WVU Gameday Blog

Saturday’s loss on the gridiron was multidimensional.

A loss any Saturday stings, but losing at home on Senior Day and losing your starting quarterback for at least next weekend’s season finale, if not the bowl game as well, adds on to the bad feeling.

Regardless, the show must go on.

In the meantime, here’s how the team graded out Saturday.

Offense – C-

Obviously the offense was put in a tough spot after Will Grier went out with the gruesome finger injury that now requires surgery.

Backup quarterback Chris Chugunov was thrust into a situation that no one could’ve expected.

However, the offense wasn’t looking great prior to the injury. The Mountaineers were forced to punt on each of their first two possessions. A 15-yard penalty against the Longhorns and a 34-yard play down the sideline to David Sills V flipped the field and set up WVU in scoring position.

It took too many plays, though, which coaches talked about after the game. That’s what forced Grier to run to the outside on the play he got hurt on.

The offense still struggled to score after Chugunov got his feet underneath him, only putting up seven points.

I give the unit a bit of a pass given the circumstance, but the fact of the matter is that the offense isn’t consistent or operating smoothly – both in play calling and in on-field production.

Defense – C-

For the fourth time this season, the Mountaineers gave up 200 yards rushing. It wasn’t just one Texas player that was having success, there were multiple.

Running backs Daniel Young and Kyle Porter, as well as quarterback Sam Ehlinger, all averaged over seven yards per carry.

Tackling continues to be sub-par.

Pass defense wasn’t bad, but it was clear Texas’ game plan was to beat WVU on the ground, and it did.

One touchdown the defense surrendered can be blamed on the offense for fumbling inside its own 10-yard line. But giving up 28 points to a Texas team that hasn’t been especially strong, and doing so while allowing a bad running team to look like a good running team is concerning.

Special Teams – B

You wondered what kind of game it was going to be for Billy Kinney when his second punt went off the side of his foot and just traveled 22 yards.

He was fine other than that, for the most part.

WVU also didn’t allow a single kick return, and minimized the punt return yardage, as well.

Over the past few weeks, special teams has been the most consistent unit on the team.

Linemen – D

The guys up front didn’t have their best game.

Chugunov seemed to be under constant pressure once he entered the game, and Grier was feeling some pressure from the Texas defense early on, as well.

On the other side, the Longhorn offensive line was opening up big holes for its backs to get through.

The D-Line didn’t get much pressure, and the O-Line was giving up pressure.

Overall – C-

Like mentioned earlier, the team as a whole was put in a tough spot when Grier went down. That can’t be overlooked.

With that said though, Saturday wasn’t one of the Mountaineers better on the year.

Not much shakeup this week.
1. Alabama
2. Miami
3. Oklahoma
4. Wisconsin
5. Clemson
6. Auburn
7. Ohio State
8. Georgia
9. Notre Dame
10. TCU
11. USC
12. Penn State
13. UCF
14. Washington State
15. Mississippi State
16. Washington
17. Oklahoma State
18. Memphis
19. USF
20. Stanford
21. LSU
22. Michigan State
23. Northwestern
24. Virginia Tech
25. Michigan

Gameday Live: No. 24 WVU hosts Texas

The Mountaineers close their home schedule with a visit from the Longhorns. A win over Texas on Saturday keeps alive WVU’s hopes of sneaking into the Big 12 title game.

Mitch Vingle is in the Milan Puskar Stadium press box for today’s action. Follow along with him right here:

The final home game of the regular season pits West Virginia (7-3, 5-2) in a battle of strength-vs-strength between its explosive offense and Texas’ (5-5, 4-3) tough defense that’s been limiting Big 12 teams to season lows all year long.

WVU goes for its third win in a row, while the Longhorns try to escape Morgantown with a win and a spot in a postseason bowl game.

Texas’ defense has been one of the main sticking points when talking about the matchup, and that’s where we’ll start.

“Flavor of the Week” Defense

Despite all the prep work imaginable, there are a few things the Mountaineers won’t know about the Longhorns prior to kickoff Saturday, and one of those things is how much blitzing UT defensive coordinator Todd Orlando is going to do.

Earlier in the week, WVU offensive coordinator Jake Spavital equated the blitzing tendencies – or lack thereof – to a “flavor of the week.” Some weeks the defense leans heavily on the blitz, other weeks it’s 50-50, and others Texas drops back into coverage more times than not.

