WVU Gameday Blog

Mitch Vingle Top 25, Sept. 24

Here ya go folks.
1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Oklahoma
4. Penn State
5. USC
6. Washington
7. Michigan
8. TCU
9. Wisconsin
10. Ohio State
11. Georgia
12. Virginia Tech
13. Auburn
14. Miami
15. Louisville
16. Washington State
17. Oklahoma State
18. Florida
19. Duke
20. Notre Dame
21. San Diego State
22. North Carolina State
23. Utah
24. South Florida
25. West Virginia

WVU Report card: Kansas game

A game that was much closer than anticipated leaves many Mountaineer fans scratching their heads.

The past two weeks of lopsided scores in non-conference play may have covered up some of West Virginia’s shortcomings, but they were exposed Saturday in the opening Big 12 game of the year.

Here’s how the team graded in the 56-34 win over Kansas.

Offense – A-

Fifty-six points is nothing to scoff at. Well over 600 yards of offense isn’t either.

However, an ugly third quarter that allowed Kansas to get back in the game lowers the grade.

The good news is that Grier was fairly accurate most of the game; the running game was efficient per usual, with a pair of 100-yard rushers in Justin Crawford and Kennedy McKoy; and the offensive line played arguably its best game as a unit this season.

Attribute the third-quarter woes to this being just the second time this season the first-team offense was on the field past the mid-way part of the third quarter, but a potential lull like that in a game against stiffer competition is worrisome.

All in all, though, the Mountaineer offense looked good, especially given that starting field position in the first half was less than desirable.

Defense – D-

The only reason this unit doesn’t get an F is because WVU got the win.

But giving up 291 rushing yards to a single player, the most to one player in school history to an opposing rusher, is appalling.

Giving up over 550 yards to Kansas is not a good look. In all honesty, it’s laughable.

Kansas hasn’t gained that many yards in one game since last year’s season opener against Rhode Island.

Missed tackles, blown assignments, you name it, it happened.

Granted, the defense did have a couple big plays.

Mike Daniels had a pick-six, Lamonte McDougle forced a fumble and Al-Rasheed Benton also had an interception.

However, the Jayhawks were successful on both fourth down attempts, and converted on third down 44-percent of the time, which is a higher conversion rate than what they’ve been successful at so far this year.

This defensive unit must improve mightily over the next few weeks, or it will get gashed to a point that the talented WVU offense can not bail it out (i.e. OK-State – it’s going to get ugly folks)

Special teams – B-

The third kickoff out of bounds penalty on the year by Evan Staley knocks this grade down. Three such plays in just four games is concerning.

With that said, though, kickoffs were sailing to the end zone at seemingly a higher rate than they have so far in 2017. Staley booted six touchbacks.

It’s been a problem for the Mountaineers that seems to be moving in the right direction.

Coverage was largely good. Those six WVU kickoffs kneed down in the end zone is due, in part due to coverage.

Kansas averaged just 19 yards on kickoff returns, while West Virginia was slightly better at 22 yards per return on kicks that were brought out of the end zone.

 

Overall grade – C

The Mountaineers begin their Big 12 conference slate in Lawrence against Kansas. Mitch Vingle is in the press box, and you can follow him here for all the action from start to finish.

 

The Mountaineers enter the Big 12 portion of their schedule in about the best way possible — easing in against Kansas. Then hadn’t been as lucky the last four seasons, with three openers against Oklahoma and one against Kansas State. But don’t think Dana Holgorsen is taking this game lightly.

“We’ve prepared for their best game of the season, that’s for sure.”

It wouldn’t take much for the Jayhawks to put together their best game of the season. Their lone win is against Southeast Missouri and they followed that with two losses to Mid-American Conference teams. But Hologorsen has good reason to be wary in Lawrence. It was in Lawrence where the Mountaineers might have hit their low point in the Holgorsen era.

In 2013, West Virginia didn’t just lose at Kansas, it lost handily, 31-19 to a Charlie Weis-coached outfit that finished 3-9 and hadn’t won a Big 12 game since beating Colorado in 2010. That loss eliminated the Mountaineers from bowl contention in a season where they finished 4-8, the only losing season WVU has suffered under Holgorsen.

Now, West Virginia has the advantage over Kansas in just about every category, but the Jayhawks aren’t bad at throwing the ball, and that might be enough to allow Kansas to hang around and make things interesting. Holgorsen has been pretty careful in what he has said this week. Surely, he doesn’t want any flashbacks to a bad, bad memory.

 

Scouting the Opponent: Kansas

West Virginia (2-1) hits the road this weekend to take on Kansas (1-2) at noon ET on Saturday.  It’s the first true road game for the Mountaineers in 2017.

Head coach Dana Holgorsen said on Tuesday he expects to be tested by the Jayhawks, also saying he didn’t want to leave anyone out when asked about Kansas players to watch out for, in hopes of not becoming bulletin board material in Lawrence.

Here’s a quick look at David Beaty’s club.

Jayhawks move it through the air 

Offensively, the Jayhawks have been much more efficient through the air than they have been in recent years.

