WVU Gameday Blog

Score aside, we all won

 

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West Virginia lines up on offense during its final drive Sunday night against Virginia Tech at FedEx Field.

This isn’t an “everyone gets a trophy” article. There was a winner (Virginia Tech) and a loser (West Virginia) Sunday evening in Landover.

VT fans left happy; WVU fans left upset. The trophy went to Blacksburg while only buses went back to Morgantown.

But no matter what side you cheered for, we all won last night – college football won last night.

The one-year return of the battle for the Black Diamond Trophy was a great reminder for players, coaches and fans alike about what college football was built on and should be continued to be built around.

Geographical rivalries have been broken up due to conference realignment (read money), TV dollars (read money) and other external factors (again, read money). Yet last night was a great showing of why college football needs to do a better job of keeping these rivalries in tact.

Over 67,000 fans flocked to FedEx Field, meaning the game would’ve been a sellout had it been played in Lane Stadium or at Mountaineer Field. With both teams ranked as they have traditionally been for much of the time since the last time they met in 2005, it was a nationally televised affair with countless more fans tuned in to watch the thrilling ending.

It was a no-brainer. And you have to tip your cap to the athletic directors and everyone involved for bringing the rivalry back, even if it was for just a day.

Luckily for WVU fans, this sentiment has been heard.

No matter what the college football landscape looks like in 2021, West Virginia will play Virginia Tech again, this time in Morgantown. Then the following year, the Hokies and the Pittsburgh Panthers are on the schedule. After that Penn State and Pittsburgh are both scheduled for 2023 and 2024.

WVU gets it; let’s hope the rest of college football gets it too.

 

 

 

Gameday Live: WVU vs. Virginia Tech

Follow along as WVU reporter Mitch Vingle brings you the latest from the Mountaineers’ season opener against Virginia Tech in Landover, Maryland.

Resurrecting old rivalries

Don Nehlen and Grant Wiley are two guys whose opinion carries some weight when it comes to WVU. The former is a Hall-of-Fame coach. The latter was a consensus All-American linebacker.

They’d like to see some familiar names on the Mountaineer football schedule. And they’ll get some in the coming years, but they’d like to see them a lot more often.

From Nehlen:

“One thing our football program needs is a Virginia Tech or Pitt or Penn State back on that schedule continually, not just one time and then, 10 years later, play them again,” he said this week. “We don’t really have a game to hang our hat on. I’m talking about ‘we’ the fans. We need to be able to drive down to Blacksburg or Pittsburgh or Happy Valley. It would really be nice to have one of those teams back on the schedule.”

Wiley remembers the post-game madness in Morgantown in 2002 … in a game that was played in Blacksburg.

“Everyone was telling us Morgantown was on fire. We heard the students had broken into the stadium and had torn down the goal post. We heard they were carrying the goal post down High Street. If there wasn’t that tension between us and Virginia Tech these extraordinary celebrations wouldn’t have happened.”

I’m sure most Mountaineer fans share their pain, but there’s no telling when that pain gets soothed. Look at the future schedules link earlier in this post. WVU’s non-conference dance card is booked at least partially until 2025. Now, from 2020-25, that card includes at least one team in a combination of Maryland, Pitt, Penn State and Virginia Tech, but there’s no telling whether those series continue past that. And as several school can attest, future schedules sometimes are written in pencil rather than pen.

So, what do you think? Should reviving those rivalries be the primary goal in non-conference scheduling moving forward? Should that goal come before or after these lucrative neutral-site games?

 

Big 12 Football Predictions: Week 3

In this Saturday, April 15, 2017 file photo, Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph throws during an intra squad spring NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Okla. Oklahoma State believes Rudolph has a shot at the Heisman Trophy. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

At this point conference play is so close the players can almost taste it. But one more buffer week remains separating league play in the Big 12.

Week 3 Matchups

Saturday, Sept. 16 — Oklahoma State at Pittsburgh

Delaware State at West Virginia

Iowa State at Akron

Baylor at Duke

Kansas at Ohio

SMU at TCU

Tulane at Oklahoma

Kansas State at Vanderbilt

Arizona State at Texas Tech

Texas at USC

Biggest Game

When the Longhorns defeated Notre Dame last season, plenty of people thought it was the sign that big time football was back in Austin. We were wrong. Maybe a little over a year later, when Texas goes on the road to Southern California to take on the Trojans of USC, could be a truer indication.

Potential Upset

Baylor’s only trip out of the Central Time Zone sends Matt Rhule and the Bears to Duke, a traditional basketball school that has made strides in recent history on the gridiron. The Bears are currently favored, but this is their first true competition in 2017.

Winners

OK-State (35-16); WVU (55-17); ISU (22-14); TCU (38-20); Oklahoma (45-14); K-State (24-21); TTU (55-50)

Losers

Baylor (25-30); Kansas (14-20); Texas (24-38)

Standings

T1. OK-State 3-0

K-State 3-0

WVU 3-0

Iowa State 3-0

5. TCU 2-1

Oklahoma 2-1

Baylor 2-1

Texas 2-1

9. TTU 1-1

Kansas 1-2

Photo | Mel Moraes Elijah Battle will start the season with the second-team secondary.