Stop the run, Contain the pass

Something that hasn’t waned from week to week has been the Longhorns ability to stop the run. Texas ranks second in the Big 12 in rush defense, scoring defense and total defense, one of the reasons it’s played a number of close games this year.

One downside to the defense has been its inconsistency in stopping opposing passing attacks, of which WVU has one of the best.

Bombs away punting

Longhorn punter Michael Dickson was said to be the “best punter I’ve ever seen,” by Dana Holgorsen Tuesday.

Dickson, out of Sydney, Australia, is a majority of the reason that Texas leads the nation in net punting (44.7 ypg) and is averaging over 48 yards per punt with a hang time nearing five seconds according to Holgorsen.

Two-QB System

Whether it’s inconsistent play, indecisiveness on part of the coaching staff, or the plan all along, Texas has been rolling with two quarterbacks splitting playing time for most of the year.

For the second week in a row, WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson enters Saturday not knowing for sure which quarterback his defense will be lining up in front of.

Shane Buechele is the listed starter on the depth chart, with Sam Ehlinger listed as the backup.

According to coaches, Buechele is the better passer of the two – evidence being his higher completion percentage – and Ehlinger is more of an athletic quarterback used to hurting opposing teams with his feet.

Not much of a run game

Texas’ offense hasn’t seen consistent production on the ground, being held under 100 rushing yards as a team four times this season, including ending the game two weeks ago against TCU with just nine rushing yards.

Ehlinger has arguably been the Longhorns best runner this season.

Of the three times this season that a single Texas rusher has eclipsed 100 rushing yards, Ehlinger has accomplished it twice.

Relief could be on the way, though, for the Longhorns, who get back starting left tackle Connor Williams.

Okay, so West Virginia’s chances at the Big 12 title game are a lot better than one in a million. But the Mountaineers will need plenty of help along the way.

WVU could use an Oklahoma State loss to either Kansas State or Kansas. TCU needs to lose to either Texas Tech or Baylor. Oklahoma needs to lose to Kansas.

Let’s be honest from the start: If any of those three teams lose to Kansas or Baylor, one might want to start checking the sky for four ugly guys riding horses. The apocalypse might be upon us. Yet crazy things have been known to happen. Take, for instance, the fact that TCU won’t have quarterback Kenny Hill for Saturday’s Texas Tech game, and the Red Raiders aren’t slouches. Neither is Kansas State, and the Cowboys might be caught napping.

Of course, none of that matters if the Mountaineers don’t handle their own business — beating both Texas this week and Oklahoma next week. The Longhorns, great at stopping the run, not so much at stopping the pass, will probably make WVU look one-dimensional this afternoon. But, man, will Texas hate that dimension. Will Grier is putting together one of the greatest season passing performances in Mountaineer history. If this turns into a track meet, can Texas keep up?

A lot of balls have to bounce WVU’s way the next two weeks, perhaps too many for everything to work out. But there’s a big enough crack in the doorway to keep fans interested down the home stretch. And at this point, that’s all anyone can ask for.

Blog: Holgorsen has plenty of praise for Texas defense

High praise for the Texas Longhorns (5-5, 4-3) highlighted No. 24 West Virginia (7-3, 5-2) head coach Dana Holgorsen’s meeting with the media Tuesday.

Among those kudos was calling the Texas defense the best the Mountaineers have faced this season; the latest in a long line of stout defenses that WVU has faced this year. According to the head coach, as well as assistant coaches and players, WVU has its work cut out for them this weekend, and it starts when going up against the Longhorn defense.

Versatile defense

Holgorsen highlighted the front six or seven of the Texas D. Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital spoke highly of the secondary.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us, offensively,” Holgorsen said. “It’s the best defense we’ve faced.”

The head coach talked about the experience of the Longhorns on that side of the ball – noting that UT defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has, “Fifteen juniors and five seniors.”

Listed on the depth chart is a total of 17 upperclassmen, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t more waiting on the sideline. Spavital talked about the number of blitz packages that WVU could have to defend, coming from all areas of the field. Based on the talk Tuesday, Orlando should remind West Virginia fans of their own defensive coordinator, Tony Gibson, in that both will blitz on any given down if it feels right.

QB Carousel, Part 2

For the second week in a row, Gibson and company enter the week scratching their heads about which opposing quarterback they see. This week, though, it may be more of a matter of when than if.

