Kansas athletics

Kansas fans celebrate an end to the Jayhawks’ 27-game Big 12 losing streak.

 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After his team not only lost to Kansas, but required two garbage-time scores to make a 31-19 final actually look presentable, Dana Holgorsen surmised that West Virginia’s defense “laid down” to an extent that affected the guys on the other side of the ball.

So much for compartmentalizing.

“Defensively, we didn’t play with very much energy,” Holgorsen said. “Our offense has relied on our defense all year, and when they saw the defense giving up points, I think our offense shook.”

To be fair, the offense had looked shaken before: Baltimore anyone? Manhattan? The spuh-spuh-sputtering last mile against Texas Tech? But a loss to Kansas—the ultimate shame these days—can leave a coach maddened and grasping at explanations that don’t necessarily fit.

With that, let’s lay down some evaluations of how West Virginia’s units performed Saturday in this, the “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” edition of the Monday Morning Stock Report:

QUARTERBACK
Paul Millard finished 23-of-42 passing for 242 yards, but his turnover woes continued, highlighted by a point-blank interception he threw at 6-foot-3 Ben Goodman. The linebacker returned it 54 yards to the WVU 14 leading to a touchdown.
Millard’s second interception—and his fourth in two games—was spied by linebacker Ben Heeney, whose 28-yard return to the 1 led to another TD and a 31-7 Kansas lead.
While 50-mph gusts prohibited WVU from throwing downfield in the first and fourth quarters, Millard used the short game to be at his most productive during those two periods (15-of-24 for 136 yards). He led all three touchdown drives into the wind, two of those came in the final 6:24.
RUNNING BACKS
It’s a shame Charles Sims won’t be going to a bowl this season, considering he tops the Big 12 with 1,317 yards from scrimmage, leads running backs with 43 catches and ranks fifth in rushing (86 yards per game). He finished with 99 yards on 16 carries Saturday and made two catches for 27 yards. He had one score rushing and and receiving, tying him for the league lead with 12 touchdowns.
With Sims gone next season, watch for Wendell Smallwood to show similar versatility. The freshman, who leads WVU’s backs in yards per carry this season (5.9), ran for 33 yards on seven carries and made two catches for 42 yards at KU.
With the Jayhawks sporting the conference’s second-worst run defense, and with Millardone wonders why West Virginia didn’t stay with its ground game even more.
“There’s run plays that are called, and if (the defense) overloads, we throw the screen,” said offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. “That probably happened 12 or 14 times throughout this game.”
Former Kansas commitment Dreamius Smith had a ho-hum homecoming, with four carries for 12 yards.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas cornerback JaCorey Shepherd (24) breaks up a pass intended for West Virginia receiver Mario Alford.

 

RECEIVERS
Kevin White was flagged for holding and offensive pass interference, producing almost as many penalties (two) as he did catches (three). The big junior caught a 3-yard touchdown on a fade route but also had one of West Virginia’s three drops.
“I let one get off my hands,” he said. “We just didn’t come out fighting—special teams, offense and defense … especially offense. We make plays against Texas and we can’t make plays against Kansas. It’s just frustrating.”
While Daikiel Shorts made six grabs for 40 yards, he dropped a fourth-down pass at the KU 39 when things turned desperate in the third quarter. Jordan Thompson (three screen catches for 14 yards) also dropped a pass over the middle.
The standout of the group for the second straight week was Mario Alford (three reception for 76 yards), who broke two tackles on a 46-yarder. Vernon Davis, after making one catch all season (and it came on a Jet sweep), caught three passes for 20 yards, including a nice sideline catch.
OFFENSIVE LINE
While it wasn’t a horrible power-blocking performance for the offensive line (4.7 yards per carry), Charles Sims’ 27-yard run on the game’s first snap was the only big play the run game produced. Against a Kansas defense playing out the string, you’d expect more.
“Any week you can lose to any team. This is the Big 12—this ain’t the Big East anymore,” said senior center Pat Eger. “They outplayed us. Hats off to them. It sucks.”
Kansas generated two sacks—the first with a three-man rush that knocked WVU out of field-goal range; the second with a stunt that confused the line and nearly resulted in a safety. Those came during a string of 12 possessions when West Virginia didn’t dent the scoreboard.
Right tackle Curtis Feigt (sprained left knee) departed with about five minutes left in the half and did not return. His absence meant more snaps for Adam Pankey, who figures to be a starter next season. Pankey’s first snap Saturday, however, resulted in an illegal motion penalty.
DEFENSIVE LINE
Trouble was apparent from the Jayhawks’ opening snap, when James Sims gashed WVU for 11 yards up the middle. By afternoon’s end, the senior had 211 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 9.6 per carry. Kansas piled up 315 team rushing yards, reminiscent of the dominant ground games Oklahoma (316 yards) and Baylor (476 yards) enjoyed against the Mountaineers.
Will Clarke’s 10 tackles and two TFLs were a bright spot, but his missed one-on-one tackle led to Sims’ 62-yard second-quarter run off a read-option. “He had his arms around him. He’s bear-hugging him. Should have been a TFL. Got him wrapped up, doesn’t finish the play,” said WVU defensive coordinator Keith Patterson.
Kansas gave freshman quarterback Montell Cozart a manageable system, and WVU’s defensive front did little to disrupt it. He ran 13 times for 60 yards and had plenty of time to throw on the rare occasions he did.
“Those guys just flat-out came out and wanted it more than we did,” sid nose tackle Shaq Rowell. “Those guys knew we were playing for a bowl bid, and they said, ‘We’re going to take their bowl bid away.’ They’re not going to a bowl game so they spoiled our dreams too.”
LINEBACKERS
When Kansas repeatedly ran the ball from four-receiver spread sets, WVU split linebackers Nick Kwiatkoski and Isaiah Bruce wide into coverage and left Tyler Anderson manning the middle. In those situations the senior Anderson, subbing for the injured Jared Barber, struggled to shed blocks.
But with 39 seconds left in the half, against a more conventional unbalanced KU run formation, Anderson and Kwiatkoski were in the middle and being blocked on what became Sims’ career-long 68-yard touchdown run. Kansas coach Charlie Weis admitted he ran the short toss to Sims in hopes of setting up a pre-half Hail Mary, never imagining the play would go the distance. “There was one play that we had from an unbalanced formation that I thought could get us a chunk (of yardage), and if we got a chunk, we’d call a timeout and try to go to the end zone,” Weis said. “The chunk was a lot bigger chunk than I was expecting.”
The same feeling engulfed a miffed Patterson: “It’s just letting your guard down.”
Kwiatkoski finished with eight tackles and a fumble recovery, the third straight week he has factored in a turnover. Bruce had four tackles (but missed two), while Buck linebacker Brandon Golson was neutralized with only one stop. Golson’s backup, true freshman Marvin Gross, made one tackle, dropping Cozart for a 7-yard loss on an option keeper.

