Last week, I wrote that WVU needed to make a statement against South Florida on Friday night.
That statement was: WVU isn’t there yet.
By “there,” I mean deserving to be included among the nation’s elite teams—Southern Cal and LSU.
Every team has bad games. But elite teams can have bad games and still win—like Southern Cal did at Washington today.
I could go through an exhaustive postmortem of all the things WVU did wrong Friday night, but there are really only two key points:
A) The USF defense, particularly the defensive front, is fast, strong, smart, and aggressive.
I don’t imagine WVU will face a better unit this season. The South Florida D consistently beat the WVU offensive line, gummed up the spread-option offense, and, just like last year, won the game for the Bulls.
You’d think that with a year to prepare, Coach Rod and his two new USF hires would have dreamed up some way to counter it.
B) In front of a huge, loud, partisan crowd, before a national television audience, WVU’s offense wilted.
The Mountaineers embarrassed themselves with fumbles, interceptions, bad decisions, and what came through the TV as a lack of fire. C Mike Dent’s performance was so awful it forced me to say something I never thought I would:
A center cost his team the game.
WVU had goal-to-go before halftime and was set to bring the score to 14-7 when Dent snapped the ball over QB Jarrett Brown’s head. No mean feat, given that Brown is 6'4".
On another play, Dent was so off he seemed to be direct-snapping to FB Owen Schmitt...which might have worked, had he not spiraled the ball at Schmitt’s ankles.
I can only presume that the tackle over Dent was so fast and so aggressive that Dent was thinking about blocking him before he snapped it.
Under Coach Rod, WVU has managed to recruit such premier talents as Pat White, Steve Slaton, Darius Reynaud, and Noel Devine—all of whom could probably start anywhere.
But the difference between WVU and, say, USC, is that USC has recruited what appears to be the best center in the nation—who, as a true freshman, is playing like Mike Webster in his prime.
I don’t know if WVU will ever be able to close that recruiting gap. It may be that White and Slaton are WVU’s last, best chance to play for a national title, but maybe not.
Success does breed success, and I think WVU got Brown, Devine, Jock Sanders, and Brandon Hogan because the team has done well in recent years. So we’ll see.
In any event, I’m not down on the team, and I really try not to be an armchair coach...but I have to ask:
What's the harm of chucking the ball downfield more than once a game?
Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen was asked this after his team’s loss to WVU, and he responded that his receivers were covered.
Well, maybe. But if you toss it 40 yards and your receiver is in single coverage, it seems to me that he as good a chance to make a play as his defender—whose back is to the action.
Of the four possible outcomes—reception, incompletion, interception, interference penalty—only one, interception, is possession-changing. And if the pass is deep enough, it’s the same as a punt.
Dorrell Jalloh made a very nice 43-yard catch against tight coverage. Why didn’t WVU go back to that well instead of playing right to USF’s strength—disrupting the line of scrimmage—with zone-reads and bubble screens?
Anyway, that’s my only gripe.
I was strangely serene after Friday night’s loss. Maybe it’s because the pressure of worrying about WVU’s spot in the polls is lifted.
The team is probably out of the title race now—if it was really ever in it—and if I'm lucky I can just relax and enjoy watching the fellas play the rest of the season.
Usually, they do put on a great show.