It was too quick to assume that WVU’s starting corners would be who many thought they would be. After all, why wouldn’t a transfer who started two seasons in the ACC and a senior with three starts under his belt begin the season on the first team?

But they won’t.  A newcomer and a player used mostly on special teams last season will take those spots. So how did Hakeem Bailey and Mike Daniels earn the jobs over Syracuse transfer Corey Winfield and Elijah Battle? With Winfield, the answer is easy: it’s tough to win a starting job when you spend much of the preseason recovering from finger surgery. He’ll get plenty of chances to jump into the starting lineup when he gets healthy. And it also helped that, as corners coach Doug Belk said, that Daniels was probably the most consistent corner at camp.

But what of the Battle-Bailey situation? From what Belk said Tuesday, it might have come down to the film.

“[Bailey] did a really good job and we [chart] production: tackles, missed tackles, the good, the bad and, we say, the ugly as well,” Belk said. “He had a lot of production, a lot of positive things. So did Elijah, but we kind of measured it off that. That’s how we set our depth chart. Nothing is set in stone, but we feel good about our guys. … We chart mental errors and missed assignments,” he said. “Those are the biggest two things. We can coach the techniques, but we don’t want you just freelancing.”

So both guys had their positives, but Bailey, a redshirt sophomore from Iowa Western Community College, had more, and the practice film showed it. (Bailey’s also an interesting story. WVU wasn’t the first Mountain State football program he was pledged to. He had committed to Marshall for its 2015 signing class before heading to Iowa Western.)

Moral of the story: Coaches’ are always watching, and the little things could make a big difference in running with the 1s or the 2s.

This leads to another question: What do you think this means for a WVU secondary preparing for a season opener on a neutral site against a ranked opponent? Sure, Virginia Tech is starting a redshirt freshman at quarterback, but how will a little-used senior and a newly-minted Mountaineer fare?

Dana Holgorsen Press Conference quick update

by Ryan Decker

Game week is finally here.  As Dana Holgorsen and the No. 22 West Virginia Mountaineers prepare to face No. 21 Virginia Tech Sunday evening, here are some things to keep in mind entering the first game of the season.

It’s a Rivalry 

Holgorsen said Tuesday that he hasn’t had to hype his team up much entering the rivalry game this weekend. In fact he said the biggest key to the game, and the preparation leading up to it, is “maintaining a level head.”

Offensive and Defensive minded 

The staple of Virginia Tech for the three decades has been long time defensive coordinator, Bud Foster, who feels this year’s Hokies defense could be one of his best yet. VT returns a number of starters on defense from a unit that finished Top 15 in four defensive categories a year ago.

On the other side, Justin Fuente is in his second year as head coach at Virginia Tech, after coaching high draft pick quarterbacks Andy Dalton (TCU) and Paxton Lynch (Mem).

Fuente’s starting QB this season, redshirt freshman Josh Jackson, is athletic and can run.

Grier’d Up, Ready To Go 

“He’s ready to go.”

“He finally gets to play football again.”

That was Holgorsen talking about his starting quarterback, Will Grier. Grier will see his first live action in nearly two years Sunday. As you can expect Mountaineer fans are excited to see the former Gator officially don the old blue and gold, as is the head coach.

“I’m anxious to finally see him in a live setting where he can cut it loose,” Holgorsen said.

Off to the races 

Senior running back Justin Crawford appears to be bigger and faster after what sounds to be a good offseason and preseason according to Holgorsen.

The Mountaineer head coach said he hopes this translate into more scores for his starting tailback.

Much like in the first week of the season, Week 2 in the Big 12 features one marquee matchup, and a number of very winnable ballgames.

Week 2 Matchups

Friday, Sept. 8 — Oklahoma State at South Alabama

Saturday, Sept. 9 — Charlotte at Kansas State

East Carolina at West Virginia

Iowa at Iowa State

San Jose State at Texas

TCU at Arkansas

Central Michigan at Kansas

Oklahoma at Ohio State

UT-San Antonio at  Baylor

Biggest Game

A rematch from last year’s drubbing in Norman will put new head coach Lincoln Riley against one of the best in the business in just his second game at the helm when Oklahoma travels to Columbus to take on Ohio State.

Potential Upset

Depending on what goes on in Week 1, TCU could be a ranked team heading into it’s game against the Razorbacks in Arkansas. Arkansas downed the Horned Frogs last year in Fort Worth, and were 5-3 in home games a year ago.

Earlier in the day will be a matchup in Ames for bragging rights in the Hawkeye State. The Cyclones likely won’t be favored, but a program that’s been improving over the last two years may have what it takes.

