WVU Sports with Tom Bragg

PREGAME: No. 12 WVU at No. 25 Texas Tech

Good morning from West Texas!

Warmups have started on the field here at Jones AT&T Stadium on the Texas Tech campus as the No. 25 Red Raiders prepare to host No. 12 West Virginia here in little more than an hour.

Nothing major to report on the listed starting lineup for the Mountaineers. Kennedy McKoy is down as the starting running back, but as we’ve seen so far this season that likely just means he’ll be on the field for the first few plays or series before WVU gets Martell Pettaway and Leddie Brown into the game.

I made this mistake of tweeting (could probably just end the sentence there) this morning about WVU wearing “yellow-white-yellow” and was informed the Mountaineers wear gold. Look, I know the official school color is listed as gold but what WVU wears sure looks like yellow to me. Notre Dame’s helmets are gold, West Virginia’s pants are yellow.

Anyway, WVU will go with this look:

And Texas Tech will go with red helmets, black jerseys and white pants.

And here is a photo of the Texas Tech mascot attempting to hijack some wheels this morning outside the stadium.

 

LINKS:

WVU aims to limits Texas Tech air attack led by freshman QB

Mountaineer offensive line solid so far behind strong tackle play

Column: Marcus Simms emerging as every-down threat for WVU offense

Holgorsen/Kingsbury friendship on hold when WVU visits Texas Tech

Mountaineers expect Texas Tech to turn up the tempo on offense

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big 12 stock report: Who’s up, who’s down?

As with all things on this blog until I settle on how to use it, this is a trial and error period. The idea is for this to be a weekly feature, but we’ll see how it goes.

I’m in Lubbock for Saturday’s clash between No. 12 West Virginia and No. 25 Texas Tech, but I have some time to kill in the hotel. Before I set out in search of steak and tamales this evening, let’s take a look at which Big 12 team’s stock is up, which are down and which aren’t doing much of anything.

Starting with the good:

STOCK UP

TEXAS TECH (3-1, 1-0 Big 12): The Red Raiders are one of the hottest teams in the country and have pounded their last three opponents. WVU comes to town this weekend looking to bring Tech down a peg or two.

TEXAS (3-1, 1-0 Big 12): The Longhorns opened the season with a loss to Maryland (yuck) and followed it up with a narrow win against Tulsa (also yuck). Since then, however, Texas beat a ranked (at the time) Southern California team in Austin and surprised a lot of people by dominating last week against TCU.

WEST VIRGINIA (3-0, 1-0 Big 12): The Mountaineers were impressive in beating Kansas State 35-6 last week in Morgantown. The offense put up what has become a pretty typical WVU performance, but it was the defense that really stood out against K-State. WVU is going to get a big test from Texas Tech on Saturday.

STOCK DOWN

TCU (2-2, 0-1 Big 12): The Horned Frogs showed promise in battling mighty Ohio State a few weeks ago, but have seemed to take major steps backward in last week’s lopsided loss to Texas.

KANSAS STATE (2-2, 0-1 Big 12): The bottom fell out of the Wildcats’ offense last week in Morgantown. K-State had a lot of trouble moving the ball on West Virginia all afternoon and with the way WVU was scoring, the Wildcats found themselves in a hole they were never going to dig out of. There is a chance to bounce back against Texas this weekend, but the Longhorns are playing good football right now and the Wildcats are not.

KANSAS (2-2, 0-1 Big 12): The twice mighty Jayhakws, slayers of Central Michigan (on the road!) and Rutgers (a Power 5 team!), came back to Earth last week against Baylor as the Bears. KU takes on an Oklahoma State team Saturday looking to bounce back from a beating at the hands of Texas Tech last week.

OKLAHOMA STATE (3-1, 0-1 Big 12): Two weeks ago the Cowboys looked like a threat to join the top teams in the league after dismantling visiting Boise State, but they laid an egg last week against Texas Tech as the Red Raiders shut them out in the second half. As has been the case for a long time, a game against Kansas should be good for Mike Gundy’s bunch — just don’t ask him or anyone on the team about players using the new redshirt rule to leave the program.

