MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — For one more time in 2013, we trade on the upticks and the downturns of a West Virginia football team, evaluating each unit’s performance after a 52-44 three-overtime loss to Iowa State:
After completing 21-of-37 passes for 356 yards and two touchdowns, Clint Trickett said he’ll approach the offseason as though the quarterback job is his to lose. “I’d like to think it will be put to bed here soon,” he said. “Going into the spring there’s always going to be guys trying to get your job. I look forward to competing with Paul and Ford again and whoever we bring in.”
Trickett tossed two interceptions Saturday, though one deflected off Kevin White’s hands and the other came on a Hail Mary to close regulation.
Charles Sims became “Mr. 1,000″ for the season with a 149-yard effort on 24 carries. His two scoring runs covered 7 and 76 yards, the last representing WVU’s longest play from scrimmage this season (until Mario Alford’s 76-yard touchdown catch equaled it three series later). Sims made two catches, including a 22-yarder to set up a first-and-goal at the 3 in triple-overtime. He was afforded two more cracks at running it in from there, but Iowa State stacked the box.
Dreamius Smith ripped off a 45-yard run to finish with 58 on five carries, and Wendell Smallwood had an eventful 14 yards on four carries, including two fumbles. One was overturned upon review, but a controversial goal-line fumble was allowed to stand even though Smallwood appeared to lunge into the endzone before the ball popped loose.
With 215 yards on eight receptions, Alford ended 2013 by giving WVU’s passing game hope for 2014. His midseason move from the slot to outside receiver paid dividends by allowing him to simplify his route-running. And as his catches of 76, 40 and 30 yards showed, he can be a dangerous YAC threat.
Though Kevin White caught a 17-yard touchdown, he was held to two catches or fewer for the sixth time in 11 games. The junior is simply too fast, big-bodied and dynamic to vanish in so many games.
Speaking of vanishing, Daikiel Shorts did so intermittently this season—though he still enjoyed an encouraging freshman campaign by tying Sims for the team lead with 45 catches. The finale was not one of Shorts;’ better games: He caught a 22-yard pass before half and a tipped 3-yarder on the game’s final play, being tackled shy of the end zone.
Vernon Davis Jr.’s lone 13-yard catch ended in a fumble that helped fuel ISU’s comeback.
The postgame image of Pat Eger crumpling to his knees brought a heartbreaking end to the career of a swing guy who worked hard to develop into a center this season. Though he continued to have some off-target shotgun snaps, his final game featured some notable highlights. He combined with left guard Quinton Spain to open a gaping hole for Sims’ 76-yard touchdown. Eger also came off a double-team to chip a run blitzer and spring Smith’s 45-yarder.
Right guard Mark Glowinski did a spectacular job on Sims’ 7-yard scoring run—sealing off the inside and then kicking out a second defender to create a seam.
While playing through a knee injury, right tackle Curtis Feigt allowed a fourth-down sack, but he and left tackle Nick Kindler delivered solid Senior Day efforts. Reserve tackle Adam Pankey did not play much after being beaten badly by Cory Morrissey on a first-half sack. But pass protection was adequate: On 39 drop-backs, Trickett was bothered only a handful of times.
WVU averaged 5.9 yards per carry on its way to 212 rushing yards. That’s a productive day for the line, though it was overmatched during the three extra periods—netting only 3 yards on five running plays as ISU outnumbered blockers.
Despite some individual standouts (Will Clarke and Kyle Rose), the line receives a down grade because Iowa State piled up season-highs in total offense (575 yards), rushing (244 yards) and points. And this deluge of offense transpired one day before Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads fired offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Courtney Messingham.
Clarke made 2.5 tackles behind the line and his 17 TFLs currently rank second in the Big 12, though a few pursuers have another regular-season game remaining. His six sacks rank sixth in the league. Rose made six stops and figures to be one of the keys to next season’s front.
Shaq Rowell, after playing through knee soreness all season (and playing more snaps than expected due to the loss of backup Christian Brown), was neutralized in his final game. Noble Nwachukwu forced a fumble, Darrien Howard made three stops and Eric Kinsey showed his mobility by making a sack after dropping into zone coverage.
Seldom-used junior Trevor Demko knifed through a gap in double-OT to make a third-down stop.
Nick Kwiatkoski made 14 tackles to close the season with a team-leading 86 and added his third interception to set up a WVU touchdown. However he was fooled on the read-option fake handoff that turned into Grant Rohach’s 54-yard touchdown keeper. Kwiatkoski left the game in double-overtime after taking a helmet to the hip from teammate Karl Joseph, the king of friendly fire.
Brandon Golson forced his fifth fumble of the season but also received a silly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on ISU’s first TD drive and missed a tackle on Shontrelle Johnson’s fourth-quarter touchdown. Doug Rigg, returning from his second concussion, and Isaiah Bruce, coping with a sore shoulder, made five tackles each. Bruce was beaten on tight end E.J. Bibbs’ 2-point conversion in the final OT.
This unit, though short-handed, was as much to blame as any after ISU exploded for 24 fourth-quarter points (which was more than the Cyclones’ per-game scoring average). “With the injuries we had, people just need to step up,” said Kwiatkoski. “It’s the nature of the game. Once your time’s there, you’ve just got to make plays. Every football team struggles with injuries. It’s a physical sport.”