According to coaches, listed starter Shane Buechele is more of a passer with a big arm that can run when needed. Listed backup Sam Ehlinger, who has started half of the Longhorns’ games this season, is more of an athletic quarterback that can hurt teams with his arm.

Asked how that affects game planning, Holgorsen said it can create a challenge, but mainly if the difference in quarterbacks dictates a different play calling need or strategy to stop him versus the other option.

Highly Praised Punter

Without being asked about him, Holgorsen talked about Longhorn punter Michael Dickson.

Dickson, out of Sydney, Australia, is a majority of the reason that Texas leads the nation in net punting (44.7 ypg) and is averaging over 48 yards per punt with a hang time, according to Holgorsen, that’s nearing five seconds.

That prompted Holgorsen to say this:

“Dude needs to go pro right now,” Holgorsen said. “He’s just a junior, but he needs to hurry up and get his degree and go pro. He’s that good.”

Still Looking for Consistency

When asked about his own offense, Holgorsen echoed some of the sentiments he made known after Saturday’s game, saying he wants the offense to be more consistent.

Tuesday he continued by saying that he’d like to see more consistent results on offense no matter who the Mountaineers are facing, and no matter what facet of the game you’re talking about – be it passing game, run game, blocking, etc.

Senior Week

Saturday’s game against Texas will be the final home game for the 20 seniors on the Mountaineer roster.

One oddity of this year’s senior class is that it’s split right down the middle. There are 10 fourth- and fifth-year seniors, and 10 junior college transfers. The best example of that split is with the White brothers, Ka’Raun and Kyzir. The former came to Morgantown after two years at Lackawanna College, and the latter has only played college football in the Old Gold and Blue.

“This is the end of the White era. That is sad,” Holgorsen said.

Holgorsen said his two “main guys” with this team have been Al-Rasheed Benton and Elijah Wellman, adding that the White brothers have also been special, but saying that all the seniors have been, not wanting to single or leave anyone out.

Early flight out from Kansas City, but here’s my Top 25 vote for this week.

1. Alabama
2. Miami
3. Oklahoma
4. Wisconsin
5. Clemson
6. Auburn
7. Ohio State
8. Georgia
9. Notre Dame
10. Oklahoma State
11. USC
12. TCU
13. Penn State
14. UCF
15. Washington State
16. Mississippi State
17. Memphis
18. Michigan
19. South Florida
20. Washington
21. WVU
22. LSU
23. N.C. State
24. Stanford
25. Michigan State

Gameday Live: WVU at Kansas State

The Mountaineers try to keep their momentum rolling against the Wildcats in Manhattan, a place where WVU has never won. Mitch Vingle is in the press box. Follow the action with him right here:

Injuries and other factors have led to this year’s Kansas State (5-4, 3-3) team not living up to the preseason praise it was getting, as the Wildcats were seen as a dark horse in the Big 12 before the start of the year. Now three-fourths of the way through the season, and Bill Snyder has been forced to play three different quarterbacks.

The quarterback spot is where this week’s edition of Scouting the Opponent will start ahead of No. 23 West Virginia’s (6-3, 4-2) game in Manhattan.

Quarterback Carousel

Senior Jesse Ertz was supposed to be leading the Wildcats to another successful season. Instead, his season came to a halt five games in due to a knee injury.

Snyder has listed Ertz as day-to-day, but his starting quarterback hasn’t strapped on the pads in a game since the injury occurred. In his place was sophomore Alex Delton, who’s had an up and down year, leading to just a 1-3 record in games he’s completed this season. The lone win came two weeks ago against Kansas when Delton attempted just seven passes on a day that K-State excelled on the ground.

Delton, however, was sidelined last week due to multiple hits to the head, causing concussion-like symptoms. That thrust third-string QB Skylar Thompson into action on the road against Texas Tech, in a game that was eventually won on a Thompson pass in overtime. Due to Snyder not disclosing injuries to the media, it’s unclear if Delton or Thompson will start Saturday.

Given his playing style, Delton – if healthy – could present problems for the WVU defense, as he’s a dual-threat QB that ran for 142 yards against Oklahoma earlier this year.

