WVU Gameday Blog

Women’s Soccer is Back

Fresh off a victory over then No. 5 Georgetown last weekend, the No. 1 West Virginia women’s soccer team is back in action Thursday evening at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium against a highly ranked team.

Renewing a once-fierce rivalry, top-ranked WVU hosts No. 10 Virginia, as the two teams square off in the regular season for the first time since 2011.

“It’s going to be a battle,” head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown said. “It’s always a huge rivalry and one of the best teams in the country.”

The game marks the first time the Mountaineers have played a home game since defeating Duke in last year’s NCAA tournament. It’s also the third time in the last four year that WVU has started its home slate of games against a ranked team.

West Virginia will put its home winning streak on the line, having not lost a home match in regulation since falling 2-0 to No. 21 Duke on August 29, 2014. Over the last three years, WVU is 35-2-3 in Morgantown.

The Mountaineers enter the season as five-time defending regular season Big 12 champs. Despite losing key contributors Ashley Lawrence and Kadeisha Buchanan, West Virginia returns 85 percent of its offensive production from last year, including senior Michaela Abam, who led the team in goals scored at 12. Abam is already off to a good start this season. She scored the lone goal in the season opener against the Hoyas.

Kickoff between the Mountaineers and Cavaliers is set for 7 p.m. You can hear all WVU women’s soccer home games broadcasted in the Morgantown area on 91.7 FM, or online at u92.wvu.edu.

West Virginia running back Kennedy McKoy (4) runs the ball during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Texas, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, in Austin, Texas. West Virginia won 24-20. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

Texas will be back. How many times have you heard that?
I hear ya. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
This season, though, the Longhorns really will be back. But that doesn’t mean West Virginia can’t win on Nov. 18.
The Mountaineers can — as long as Will Grier is still standing. Yet understand what’s been going on in Austin.
There’s no Mack Brown. There’s no Charlie Strong. Now the UT program is in the hands of Tom Herman.
And this team is teed up for Herman to drive it a mile. It has 17 returning starters. It has nice special teams. It has depth. It has an absolute stud at offensive tackle in Connor Williams.
A big question is whether Herman and quarterback Shane Buechele will mesh. Also, with the nation’s leading rusher, D’Onta Foreman, gone and trying to impress Houston Texans’ coach Bill O’Brien, will the Longhorns’ offense be explosive enough?
The feeling is, in this game, yes. WVU will be returning from a disappointing loss to Kansas State and trying desperately to regain its mojo.

Texas, 28-27; 8-3

Kansas State running back Charles Jones (24) splits Missouri State defenders Tony Jones, left, and Anthony Upchurch, right, during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

West Virginia’s 2016 October 17-16 win over K-State proved impressive because the Wildcats finished 9-4, beating Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl. It proved monumental, however, because it was the Mountaineers’ first victory over coach Bill Snyder and company in five tries.
Early in the series, K-State crushed West Virginia by 41 and 23, but in the last three games, the difference has been by a total of eight points – one in each of the last two games.
In this one, WVU’s Will Grier will have to have a terrific day throwing the ball. K-State has a very nice defensive front to slow the Mountaineer rushing attack. The Wildcat offense, meanwhile, will grind West Virginia’s questionable front with quarterback Jesse Ertz running behind standout fullback Winston Dimel.
Do I think K-State is a Big 12 title contender? No. But do I think the Wildcats can defeat the Mountaineers in Manhattan? Yes. Bad matchup for WVU.

K-State, 32-24; 8-2

In this July 31, 2017, photo, Iowa State linebacker Joel Lanning (7) participates a drill during an NCAA college football practice in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

If WVU does, as predicted, upset Oklahoma State in Morgantown, this could be a trap game. The Mountaineers aren’t good enough to let down and it would be natural to do so against a team that went 3-9 last season.
Yet look closely. Most in Ames believe coach Matt Campbell did a nice job in 2016. Sure the Mountaineers beat the Cyclones 49-19, pulling away late. But ISU perked up late in the season.
The Cyclones have some talent. It’s difficult not to like wideout Allen Lazard and offensive lineman Jake Campos. The offense, in fact, could be good – if, like WVU, the line as a whole comes along. There’s been a lot of shuffling – a la the Mountaineers – and Michigan transfer David Dawson left the team.
Defensively, though, Iowa State is in trouble. Expect the Cyclones to limit big plays, but if Mountaineer QB Will Grier and company are on point, WVU should steadily move downfield.
Again, this will be closer than Mountaineer fans might expect, especially if West Virginia enters the game 7-1 and highly ranked. It positively screams for a letdown.
Yet, in the end …

WVU 30-21. 8-1

Getting tired of waiting for the start of the College Football season? So is Dana Holgorsen.

The Mountaineer head coach says he wishes the start of the regular season would be this weekend, not next.