HOLDING STEADY

OKLAHOMA (4-0, 1-0 Big 12): Yes, the Sooners went to overtime with Army last week. Yes, that is not a good look for a team contending for a College Football Playoff spot. I’ll give OU a pass for one week due to the fact it had to deal with Army’s wicked triple-option. Interested to see how Oklahoma responds to that performance this week when Baylor visits Norman.

IOWA STATE (1-2, 0-1 Big 12): The Cyclones played Oklahoma tough in a loss a few weeks ago but entered last week’s game against Akron winless. ISU beat the Zips by 13 – so at least we know Iowa State is better than Northwestern. MAC wins don’t move the stocks up much in my book, so the Cyclones sit tight in the middle this week.

BAYLOR (3-1, 1-0 Big 12): Copy and paste the last bit from the Iowa State entry here but change all ISU references to Baylor and Akron to Kansas. The Bears could use some good news after a not-so-great 2017, and a conference win is certainly good news. However, you have to beat someone not named Kansas to move up.

PREGAME: Kansas State at No. 12 West Virginia

Hi.

I’m Tom and I’m the new WVU beat guy for the Charleston Gazette-Mail. This blog has been a lot of things in recent years — some good and some bad — and I’m still not quite sure exactly how I will handle it going forward. For today, however, I’m going to try some things out and see how it goes.

We’re about three hours away from kickoff here in Morgantown. There are some clouds in the sky but the weather seems to be pretty nice so far today.

It’s Stripe the Stadium day here and a good crowd is expected to be on hand for the Big 12 opener against visiting Kansas State.

As far as starters go, no big surprises on the list available to the media in the press box. Kennedy McKoy will get the nod at running back, but as we’ve heard all week you can expect to see a healthy dose of McKoy, Martell Pettaway and Leddie Brown in this one. JoVanni Stewart, the former safety that was a surprise starter last time out against Youngstown State, is again listed as the starter at Sam linebacker for the Mountaineers.

UPDATE 3:16 p.m.: No sign of running back Alec Sinkfield for WVU during pregame. He was the starter for the Mountaineers last time out against Youngstown State, but left with a leg injury and did not return.

It’s also Hall of Fame day here in Morgantown. This year’s class included former football standouts Avon Cobourne, Pat White and Steve Slaton.

I’ll update this post with anything noteworthy that comes up once the players get on the field and start warming up. Feel free to have fun in the comments, but keep it clean.

LINKS

 

 

 

 

Before we get to WVU-Marshall…

It’s a gold mine for the media.
A bubbling crude. Black gold. Texas tea.
This WVU-Marshall matchup, that is, in Beverly Hills, er, San Diego on Sunday.
But I shall stay away from that for the moment. I’m sure the folks in my beloved Mountain State are already sparked over the game. Those that love Bob Huggins. Those that love Dan D’Antoni. Huggins insisted it’s not “a Hatfields and McCoys thing.”
I don’t know if I can true dat. I’ve been around both teams’ followers and administrators far too long to say it’s not. It certainly is “a dogs and cats thing” if nothing else. Emotions have flared.
Yet before we go there, allow me to point out something about this WVU victory over Murray State. And it is this:
That Mountaineer lead over the Racers on Friday was pretty solid throughout.
Other than a short second-half hiccup, erased by a 7-0 run, West Virginia kept Murray State at arm’s length for most of the game.
That’s progress for WVU. Also, after disappearing in the Big 12 title game against Kansas, Esa Ahmad turned in a fine game. Wesley Harris hit a couple big treys.
West Virginia will need both going forward if a deep run is expected. Jevon Carter’s production is a given. Sagaba Konate is always a force. Dax Miles will defend until his legs give out. But when Ahmad and Harris help, the Mountaineers move from a good team to a very good team. One that can do damage in this tournament.
Now, let’s get to that bubbling crude.