Quarterback Peyton Bender became the fastest Kansas passer to eclipse 1,000 passing yards and is attempting to become the first 2,000-yard passer in Lawrence since 2009.

Not a ton of options 

Even though Bender appears to be one of the best passers Kansas has had in some time, his options of players to throw to are somewhat limited.

His favorite targets are wideout Steven Sims Jr. and tight end Ben Johnson. Sims hauled in six catches for 60 yards last week in his return to action. The week prior, he started but could not finish the game due to an ankle injury, which ended his streak of 24-straight games with at least one catch.

Johnson, a senior, is averaging over 14 yards per reception.

Running the football 

Defensively, Beaty’s team hasn’t fared great against the run, which isn’t a good sign when welcoming in the Big 12’s leading rusher in Justin Crawford.

Crawford not only leads the conference in rushing yards, but in touchdowns as well, and has eclipsed 100 yards in each game this season.

Offensively, the Jayhawks don’t run the ball well, either, placing dead last in the conference.

Defensive Anchors 

Despite not being a good run-stopping team, Kansas has faired well at stopping plays in the backfield this year.

Led by Joe Dineen Jr.’s seven, Kansas has 25 tackles for loss as a team.

Daniel Wise has six stops in the backfield, as well.

Dineen is the conference’s leading tackler and has recorded at least 11 tackles in each game. His 38 stops are third best in the nation.

Despite being a team that’s good at stopping plays in the backfield, the Jayhawks have recorded just two sacks this year.

Big Play Ability 

Kansas has given up eight plays that gained 30-plus yards this season, and West Virginia’s offense has run 12 such plays.

Opponents have scored at least 40 points in each of the last two games against the Jayhawks. Meanwhile, the WVU first-team defense has surrendered just one touchdown over its last two contests.

 

The More You Know … about some hoops recruits

Mitch found out a couple of basketball recruiting tidbits Tuesday:

So who are these guys?

Muhammad is a four-star shooting guard from Hudson Catholic in Jersey City. He’s ranked No. 76 overall by 247Sports, No. 15 among shooting guards and No. 5 in New Jersey. Ohio State, St. John’s, Virginia, Xavier are all hot on his trail.

Doomes is a three-star guard rated No. 175 nationally, No. 41 among shooting guards and No. 17 in Florida. He has offers from Auburn, Ole Miss, UAB and Middle Tennessee, but according to 247Sports, not one from the Mountaineers just yet. Looks like that could change.

Allen played at Chaminade-Madonna in Hollywood, Florida, before going juco. He had offers from Florida Gulf Coast, Iowa State and Kent State among others, and took an unofficial visit to WVU on July 5.

So now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

Holgorsen Press Conference News and Notes, Kansas Week

West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen displayed a lot of respect for his team’s upcoming opponent – Kansas – during his weekly media session Tuesday.

He mentioned the familiarity between the two programs, having been conference foes for the last five years, as well as a number of coaches on both sides that have crossed paths more than once during their tenures.

“Can’t face an opponent that we know more about,” Holgorsen said.

Here are some additional notes:

WVU Getting Healthy

When asked to update the status on a few injured players, Holgorsen perked up all ears in attendance when he said players like Brandon Lingafelter, Toyous Avery and, most notably, linebacker David Long, are all progressing well in their returns from injury.

All three will make the trip to Kansas this weekend, though it remains to see if any will be active.

Grier Garners “QB Gene”

Asked about WVU’s starting quarterback, and the relationship his has with the players, Holgorsen said that Will Grier has that “starting quarterback gene” that allows him to not only be a good quarterback but also has guys gravitate towards him.

Wellman Doing Well. CFB Shift?

One player in particular that Holgorsen seems to be pleased with thus far is halfback Elijah Wellman.

The head coach stated he’s done a good job blocking and acting as a “sixth O-lineman out there.”

Along those lines, he mentioned that he has seen a shift in college football of coaches using players like Wellman more often. This is because of their athleticism and versatility of being able to get out and block, as well as pass catch, out in space.

Wellman certainly fits that mold.

Jayhawks to Watch

With a slight smile on his face, Holgorsen said he didn’t want to leave anyone out when asked to highlight a few of the key players on Kansas, saying he didn’t want to motivate any Jayhawk player he didn’t name outright.

However, he did highlight a few.

Both No. 11’s – safety Mike Lee and wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. – were highlighted.

Sims racked up a conference-best 207 all-purpose yards against SE Missouri St. Lee averages seven tackles a game.

Junior linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. paces the Big 12 in tackles with 38, nine more than any other player.

How do they compare?

Kansas football coach David Beaty had some high praise for WVU’s offense during this week’s Big 12 conference call. He has an up-close and personal look at that group this week, with the Mountaineers visiting the Jayhawks at noon Saturday. He’s been watching plenty of West Virginia film, so it’s an educated opinion.

WVU coach Dana Holgorsen, on the other hand, wasn’t ready just yet to anoint this crew — including QB Will Grier, RB Justin Crawford and WRs David Sills, Marcus Simms, Gary Jennings and Ka’Raun White — the second coming of Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, Steadman Bailey, et al.