Let’s Get Started

Going off that, Holgorsen sited that under the current NCAA guidelines, there is too much practice solely against one another, instead of the in-season game week practices, which are against the other team per se on account of scout teams.

He said the amount of downtime during practice that must be done to take player safety into account – changing padding, jerseys to denote which players are OK for contact.

“Five weeks is way too long,” He said.

 

Injury update

Marvin Gross and Corey Winfield are said to be, “progressing fine.”

Of Winfield, specifically, Holgorsen said he’s, “gonna be fine,” and that he should be back to practicing soon.

Jennings, Sills and White

Despite sounding like the three names of a law firm, they are also the last names of the starting wide receivers for the Mountaineers.

Gary Jennings, David Sills and Ka’Raun White will be the top wideouts on the depth chart.

A player that Holgorsen said is creeping up in Kennedy McKoy, who will be splitting time between the back field and the slot receiver. McKoy is said to be displaying a lot of versatility.

Got that Nehlen Feelin’

Former long time Mountaineer head coach Don Nehlen was at the football facilities Tuesday. This came less than two hours after it was announced he and former Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beemer will be honorary captains when the two teams meet up on September 3 at FedEx Field.

 

FILE - In this April 15, 2017 file photo, Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph (2) prepares for the snap during an intra squad spring NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Okla. Rudolph is statistically one of the best quarterbacks in school history, and the school is pushing him as a Heisman candidate. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

This should be a terrific game to watch. OSU will boast the Big 12’s top pass-and-catch duo of QB Mason Rudolph and wideout James Washington. Look for both at an NFL game near you in 2018. And don’t forget running back Justice Hill.
It will be a heck of a challenge for the Mountaineers. The Pokes are universally rated as a top three Big 12 team in 2017. But don’t be shocked if West Virginia wins.
Check OSU’s schedule. The next weekend the Cowboys host Oklahoma, the team State is gunning to take down for the league title.
This could be the flip of my prediction of a WVU loss at TCU. The Mountaineers will want it more and the Cowboys will be looking ahead. Plus, OSU’s defense is shaky. Will Grier will have a nice day.
WVU, 45-42; 7-1

Big 12 Heisman Hopefuls

By Ryan Decker

Earlier this month I took a look at the Heisman Award candidates from around the country and made projections.

Today, focus shifts slightly more narrow to just the Big 12 Conference.

The Big 12 begins the year with half of its teams ranked in the Coaches Poll, meaning that the spotlight will be on the conference a lot this season, which is what players need to take home the most sought-after individual award the sport has to offer.

Rivalry games, notable out of conference games, numerous ranked vs. ranked contests in hostile environments all are ingredients to help bolster a Heisman candidate’s résumé.

The players below have the best chances within the Big 12 to take home the trophy.

big-12-heisman-hopefuls
Senior quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph are the preseason favorites to take home the Heisman trophy. But dark horses in Austin and Morgantown are looking to upend the Sooner State’s bid for the biggest award in College Football. Graphic created by Ryan Decker

 

  1. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma QB

Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield was a Heisman finalist last year, meaning the voters are very familiar with his work. The senior is just twenty passing yards and two touchdowns short of 10,000 and 90, respectively, for his career.

He threw for over 300 yards in six games last year and tallied at least 200 passing yards in all but one contest.

Mayfield and the Sooners have five games scheduled against ranked teams, three of which are on the road (Ohio State, Kansas State, Oklahoma State).

Oklahoma’s receiving corps appears to be thin to start the year, meaning Mayfield may need to be more creative with his feet, both extending plays behind and running for yards past the line of scrimmage.

 

  1. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State QB

Not only do preseason polls indicate the Big 12’s candidate for a spot in the College Football Playoff runs through Bedlam, but likely so does the conference’s chance at sending one of its premier players to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

Mason Rudolph has been nearly as impressive as his Oklahoma counterpart in his career, and is a big part of the reason Mike Gundy’s squad could be primed for a trip to the Playoff.

Rudolph finished in the top 10 in the nation in passing yards (4,091) and passer efficiency (158.9) last year, and only two QBs in the Big 12 had a better completion percentage than he did.

The second half will make or break his Heisman candidacy, with a slate of games that pits Rudolph against Texas and West Virginia on the road, Oklahoma in Bedlam, Iowa State in Ames, and Kansas State in Stillwater.

 

  1. Will Grier, West Virginia QB

The former Gator dazzled in his six games at Florida. Starting as a freshman in Gainesville, Grier threw for 1,204 yards and 10 touchdowns while completing nearly 66 percent of his passes.

He’s now the starting quarterback for the Mountaineers.

Will Grier has his work cut out for him, with a thin wide receiving group that just got thinner, and a tough schedule on the backend.

Morgantown is buzzing with hopes of Grier keeping the Mountaineers as one of the top teams in the conference, and even more on an individual approach, with the fan page @GrierforHeisman already dedicated to the cause.