California dreamin'

Well, the Vingle has landed. This time in beautiful San Diego.
I’ll spare those not here the details. About the palm trees. About the mild weather. About the incredible architecture. About the Weather Channel warning of a “small craft advisory” when a slight rain breezed through. About that Pacific Ocean thing.
What I will frame, though, is the basketball setting. The Viejas Arena is on the campus of San Diego State University, which has its Spanish Revival architecture. (In my next life, I promise it will be a college option.)
Anyway, the arena is small. The seating is steep. The place holds but 12,414 folks, although it is neat. I would think that’s very small for an NCAA tournament site.

A view from courtside.
The problem, however, is the distance from West Virginia. It’s a five-hour flight from the Mountain State. It’s about 2,300 miles from home. And that’s a problem.
The cost of airfare here was insane. Even Murray State coach Matt McMahon told me some of his school’s die-hard fans couldn’t afford the trip. And if you tried to get a rental car at the San Diego airport on Wednesday, well, you were out of luck. There were none. Thankfully, there are shuttle services and, for the media, shuttles from the media hotel to the Viejas Arena. (Funny story: On Thursday morning’s first shuttle run, the van driver got lost trying to find the drop-off. Apparently, GPS doesn’t track media drop-offs.)
Anyway, it’s a shame more WVU – and, for that matter, Marshall – fans can’t afford to experience this exciting time and beautiful venue. The airlines and hotels gouge fans. And the NCAA committee didn’t help by sending the Mountaineers all the way here. It seems to me it could do a little better – especially since the team finished No. 2 in the brutal Big 12 – placing squads.
Rest assured, however, the Gazette-Mail will keep you covered. I’m here to provide the WVU news. Doug Smock is here to blanket Marshall.
Enjoy, folks.

Philadelphia Eagles’ Rasul Douglas takes the field before the NFL football NFC championship game against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

If you’re a WVU fan looking for a team to cheer in the Super Bowl, you should take a look at the Philadelphia Eagles.

Philly has four Mountaineers on its active roster — CB Rasul Douglas, LB Najee Goode, RB Wendell Smallwood and WR Shelton Gibson — which is tied with Wisconsin, Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Oregon and Arkansas for the second-largest number of alumni from any one school in the Super Bowl. And all four have made some sort of contribution to the Eagles’ cause this season.

Douglas, a rookie and a 2017 third-round pick, has two interceptions and 25 total tackles for Philadelphia this season. Goode, a sixth-year player used mostly on special teams, has 22 tackles. Second-year back Smallwood has 174 yards and a touchdown on 47 carries, and Gibson, a rookie and a fifth-round pick, has two catches for 11 yards.

There are no Mountaineers on the New England Patriots roster, so your game-day loyalties wouldn’t need to be split.

WVU basketball’s next two foes fall from Top 25

It was shaping up to be one heck of a home stretch in WVU’s current five-game streak. A visit to TCU and visit from Kentucky could have given the Mountaineers four ranked opponents in those five games.

Yeah … about that …

The new top 25 polls came out Monday and both the Horned Frogs and Wildcats fell from the list. For Kentucky, it’s the team’s first week outside the top 25 since 2014. The Mountaineers are in Fort Worth tonight. They host Kentucky on Saturday with College Gameday coming to town, an event announced when that was a much more enticing game for the casual fan.

The Horned Frogs got a little less dangerous with the news that point guard Jaylen Fisher was out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, yet they should still be a concern. Of their five losses, none of them have come by more than five points and two of them came in overtime. TCU will stick around.

Kentucky is another story. Sure, the Wildcats have lost three of their last five. But the big thing when facing them is to get them before their young players have a chance to figure things out. Last season, a Kentucky roster with 12 players either freshmen or sophomores lost three of four between late January and early February. After that February loss, UK didn’t lose again until the Elite Eight. There’s always a chance for Kentucky to remember that it’s Kentucky and play as such.

