo. How’s this? Better?

This is oddly divisive in some quarters. We know how West Virginians are. Change is not always easy or welcome, and people hold onto their traditions, their history, their heritage, their memories and the like. And reaching back into the Product’s era, it’s been commonplace to play the song after a victory. So some people feel uneasy about this, which led to a fun discussion on Twitter last night. Click it. Check the replies. Fiesty!

Up to you, I guess. Makes no difference to me.

I’m off to the IMG pregame show. Catch me if you can.

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Friday Feedback

September 25, 2015 by Mike Casazza

Welcome to the Friday Feedback, which does not go on hiatus after today’s edition. Actually, it might but just for a week. Typically the standard has been that we won’t do the F Double on the Fridays I travel, and I’m not sure that’s going to change. The closer doesn’t come out every night, you know?

We’ll see.

Speaking of scheduling and functionality and probably pitchers, too, I think I’ve found the strike zone with this new schedule. It’s still weird as hell to have to publish for Saturday and Sunday papers and push myself for the entire week, and I haven’t even soldiered through a travel day yet, but the blog routine is fine on my end. Obviously, we’re still working through conquerable issues with its appearance and the way things are supposed to look and work, but we’ll get there. The headlines and the RSS feed on the blog’s homepage ought to be working soon. The problem with embedding the chat is fixed. The other problem with the chat should have never happened, but that’s not a blog thing. I’m not at the “Write your local congressperson!” stage quite yet.

I took the new in-game blog plug-in for a spin yesterday, and some of you caught it. It’s all right. I think I’ll like it, and I hope you do, too, but it’s new, so of course I’m not sold on it as of yet, and it won’t be completely smooth tomorrow. But as has been the case on the Daily Mail side, that’s going to be our as-it-happened account of the game. No halftime story. No at-the-buzzer story chased by a more complete version for print. Live position the game. Story after the game. There won’t be as much Twitter, either, and, yes, this is a different story than I told you two weeks ago. But we spent some time considering the options and this was the best vehicle, as it always was.

All I ask is you be on your very worst behavior.

(One more: My JRL493 class publishes its first editions of their competing online sports magazines a week from today. Your, um, feedback is appreciated.)

Onto the Feedback. As always, comments appear as posted. In other words, choose your words carefully.

Mack said:

I think the telling part of Mike’s story is that when RichRod picked up on people possibly stealing his signs, he switched to a wristband… it didn’t work and they went back to the signals halfway through the game. The more you overthink things, the worse off you’re going to be.

An advantage can certainly be gained if you know the play that is coming… but the players on the field have to be the ones that know it. If the coach on the sidelines knows the play, it just seems as though it would take way too much time and effort (and likely lead to confusion) for them to tell their players as the offense is lining up.

The Georgia Southern coaches though WVU might run some zone read… so they prepped for it. How many plays did WVU actually run a zone read? On top of that, with White/Slaton/Schmitt, WVU seemed to only run four different plays per game and still no one on their schedule could stop them.

I think ESPN and Rod Gilmore has led us, as fans, to believe that a win can always be had if the coach just makes the right decisions throughout the game. I’d say it has a lot more to do with the players on the field doing the right things. (Sorry, I watched part of a game that Gilmore was commentating, this weekend. At all times, he wants every player/coach/team to do anything other than what they’re doing.)

Bingo. In the referenced 2007 game, WVU was bothered during the game because it allowed itself to be bothered before it. There was something empowering for that team to stand on the sideline and see the coach rip of his wristbands and go, “Screw it. We’re beating them at our game, even if they know it’s coming.” I think more coaches are like that than we think, though they’re all paranoid to certain and sometimes extreme degrees. The bigger concern, as I see it and has been relayed to me, isn’t what opponents know but when they know it. It’s too hard, as explained above, to communicate every stolen signal on every play. The best coaches would rather their defenders read and react than predict and react. But say there’s a fourth-and-2 play at the defense’s 34-yard line in the fourth quarter and the offense wants to pick up the first down to protect a 31-30 lead and kill the final 1:05 on the clock. Defenses are smart enough to know the offense is going to pick from a small number of plays.  That’s scouting. The defense can then call a timeout or just quickly convey something and prep the players for, say, three plays. Those players can then go out and focus on the signals for just three plays. The other side of that is the defense could just as easily tell the players to look for those three plays and read and react and not predict and react. How you feel and what you believe about this topic is really subjective. I just find it fascinating, and that was the case before Baylor’s brilliance. Those guys …

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