 

  1. Shane Buechele, Texas QB

A pro-style quarterback with a big arm, Shane Buechele was made for the Big 12.

Slow starts inhibited Texas last year, forcing Buechele to work from behind in a number of games, but that doesn’t mean he shied away from the spotlight, as he was part of a Week 1 victory against Notre Dame and a shootout win over Texas Tech.

This year, Buechele has the opportunity to shine on the road Week 3 against USC in LA before getting to conference competition.

Only a sophomore, he has time to improve before heading to the next level, but if Buechele can lead the Longhorns to their first 10-plus win season since 2009, he could be the Heisman dark horse that voters go for.

 

  1. James Washington, OK-State WR

The last two Heisman hopefuls from the conference are a pair of position players.

James Washington is the premier wide receiver in the Big 12.

The senior wide out hauled in 71 passes last season for 1,380 yards, the tenth-highest total in the country, last year. His 19.4 yards per catch was good enough for third-best amongst receivers with at least fifty catches.

No wide receiver has won the Heisman award since Desmond Howard in 1991, but if you’re looking at pass catchers from each conference to break the 25-year drought, look no further in this conference than Washington.

 

  1. Justin Crawford, West Virginia RB

West Virginia’s Justin Crawford is the top returning runner in the Big 12, with only two players in the conference rushing for more yards than he did last year in his first season at the D-1 level. Both of those players are now in the NFL.

The former Junior College Offensive Player of the Year is surely one of the focal points in the Mountaineer offense.

Even with traditionally pass-happy minds in head coach Dana Holgorsen and new offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, don’t expect Crawford to go hungry in the backfield. WVU ran the ball nearly 60 percent of the time last year, and as a team has rushed for 200-plus yards in a game 27 over the last six years.

 

Latest Heisman Trophy Odds (via Brovada, Odds Shark)

Player Team Position Odds
Baker Mayfield Oklahoma QB +800
Mason Rudolph Oklahoma State QB +2500
Will Grier West Virginia QB N/A
Shane Buechele Texas QB +5000
James Washington Oklahoma State WR N/A
Justin Crawford West Virginia RB N/A

 

West Virginia takes the field prior to the Cactus Bowl NCAA college football game against Arizona State, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Eclipse? Sure, there’s that. But the AP Top 25 is unveiled today as well, so I thought I’d share my vote.
As you guys know, I take my vote seriously. I don’t just copy preseason mags, I research. I try to find the teams with the most talent. I vote those teams. And if, say, my No. 3, Notre Dame, fails to perform, so be it. But the Irish have a lot of talent to start.

That said, let’s get to it.
1. Alabama
2. Ohio State
3. ND
4. Oklahoma
5. LSU
6. Washington
7. Florida State
8. Clemson
9. Florida
10. Wisconsin
11. USC
12. Michigan
13. Auburn
14. Penn State
15. Miami
16. Texas
17. Virginia Tech
18. WVU
19. Stanford
20. Utah
21. N.C. State
22. Pittsburgh
23. Oklahoma State
24. Georgia
25. Louisville

Baylor head football coach Matt Rhule listens to a reporter's question during the Big 12 NCAA college football media day in Frisco, Texas, Tuesday, July 18, 2017. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Well, hello Matt Rhule!
After the beyond-ugly sexual assault scandal that’s hit Baylor, Rhule left Temple to take on the job of rebuilding what was once a national power. For now though, Rhule and those around him have been using words like “one brick at a time.”
It’s a good approach. And it also signals that West Virginia should be good in this matchup.
Baylor’s quarterback situation isn’t great and, if healthy, the running backs and receivers are talented, but the offensive line is a weakness. That helps a WVU team that could struggle along the defensive front. On the flip side, BU’s defensive line is without dominating players.
The hunch is West Virginia will pull this one out. Again, a nice schedule for the Mountaineers. Plus, no KD Cannon.
WVU, 35-28; 6-1

Texas Tech's Da'Leon Ward (32) is tackled by West Virginia's Al-Rasheed Benton (3) during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Lubbock, Texas. (Brad Tollefson/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal via AP)

This is the perfect bounceback opponent and Homecoming game for West Virginia. (Note from WVU to Big 12 office: Thanks guys!)
In short, this looks like the end of the line for Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury. He couldn’t win WITH the NFL draft’s 10th pick of Patrick Mahomes. Now? With Nic Shimonek?
Maybe. Shimonek is being touted as another “gunslinger.” And maybe the Red Raiders can win seven games. But the matchups in this game absolutely scream for a WVU rout. Texas Tech’s defense was the nation’s No. 128 defense last season. It’s not going to improve that much this season. Mountaineer offense, start your engines!
Just a great, great, great place for West Virginia to have the Techies on the schedule.

WVU, 56-30; move to 5-1