These next two games are crucial for WVU, especially now that both are unranked. Losing to a pair of unranked teams will not help them at all in terms of NCAA tournament seeding.

College Gameday coming to Morgantown for UK-WVU

As if you didn’t already think next Saturday’s game against the University of Kentucky was a big deal, ESPN is upping the ante.

The College Gameday crew — Rece Davis, Jay Bilas, Seth Greenberg and Jay Williams — will be posting up in the Coliseum and broadcasting from there for the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The Mountaineers and Wildcats mark the only matchup of the challenge between ranked teams so Dan Shulman and Bilas will be on the call for ESPN.

It’s only the second time Gameday has come to WVU for a basketball game — WVU-Louisville in 2009 was the first — so don’t be surprised to see some special stuff from WVU for this trip. A good game gets an even better lead-up.

Probably the most interesting quote from John Feinstein’s recent story on Bob Huggins in the Washington Post comes at the very end. Huggins, who essentially will coach at WVU until he no longer wants to, talked about what might lead him to finally call it a day.

“I’ve always said my dream is to bring a national championship to West Virginia,” he said. “Then I’d take the trophy, we’d put it on a bus and we’d go to every town in the state. We’d have [West Virginia play-by-play man] Tony Caridi on every radio station saying, ‘Smithers, come on out, the trophy’s arriving in 15 minutes.’ We’d have everyone touch it, hold it, take a picture with it.”

He paused. “Then,” he added, “I think I’d be done. There’d be nothing left to do.”

Disregard the retirement mention for a second. Does Huggins’ plan for the national championship trophy surprise anyone? His love for the state is evident, and to take it on a statewide tour like the Stanley Cup is a perfect way for WVU fans, as Caridi will say, “from Weirton to Welch, Martinsburg to Matewan and all points in between” to celebrate that championship.  It would also be a heck of a way to ride off into the sunset.

Now, the Mountaineers will have to work to snap their current two-game skid, but chances are WVU will earn a high NCAA tournament seed and start their quest just an hour or so up the road in Pittsburgh (Joe Lunardi has the Mountaineers as a No. 3 seed starting in the Steel City.) It’s as good a place as any to make a run.

So what’s happening with WVU men’s basketball?

On Saturday morning, the WVU men’s basketball team was 15-1, owners of a 15-game winning streak and ranked No. 2 in the country. As of Tuesday morning, that No. 2 ranking had become a No. 6 ranking and the Mountaineers were owners of a two-game losing streak and a 15-3 record. And life won’t get much easier the next three games with home contests against Texas and Kentucky and a road trip to TCU on the horizon.

So what has changed over the last two games? In comparing a lot of the numbers, plenty.

Let’s look at how WVU has fared and how opponents have fared against WVU before the two losses and in those two losses. For brevity’s sake, we’ll call the two categories “Before” and “After.”

WVU Before After
Points 82.8 ppg 68.5 ppg
Assists 16.3 apg 9.5 apg
Turnovers 11.9 topg 14.5 topg
Rebounds 40.2 rpg 34.5 rpg
FG % 43.3 39.7
3-pt. % 33.1 29.0

 

Opponents Before After
Points 64.9 ppg 71.5 ppg
Assists 11.5 apg 12 apg
Turnovers 20.3 topg 13 topg
Rebounds 35.3 rpg 31 rpg
FG % 39.7 46.6
3-pt. % 35.0 31.5

Summary: In that two-game skid, the Mountaineers are scoring more than 14 fewer points per game and allowing more than six more per game. Shooting 29 percent from 3 won’t help at all. Assists are way down, nearly seven per game, and that’s really not good. Turnovers are up, and that’s really not good. And WVU is forcing a lot fewer turnovers, and that’s really, really not good. West Virginia forced more than seven fewer turnovers per game against Texas Tech and Kansas as opposed to everyone else it has played. Considering the fact that forcing turnovers is WVU’s defensive identity, that is something that needs turned around by the time the Mountaineers host Texas on Saturday.