Despite the fact my West Virginia Mountaineers lost Thursday night to Colorado, I am not as frustrated by that loss as I was the previous game to ECU. There was certainly plenty in this game to give a Mountaineer fan some hope.
The Mountaineers did not fold their tent and go home after they fell behind in the game 14-0. They didn’t lose hope; they didn’t panic. In addition, WVU returned to more of the offensive running style that made them so successful the past three years. Yet the Mountaineers cannot afford to completely give up the pass, because it was an 18-yard completion that set up White’s long touchdown run.
With the return of linebacker Reed Williams, the defense really began to gel Thursday night. After the Buffaloes' initial two scores, West Virginia’s defense held them scoreless for over three quarters of this ballgame. Moreover, if linebacker J.T. Thomas hadn't been hurt at the beginning of the game, I am certain the defense would have been much better with him and Williams both in the lineup.
West Virginia’s special teams play was excellent last night! Colorado’s punt returner, Josh Smith, although highly regarded, was completely ineffective last night. In fact, I don’t believe I have ever seen a Mountaineer team do any better job with their kick-off and punt coverage in all my years of following WVU football.
Pat White and Noel Devine were excellent last night in doing what they do best. Each of them played their hearts out and deserved to win.
WVU punt returner Ellis Lankster was fantastic last night! He had a number of great returns despite the fact it appeared he was often well-covered.
Backup quarterback Bradley Starks not only fumbled the football deep in enemy territory, setting up Colorado’s second touchdown, he also failed to hit a wide-open receiver late in the game. Those two failures cost us 14 points and the football game.
Quinton Andrews could be an excellent player on defense if he would only learn to practice a little discipline. His personal foul calls were costly to the team. If doesn’t matter how many good hits a player makes, if you are routinely going to give up 15-yards for penalty calls, then you may be more of a liability than an asset.
On Reed Williams’ interception of a Cody Hawkins pass, Doug Slavonic was called for a personal foul. That Slavonic blunder put WVU back across the midfield stripe and negated the great field position the interception gave the Mountaineers.
Our punter Pat McAfee repeatedly kicked us out of some bad spots and gave us chances to win the game of field position. His punts were superb.
Our placekicker Pat McAfee needs to realize that it takes much more than a strong leg to make it as a kicker in the NFL. He needs to succeed in the mental aspects as well. Like the Pitt game, McAfee’s misses did not cost us the football game. But his failures guaranteed that we wouldn’t win it.
A kicker has to make the critical points to help the team win. It is for this reason I predict McAfee will not make it as a placekicker in the NFL, but he will have a good career on Sundays as a punter.
I will not even go into the Mountaineer coaches’ failure to manage the clock! Those mistakes were obvious to everyone. However, I believe patience must be given to any new coaching staff. There is no reason to believe that these mistakes will be repeated.
Game Balls Awarded To:
Pat White, Noel Devine, Ellis Lankster, Reed Williams, Punter Pat McAfee
Players Required to Run Sprints:
Bradley Starks, Quinton Andrews, Doug Slavonic, Placekicker Pat McAfee
It's Working So Poorly We Have to Keep Doing It Award:
Coach Stewart and Offensive Coordinator Jeff Mullen for continually running Noel Devine up the middle when it was obvious to everyone that it wasn’t working.
This team will rebound from this loss, but some serious payback will be required of the next team on their schedule. Unfortunately for Marshall, the Thundering Herd will be the Mountaineers' sacrificial lamb.