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West Virginia Football: Winners and Losers from Week 8 Loss to Kansas State

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIIFebruary 3, 2016

West Virginia Football: Winners and Losers from Week 8 Loss to Kansas State

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    The situation went from bad to worse for West Virginia on Saturday when it was smashed at home by Kansas State.

    The Mountaineers fell flat on both sides of the ball and were embarrassed by the underdog Wildcats by the final score of 55-14.

    WVU was out-gained by nearly 250 total yards and is now all but eliminated from Big 12 Conference title contention.

    In just a matter of two weeks, the Mountaineers went from being a conference favorite ranked in the Top Five, to looking like one of the most inept teams in college football after being outscored 104-28 in just two games. 

    Join us as we spend a few words trying to make sense of West Virginia's mid-October train wreck.

Winner: Tavon Austin

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    There are just a few players that can be considered "winners" in this one, the most obvious being Tavon Austin.

    He was one of the few players in blue who actually came ready to play football on Saturday, while everyone else was seemingly thinking about what music was going to be played at Karma later that night.

    Austin accounted for both of WVU's touchdowns in the game, including its only offensive score—a 5-yard reception in the end zone that KSU mercifully allowed in the fourth quarter.

    The Baltimore native led WVU in receiving, hauling in six catches for 34 yards.

    He also finally broke through with a kickoff return for a touchdown from 100 yards out that was sandwiched between two of Wildcat quarterback Collin Klein's four touchdown runs. 

    It was inevitable that he would eventually take a return the distance—it was just too bad it came on a night when nothing else went right for the Mountaineers.

Winner: Paul Millard

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    In what was arguably the worst game in Geno Smith's career, perhaps backup Paul Millard should have been called upon sooner.

    WVU's senior became more and more frustrated with every mistake and his performance worsened as the game carried on. After the game was well in KSU's hands, Smith continued to play tight, unable to make any sort of throw.

    Millard came in, kept it simple and gave a perfect effort.

    Sure, he went just 2-of-3 for 12 yards, but he went out with a positive mindset and did what he could, even though the mindset of the rest of the team was far from positive.

    In short, he did exactly what a quarterback and a leader is supposed to do—which is more than can be said for Smith.

Loser: Geno Smith

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    Eight days before Saturday's loss to Kansas State, Geno Smith was the outright Heisman Trophy front-runner. At that time, his biggest threats in the race for the award were his own receivers, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.

    After two dreadful weeks, Smith might have played his way out of contention for the trophy.

    He also finally threw his first interception and compounded it with another. On the game, the senior notched just one touchdown and 143 yards—the lowest total since his first year as a starter.

    As bad as his game was, what really bothered me couldn't be found in a box score.

    At times, he tried to fire up his teammates on the sideline—but he was also seen smacking water bottles and throwing a tantrum on the sideline like a child who didn't get his way.

    As the leader of a football team full of grown men, it is hard to command respect right after throwing a hissy fit.

    However, after the game, Smith said all of the right things, taking the blame and vowing to be a better leader moving forward (via WVIllustrated.com):

    We've reached our low. This is about as low as it gets. I've never had to deal with adversity of  this magnitude. I've gotta do a better job of being a leader of stepping up and getting guys for respond. I'm gonna do that, I'm gonna dig deep. As a man, I have to look at myself in the mirror and figure out ways to get better and get guys going.

    Smith and his team are buried underneath an avalanche of adversity right now. The only question is whether he has what it takes to dig his way out.

Winner: Dustin Garrison

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    Another non-starter will round out the winners for West Virginia.

    Starting running back Shawne Alston was held out yet again, leaving the door open for Dustin Garrison to continue his full-time return to the field.

    The sophomore led WVU in rushing, garnering nine carries and 54 yards at an average of six yards per touch.

    Buie wasn't too bad either, notching 11 carries for 49 yards.

    However, the Mountaineers were trailing the entire game, and with the defense looking absolutely incapable of stopping Kansas State, the situation didn't exactly call for many running plays.

    Garrison continues to look stronger every week, but it was once again obvious that West Virginia is missing Alston and is in grave need of a power option at running back.

Winners: Everyone Who Called Me Crazy

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    Last week, I predicted that WVU would rebound from its loss to Texas Tech, beat Kansas State and eventually make the Fiesta Bowl.

    I invited you to call me crazy for making that prediction, and some of you did.

    You win.

    I thought this team had more heart and more pride, but it proved me wrong on Saturday.

    Kansas State is a very good team and deserves all sorts of credit for dismantling WVU like it did.

    However, that still leaves all of us searching for answers as to how the Mountaineers unraveled like they did over the last two weeks.

Losers: Pundits Who Picked WVU

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    There are plenty of us who were appalled at WVU's confounding two-week collapse. 

    Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer:

    I thought West Virginia would bounce back. I was horribly wrong.

    — Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) October 21, 2012

    ESPN Big 12 Blogger David Ubben:

    Longer the game goes by, not sure what to be more surprised by, WVU's collapse the last two weeks or K-State bowing up on 'em like that.

    — David Ubben (@davidubben) October 21, 2012

    Patrick Southern of CBSSports.com, Blue & Gold News:

    @abpriddy I thought wind played a huge role at Texas Tech. Conspired perfectly w/ their scheme. Tonight? No such excuse. I'm confused too.

    — Patrick Southern (@patricksouthern) October 21, 2012

Losers: Coaching Staff

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    The defense, secondary and offensive line all struggled mightily—but they didn't make this week's winners or losers.

    Instead, they'll be represented by their coaches.

    We knew this defense was bad, but now it is officially the worst passing defense in the country, ranking dead last at No. 124 in the nation, allowing 360 passing yards per game. 

    If this coaching staff can't instill a 360-degree change in that department, the situation will only become worse.

    However, a major part of the problem that will be tough to fix is the youth of this defense. Six true freshmen played on that side of the ball, as coordinator Joe DeForest and the rest of the defensive staff are obviously searching for answers. 

    A lot of fans are calling for the head of DeForest, crying for a midseason coaching change. The response isn't surprising, but that just isn't the answer.

    No defensive coordinator can come in and turn a team around instantly, and canning DeForest now would be like throwing gasoline on a fire.

    If you disagree, we can talk about it in the comments below.

    The only thing WVU can do now is embrace the grind and go back to work—a reality head coach Dana Holgorsen acknowledged in his postgame press conference (via WVIllustrated.com): 

    No excuses—it starts with me. We will fix what the problems are, we'll keep plugging along and try to get better...I understand the fan base is upset. I understand that everyone wants to see it a little bit better. If you rewind it two weeks ago, we're looking at a team that had won nine-straight games. We didn't forget how to coach and this program didn't forget how to win…We're not gonna quit—we're gonna keep working.

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