“Collectively, they have a chance to be good. They’re not anywhere close to where I think they’ll be toward the end of the season. By no means am I ready to compare any of them to those guys of my past.”

Holgorsen may not be ready to compare, but we here at the Gameday blog have no problem doing just that. Below is the list of passing, rushing and total offense numbers from 2011 to 2017. Now, I totally understand comparing this season with past seasons isn’t entirely fair, since those prior seasons include games against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and others that the 2017 team has yet to play. But we can at least see where this team is trending.

Passing offense

2011 — 346.8 ypg

2012 — 329.6 ypg

2013 — 262.1 ypg

2014 — 317.0 ypg

2015 — 251.5 ypg

2016 — 257.2 ypg

2017 — 369.3 ypg

Rushing offense

2011 — 122.69 ypg

2012 — 170.92 ypg

2013 — 148.67 ypg

2014 — 182.77 ypg

2015 — 228.23 ypg

2016 — 228.38 ypg

2017 — 212.0 ypg

Total offense

2011 — 469.5 ypg

2012 — 500.5 ypg

2013 — 410.8 ypg

2014 — 499.8 ypg

2015 — 479.7 ypg

2016 — 485.5 ypg

2017 — 581.3 ypg

Again, this year is through three games against a good Virginia Tech team, an awful East Carolina team and a FCS-level Delaware State team. But even if the numbers slip a little, WVU is on pace for the best passing and total offensive numbers of Holgorsen’s tenure. The questions are: Can they keep it up? If not, how close can they stay to those numbers?

 

Big 12 Stock Evaluation

Non-conference play is a good litmus test for teams and conferences to see where they stand against their competitors.

Only four Big 12 teams – Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech – remain undefeated through the first three weeks of the season, meaning their stock is in good shape.

On the other end of the spectrum, Baylor (0-3) is the only Power-5 team to have played two or more games that remains without a win, and with its upcoming schedule including at least two ranked opponents, you couldn’t sell its stock to anyone if you were an owner.

As for the rest of the conference, their stock remains somewhat in question. But here are a few answers.

Texas – Sell Now

Texas is back? It’s a question asked for a few years now that seems to have an answer, but comes into question on a semi-weekly basis.

The Longhorns looked good against USC Saturday, but are still not “back,” which is why you should sell.

After a bye week, Tom Herman’s club hits the road to take on an Iowa State team that knows it should be undefeated at this point. Following their trip to Ames, the Longhorns must face Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Stiff competition could bring out the best in Texas, but the program’s fourth 1-2 start in the last five years and the schedule that looms suggests otherwise.

Texas Tech – Buy Cautiously

In just two games, Texas Tech’s offense has put up 110 points and new quarterback Nic Shimonek is just 73 yards short of 1,000 passing yards. The post-Patrick-Mahomes-era is off to a good start.

The Red Raiders will look to move to 3-0 this weekend at Houston, but starting there things get tricky. The Cougar defense is giving up less than 10 points per game so far.

Next up is Oklahoma State, another quality defense. A trap-game trip to Kansas follows. Kliff Kingsbury’s offense will be tested over the next two weeks.

If you’re in a buying mood, take a look at the Red Raiders, but re-evaluate after Saturday.

West Virginia – Buy

Dana Holgorsen’s offense has been gaining yards at a frantic pace over the first three weeks of the season, and is coming off back-to-back 50-plus point performances.

The offense has been clicking and should continue to this weekend against the Jayhawks. The defense has not been as fluid, but potentially three consecutive weeks of a point differential of 30 or more looks good on paper, at least.

West Virginia will then have a week off to prepare for a trip to Dallas to face a ranked Horned Frog team.

Buy the Mountaineers for this reason: The schedule is still very manageable at this point. WVU should be no worse than 5-2, potentially 6-1, heading into its home game on October 28 against Oklahoma State. With that being the case, there is going to be a good return on investment for when the schedule strengthens up.

Oklahoma – Buy it all

The Sooners rank as the 12th-best defense in the Power-5 in terms of points allowed.

Oklahoma has already played what looks to be its toughest test until November, and Baker Mayfield has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country thus far.

With it looking more likely than not that the Sooners will enter the Bedlam rivalry undefeated, you should be all in on Oklahoma.

 

Kicking it

Western Kentucky place kicker Skyler Simcox (88) takes a moment before a field goal attempt against Florida International in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, in Bowling Green, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Noble Jr.)

You heard about WVU kicker commitment Sklyer Simcox on Monday. You’ll hear a lot more about him this spring.

Simcox, a former Division III all-conference selection and former starter at Western Kentucky, is coming to WVU in January as a graduate transfer. And that should tell you something, namely that Dana Holgorsen isn’t set on the replacement for senior kicker Mike Molina.

Why so sure? I think we all know one thing about grad transfers — they don’t go anywhere to sit the bench. They head to places where they feel they have a great chance to start, and he’ll have two years of eligibility to do it. The Mountaineers have four kickers besides Molina listed on the roster — Luke Hogan, Evan Staley, Billy Kinney and Jonn Young. And Simcox has something the other four don’t have:  prior FBS starting experience.

So when spring rolls around, keep an eye out for Simcox. He probably won’t be hard to find.