Balanced, but not Explosive

The quarterback changes have kept things balanced, offensively, for the Wildcats, who enter Saturday’s game averaging nearly the same amount of yardage from the pass as they are the run. However, K-State will run the ball nearly twice as much as it will throw, especially without its seasoned veteran Ertz taking snaps.

Kansas State is averaging 193 yards on the ground and nearly 185 through the air. The 378.1 yards of total offense per game is just twenty-nine yards more than what WVU quarterback Will Grier is averaging only passing the ball this season.

Carrying the Rock

Alex Barnes is the leading rusher for the Wildcats, though he’s averaging just 65.2 yards per contest. Delton can be a true run threat if he plays, and Thompson has shown the ability to run as well.

Runs can come from all over. Eight different non-quarterbacks have carried the ball this year for K-State, compared to the seven total players that have a recorded run for West Virginia.

Situational Football

Here are a few numbers that stick out that if they hold true Saturday, could greatly impact the outcome of the game:

Although nearly as efficient on third down as the Mountaineers ­(36% – 34%), the Wildcats have been nowhere near as successful on fourth down. K-State has converted just once all year on fourth down, while WVU has a 73 percent conversion rate.

Kansas State is also turning less than 60 percent of its trips to the red zone into touchdowns. WVU on the other hand is doing so 72 percent of the time.

Built to Stop the Run

Just like he likely drew it up, Snyder’s defense has been built to limit the opposing ground game.

Kansas State has been the third-best team in the Big 12 at stopping the run this season, giving up nearly 60 yards less per game on the ground than WVU. However, the Wildcats have the worst pass defense in the conference. Jayd Kirby leads the team with 8.5 tackles for loss this year, followed by Will Geary with 7.5.

Return specialists

K-State is the best time in the Big 12 when it comes to returning kickoffs and is second to only TCU when it comes to returning punts.

The Wildcats have returned both a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown this year. Switching sides, Kansas State has also given up the second-fewest yards on kick returns.

West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen asked Tuesday for the media to forgive him if he started talking about Iowa State instead of Kansas State this week. That’s how similar the two teams feel.

It’s Bill Snyder’s Wildcats that the Mountaineers are up against on the road on Saturday. Manhattan is a place that WVU has had trouble finding success in before, but as Holgorsen said, it’s a place lots of teams have had troubles in.

“We for sure got our work cut out for us this week,” Holgorsen said.

K-State QB Problems

Snyder may not like to talk about the health of his own players, but that doesn’t mean Holgorsen can’t address it.

Health at the quarterback position for the Wildcats is a big question mark.

First-string QB Jesse Ertz has been sidelined each of the last four weeks with a knee injury that, even though has Snyder listing him as “day-to-day,” has many around the Big 12 thinking is for sure a long-term injury.

Second-string quarterback Alex Delton had been playing well before getting knocked out of the game last week against Texas Tech with a concussion. His status for Saturday is unknown.

That leaves third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson as the probable starter.

“The four quarters that I studied more than anything, (Thompson) kept getting better and better and better and better, and led his team from being down at Texas Tech,” Holgorsen said. “They’re all three really good and really capable of running the offense.”

A little weaker at its strength

Switching sides of the ball, the head coach of the Mountaineers said that K-State isn’t as strong on defense as it has been in years past.

Though he cautioned that it’s still a Kansas State defensive unit that’s built to stop the run.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Last week a lot of talk surrounded the physicality of practice for the Mountaineers, who ramped things up during the week to answer the call from the head coach.

Asked what the approach would be this week, Holgorsen said there wouldn’t be too much of a difference.

“Our job this week is to continue to build on what we did last week, which is practice hard, prepare hard, be tough, give effort,” he said.

There is a line to walk, though, especially when dealing with the injuries that have come up on the WVU depth chart over the past few weeks.

“We cranked it up a little bit last week. I think it needed to be done,” Holgorsen said. “I don’t know if you can continue to do that.

“You’ve got to gauge it a little bit.”

Rain and cold, sun and warm, and anything in between

Favorite weather for the head coach is apparently sunny and 70 degrees. Sounds like something most people could get behind.

That came up when asked about practicing in the weather this week leading up to a Saturday kick where the weather is expected to be rainy.

“If the weather is bad there is a preparation aspect of it,” Holgorsen said. “We’re not scared to go outside in the elements.”

Holgorsen said the weather during the week can only become an issue if it interferes with the preparation in terms of teaching the players about the opponent and the game plan.