Kansas athletics

Kansas running back James Sims ran for 211 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-19 victory over West Virginia.

 

SECONDARY
Let’s hope the image of safety Darwin Cook pulling up lame as James Sims raced off to a 68-yard TD isn’t the last we see of “Cookie.” We’ll learn more about his leg/hip/groin injury on Monday and perhaps whether he’ll be able to play on Senior Day against Iowa State.
But Cook’s participation on that play—and his inability to stop Sims for a 15-yard gain instead of the gamebreaker that resulted—was a huge miscalculation.
“We had Cookie on the field and obviously he couldn’t play. That’s probably my fault,” Patterson said. “You know Cookie—he’s not going to tell you the full story. He wants to be on the field.”
On James Sims’ earlier 62-yard run, cornerback Daryl Worley was blocked on the edge by receiver Justin McKay for several seconds, helping spring the big play.
With Kansas patiently committed to the run, the defensive backs weren’t tested much in coverage. (Cozart completed 5-of-12 for 61 yards—the fewest yards for a winning opponent against WVU in 24 years.) But Worley certainly looked like toast when McKay streaked past him only to be overthrown by Cozart on what should have been a 70-yard touchdown.
Travis Bell replaced Cook and forced a fourth-quarter fumble, leading to WVU’s final touchdown drive.
SPECIAL TEAMS
Despite getting no penetration, Kansas blocked WVU’s end-of-half 42-yard field goal try. That ended Josh Lambert’s string of 10 consecutive makes and gave KU added juice heading into the locker room. “That was a bigger play than anyone will remember,” Weis said.
Thompson muffed Trevor Pardula’s 54-yard wind-aided punt, setting off a loose-ball scramble that cost WVU 15 yards and forced the offense to start at its own 5.
Wendell Smallwood’s 56-yard kick return to the Kansas 32 was negated by a holding call on Justin Arndt. WVU started that possession on its 10-yard line instead.
COACHING
Despite constant warnings that WVU couldn’t afford a hangover from the previous week’s loss to Texas, one existed nonetheless. A Kansas team forced to synthesize spoiler objectives for its final three games somehow played hungrier than WVU, which still harbored bowl hopes.
“That’s way we have to learn—you can’t have such a thing” as a hangover, Patterson said. “You can’t take a week off, you can’t take a day off, you can’t take a practice off. There’s no one in our league that can’t play.”
Head coach Dana Holgorsen said he apologized to WVU’s 12 seniors after Saturday’s loss eliminated them from bowl contention. He also made the curiously candid assessment that his program “is not equipped to handle wear and tear of the Big 12.”
That sounds like something you’d expect to hear from Charlie Weis or Paul Rhoads, but given the sorry state of Saturday’s outcome, such is West Virginia’s present company.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Dana Holgorsen reacts to a special-teams penalty during Saturday’s 31-19 loss to Kansas.
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Comments

  • Chris

    I would want players who would want to build something special make this team into championship caliber these recruits see opportunity.