Winners

OK-State (55-13); K-State (35-20); WVU (40-19); ISU (24-21, OT); Texas (50-10); Baylor (38-7)

Losers

TCU (32-35, 2OT); Kansas (22-25); Oklahoma (38-45)

Standings

T1. OK-State 2-0

K-state 2-0

WVU 2-0

Texas 2-0

Baylor 2-0

Iowa State 2-0

  1. TCU 1-1

Kansas 1-1

Oklahoma 1-1

  1. TTU 0-1

Ryan Decker’s Big 12 Football Predictions: Week 1

Mountaineers line up on defense seconds before stuffing the Hokies just short of the goal line in the fourth quarter.

Last week, Mitch Vingle gave his predictions for each of West Virginia’s 12 regular season games, projecting the Mountaineers to finish with an 8-4 record.

As for the rest of the conference, which boasts five preseason ranked teams and at least two teams with realistic shots at playing in the College Football Playoff, the turnout will go as follows, starting with Week 1.

Week 1 Matchups

Thursday, Aug. 31 — Tulsa at #10 Oklahoma State

Saturday, Sept. 2 – Maryland at #23 Texas

UTEP at #7 Oklahoma

Eastern Washington at Texas Tech

Liberty at Baylor

Southeast Missouri State at Kansas

Central Arkansas at #20 Kansas State

Northern Iowa at Iowa State

Jackson State at TCU

­Sunday, Sept. 3 – #22 West Virginia vs. #21 Virginia Tech

Biggest Game

Only one Big 12 team hits the road in Week 1, that being WVU, which travels to Landover, Maryland to renew its rivalry against the Hokies. With only one ranked-vs-ranked game this week, it’s easily the biggest matchup within the conference of the weekend.

Potential Upset

Crazy things happen on Thursdays. Crazy things happen in Boone Pickens Stadium. Oklahoma State is one of only four Big 12 teams playing an FBS opponent this week. Not that it’s likely, but if you’re going to pick an upset, Stillwater is the place to look.

Winners

OK-State (45-24); Texas (38-14); OU (58-17); Baylor (28-20); KU (22-18); K-State (40-15); ISU (29-15); TCU (44-10); WVU (35-28)

Losers

Texas Tech (39-42)

Standings

T1. Oklahoma 1-0

OK-State 1-0

K-State 1-0

WVU 1-0

Texas 1-0

TCU 1-0

Baylor 1-0

Iowa State 1-0

Kansas 1-0

  1. TTU 0-1

 

While the bulk of WVU’s football schedule sets up beautifully for the Mountaineers the back end… well, not so much.
The upside for West Virginia is playing at Oklahoma on November 25 is a heck of an opportunity.
The downside is the players they’ll see in Norman are talented. As in very.
Just take a peek at the preseason All-Big 12 team. It is strewn with Sooners. There’s Offensive Player of the Year in quarterback Baker Mayfield. There’s returning first-team honoree Mark Andrews at tight end. There’s consensus pick Orlando Brown on the offensive line. On defense there’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo at linebacker and Jordan Thomas in the backfield.
WVU has Justin Crawford on the team. Period. (Will Grier was named Newcomer of the Year though.)
Certainly Oklahoma is gunning not only for a Big 12 title, but a College Football Playoff berth.
Again, an opportunity for the Mountaineers to make a statement.
It just will be very, very tough to seize that opportunity.

OU, 42-28.

Final regular season WVU record: 8-4

Scholarships aplenty

At his weekly press conference Tuesday, WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen announced that Morgantown native Shane Commodore earned a scholarship, based on hard work both on and off the football field.

This morning it was announced that Oklahoma redshirt senior fullback Jaxon Uhles has earned a scholarship, as well.

 

Tongamoa cleared for Iowa State

Junior college transfer defensive lineman Kamilo Tongamoa was cleared yesterday, making him eligible to play this season. However, this does come with a caveat, as he still has classwork to turn in at Merced Community College in California, which will delay him suiting up for the Cyclones.

Tongamoa, who was highly touted out of MCC, and picked Iowa State over colleges like Oklahoma State and Texas, tallied 25 tackles for loss and was named a first-team All-American during his JUCO days.

 

UT’s Beck out for season

Injuries have been piling up to a degree in Austin during the build up to the 2017 regular season, and one injury is now year-ending.

Senior tight end Andrew Beck is scheduled to undergo foot surgery this week and will miss the season.

Beck only played in three games last year, hauling in four catches for 82 yards and two touchdowns.

 

Cowboys deep at WR

Heisman candidate Mason Rudolph has the good fortune of one of the top receivers in the country in James Washington returning for his senior year. But Washington isn’t the only playmaker in the Cowboys arsenal.

A recent preview of the Oklahoma State receiving corps shows that, even if you take out Washington’s production from last year, Mike Gundy’s team returns 111 catches, over 1,300 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.

It gets even better for Cowboys fans, with the return of Marcell Ateman and addition of former five-star recruit Tyron Johnson, who was forced to sit 2016 out after transferring from LSU.