There were a lot of positives to take from the 44-0 beat down the Mountaineers handed to Georgia Southern. But, it wasn’t all roses for West Virginia on Saturday. Specifically, there is one negative that is all too common to WVU fans during the Dana Holgorsen era. Here is why I am very cautiously optimistic about this team. While I expect wins, I don’t think they’ll sniff a Big 12 title.
Negative #1: Bad Play Calling:
Ever since Dana Hologorsen took over as head coach, this has been an Achilles heel of the WVU offense. There is a certain repetition of play calling that has driven WVU fans crazy for years. Here is how it typically goes: WVU runs the ball, they gain 20 yards and get a first down. The next seven plays are the exact same running play. Fans can only put their heads in their hands and sigh. This boring play calling cost WVU against TCU and Kansas State last year as well as almost costing the Mountaineers against Texas Tech and Maryland. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that things have changed. In the first half Skyler Howard connected successfully on two bombs. One to Durante and the other to Shelton Gibson. So what does Holgorsen do? The same thing over and over again. Even a defense that is less than stellar like Georgia Southern can pick up on that eventually. Although he did manage to make some second half adjustments (which is rare for him) and Howard threw a lot more midrange passes. But, ultimately, the fact of that kind of play calling made an appearance is certainly cause for concern.
Negative #2: Skyler Howard:
Skyler Howard’s stats were great and he looked fairly comfortable with the ball. It is however pretty easy to be comfortable when your defense is allowing literally nothing on the other side of the ball. Also, Howard’s comfortability is not that unusual. He looked very comfortable in the few games we saw of him last year. That was never really the problem. The problem was, frankly, being too comfortable. He would make a lot of risky passes that were not thrown very accurately. Even though I am impressed with how accurate some of his throws were, there were some that even Big 12 defenses will pick off. Luckily, Georgia Southern did not. This is an area that Howard has to improve on. No matter what success he has through the air or on the ground, obviously turnovers ruin everything. The Big 12 defenses are, in general, not very good, but they are very opportunistic. They tend to be looking for turnovers. If Howard keeps throwing ill-advised passes, he’s going to doom this offense.
Negative #3: Overhyping
This one may sound like I’m trying to be negative, but hear me out. For the past few seasons especially under Dana Holgorsen, this team has gotten off to good starts, I mean really good starts. This would be the third time under Dana that things got too hyped up. We saw it last year after WVU impressed against Alabama and three years ago when WVU was overhyped before the season even started. The good news is that for the first six to eight weeks of the season in both years, WVU was very hard to beat and teams weren’t quite sure how to react to it.
Unfortunately, in both seasons something happened. Whether it was bad play calling, too much pressure, or the team just running out of ideas, the fact is that the second half of both seasons was just dreadful. In the last seven games of both those seasons including bowl games, the Mountaineers were 5-9 and some of those losses were more than just not close. Plus 3 of those 5 wins were against abysmal Iowa State and Kansas. The point is good starts haven’t boded well in the second half for the Mountaineers.
You can say I’m just being negative, but when it comes to the Mountaineers lately, it’s good to be cautiously optimistic. Enjoy the good times WVU and let’s hope they last.
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