  • MoMoney

    Hey Allan, what is your over/under on the attendance for the Iowa State game?
    50,000? I will go with under on this one. Ollie won't be pleased with 20,000 empty seats for the meaningless ISU game. But the excuses will flow like beer in the blue lot.
    Big Boy football?? WVU couldn't even sell out the Texas game. WVU did not have one sell out this year. Not one. The fans are speaking. They do not like what Holgorsen has turned our once proud program into.

  • .neil

    Mountaineers don't buy tickets and stop supporting this program. CHANGE will happen!

  • MoMoney

    Allan, with Holgorsen at the helm of WVU football, WVU IS one of the dregs of the Big 12 Conference. That will not change as long as Holgorsen is the head coach.

  • MoMoney

    Hey Allan, what is your over/under on the attendance for the Iowa State game?
    50,000? I will go with under on this one. Ollie won't be pleased with 20,000 empty seats for the meaningless ISU game. But the excuses will flow like beer in the blue lot.
    Big Boy football?? WVU couldn't even sell out the Texas game. WVU did not have one sell out this year. Not one. The fans are speaking. They do not like what Holgorsen has turned our once proud program into.

  • Jack

    The thing that frustrates me about this team is the players making comments that Kansas wanted to win the game more than WVU did. WVU needed two wins to become bowl eligible while Kansas played for pride. I don't understand how players cannot be motivated to give 100 percent on every play.

  • Dw

    I thought Dana should have one more year until today. When you accuse one part of your team for the ineptitude of the other. You need to be fired. If I am a defensive player I would be ticked and have lost all respect for my coach. He divided the locker room trying to preserve his reputation as an offensive guru. Someone needs to teach him football is a team sport. It is certainly not Oliver.

  • Ashley

    Here is the problem that I am hearing. Now mind you I am not saying it is going to happen, but this sounds like the same people that said Bobbie Bowden as bad and ran him out of town and he turns Florida State into a national powerhouse. Makes you wonder what would have happened here. Just food for thought about all you people griping that don't have a clue.

  • Tom

    I am a West Virginia native and a WVU graduate from graduate school. I have suffered ridicule my entire life because I am a West Virginian. I have endured countless 'West Virginia jokes' about marrying my cousin and so on. But, through it all, I have had, and still have, pride in my state and my University. I am now embarrassed, not by the players or the school, but by the present attitude of the the coaches and especially the head coach. They have no love for the state and do not know anything about being a West Virginian. The head coach is in it for the money (which is far too much) and the hope of getting a better position somewhere else. All of our past coaches had a connection with the state and a love that Holgerson would never understand. He has no roots. To me, this is the whole problem. Why does he wear black when we bleed and live Old Gold and Blue? Ditch the present coaching staff and get Loyal Mountaineers. Just my thoughts.

    • OKANYDAY

      Great post, and telling it like it is; I agree with you 100% !

  • Jonus Grumby

    Welcome to the Big 12. It ain't the Big East.

  • Mountaineer4ever

    No one here knows history, so let's look at the all-time football records:

    WINS LOSSES

    Texas 869 336 rank 3rd
    Oklahoma 836 310 rank 7th
    WVU 708 463 rank 20th
    TCU 600 520 rank 65

    The other big 12 schools are not even close. I am an old timer, but elite programs are reserved for Texas, Oaklahoma, Alabama, Notre Dame and Michigan. However, WVU has had a proud tradition, and being ranked 20th all time and moving up is not bad. So stop trashing the tradition, Dana should be honored to run this program and not say we are not equipped to win in the BIG 12, because history says otherwise.

  • Pghmountaineer

    Note to Oliver Luck: PLease see if you could get another team to take our place against Alabama next year. We've suffered enough.
    Thank You

  • Soby

    losers always have excuses

  • RS

    I am tired of this guy. He couldn't win with talent and he can't do anything to make players better. Another nightmare is his recruiting, I feel as if I bought a used car and the bumper had bubblegum holding it together. I would be the first to welcome Rich Rodriguez back and pray Oliver Luck is getting the word.

    • Jonus Grumby

      While I'm no fan of Holgorsen, this isn't the Big East anymore. The competition if more fierce in the Big 12.

  • pghmountaineer

    I never thought I would see the day that both of our major programs would sink to this level. It's obvious these coaches have lost the team and in addition to that, they can't recruit. If you don't belive me, check out the scouting sites. Our best rank is 48th.
    I'm really tired of people saying "we're not a major program and we're located in Morgantown so it's hard to get good players" Good players will play for good coaches no matter where they are. Have you ever been to Waco Tx? It makes Morgantown look like NYC.
    Look what they're doing down there. They lost A Heisman trophy winner and they are better now than they were when RG III was there.
    So please stop with that excuse. If you believe you're a second rate program, then you are a second rate program.
    If you don't think things are a mess, then why did Clements leave for greener pastures.
    This one is on the Board of Regents. It's time they step up and correct this mess. They need to start with Luck, he doesn't want to be here anyway. Then the coaches have to go. It's time to stop paying coaches who can't coach or recruit, or have a coach who can't even fill the compliment of scholarships due to qualifying issues.
    The fan base at WVU is one of the most loyal in the country. They deserve better.