West Virginia Football Finally Recovers From LSU Loss, Ready For Big East

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West Virginia Football Finally Recovers From LSU Loss, Ready For Big East
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Noel Devine, West Virginia running back, gets a rare breakaway from LSU defenders.

A game like West Virginia's 49-10 rout against a University of Nevada Las Vegas team residing in the bottom quartile of college football usually can't get you much information. 

Not the case here.

Everyone at Milan Puskar Stadium and across the Big East wondered how the Mountaineers would fare after the devastating loss at LSU and the two-week layoff.

Answer? Not bad! Not bad at all!

Here are five points to show you how WVU has recovered.

 

Bill Stewart coached with uncharacteristic laser focus.

Head coach Bill Stewart had his team playing a razor-edged precision game, a state extremely difficult to get and maintain against poor competition like UNLV. 

From his general lack of a consistent offensive philosophy, you can derive that focus is not one of Stewart's strong suits. The head coach needed that concentration to keep his team going and going after the Rebels. He certainly did it.

I've been particularly rough on Stew lately, and he deserves it. However on October 9, 2010, he got the job done the right way.

 

Geno Smith quarterbacked his patented sharp game.

After 12 completions on 16 attempts—that's 75 percent—for 220 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, what can else can you say? 

On one of the finer points of signal calling, the internal sack clock, Geno Smith looks like he is indeed a quarterback coming to fruition. He has developed a pocket sense. He knows when to take a step or two up to avoid a sack and buy more time, and he also knows when to spread the defense out by rolling out.

Smith's passes are almost always what they need to be: a rope on a deep out or a soft touch slant. 

You can worry about the Mountaineers all you wish, but don't be concerned about WVU's quarterback play.

 

Defense?  Could be better.

First, the good news.

West Virginia's defense delivered plus two takeaways, winning that battle against a UNLV team that, with a plus-four, was ranked 15th nationally in takeaways. One Rebel corner, Will Chandler, alone sported a plus-six takeaway number for the season.  I didn't hear his name being called, though. 

The Mountaineers' plus-two is rather impressive coming from a team that has yet to develop a culture of takeaways.  This could be a good place to instill that.

But, forget the statistics. They were skewed by the second and third teams playing the final 22 minutes. You have to look intuitively at WVU's defensive football.  That's why there is bad news. 

My issue is this: UNLV got too many yards on the Mountaineer defense up the gut.  Granted, the Rebels, in order to counter West Virginia's awesome defensive speed, had to run straight at the WVU line. That was UNLV's only hope. Trouble is, for whatever reason, it was working.

I'm going to get comments explaining to me why that happened.  I'm interested in a discussion about the soft middle. Until then, giving up yards up the middle is an Achilles' heel that has to be addressed.

 

The offensive line seems to have had its baptism of fire at LSU

Hole-opening or protecting, it looks as if WVU's big men have grown up. 

I know, I know. UNLV's defense is suspect at best. But you can't argue with results, especially with an offensive line that rolled for 445 yards in only 24 minutes of work.

The big men blew open a couple of touchdown holes for Noel Devine, another graduate of the LSU School of Go Hard or Go Home Football.  

They held the Rebel blitz back, allowing but one sack on Geno Smith, who seems to have recovered from the embarrassment at LSU when he lined up to take the snap from a guard.

The O-line is the core of the offense. Because of that, it seems that West Virginia is ready to be the circle game for every Big East team in the Mountaineers' conference run.

 

The receivers are answering Geno Smith's bell

Smith shared the wealth against UNLV. Seven receivers and backs caught the quarterbacks 12 passes. Especially notable is the re-emergence of Bradley Starks, who made up in a big way for a quiet, injury-prone start.

Tavon Austin has become a very effective option in keeping opposing defenses honest and off Jock Sanders. 

Steadman Bailey will do anything to put his huge hands on the ball. And the coaches have some tape on Ivan McCartney for evaluation. It would be great to see that big man out there.

Maybe the receivers and Smith are ready to take the show on the Big East trail.  The Mountaineers need it. Bill Stewart and offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen have to have a balanced offensive to keep defenders rocking back on their heels.

 

Final analysis?

It could be okay, but nothing can be said until West Virginia hosts talented South Florida on Thursday night.

 

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