MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Many heavyweight boxing matches end up with a rematch, but it looks like we’ll have to hold off on a sequel between Yodny Cajuste and Eli Howard.
Cajuste, West Virginia’s senior left tackle, and Howard, a Texas Tech sophomore defensive lineman, squared off against one another in the second quarter Saturday in Lubbock at the end of a Leddie Brown carry.
Howard got in the first shove, which was countered by a quick right love-tap from Cajuste. Howard answered with a full swing, which Cajuste dodged with the athletic footwork of an Ali or Mayweather. Cajuste then playfully put up his dukes as if someone just rang the bell.
Both players were flagged for offsetting unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Because a second such penalty comes with an automatic ejection, neither pushed the envelope for the rest of the game.
The referees weren’t the only ones who had their eyes on Cajuste and Howard. A massive internet audience also took notice, with ESPN “SportsCenter” tweeting out video of the encounter that had 1.3 million views as of Monday.
Cajuste played it smartly when asked about the unexpected fame, realizing notoriety isn’t necessarily worth the price of a penalty.
“Honestly, I’m just here to play football,” Cajuste said. “I wasn’t here to go all viral.”
Cajuste knows that an offensive lineman’s job is to remain unnoticed. Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, that was not the case in the second half against the Red Raiders. Lapses were all too noticeable as the Red Raiders became the first team to get sustained pressure on quarterback Will Grier this season. They also shut down the Mountaineers running game to 1.2 yards per carry on 13 attempts after haltime.
“There was probably about one or two missed [assignments]. The rest was just about the guys up front were getting beat,” said Wes Virginia offensive coordinator Jake Spavital. “That wasn’t the case in the first half. They didn’t show us anything differently. I just thought they wanted it a lot more than we did.”
Cajuste is eager to work this week to make sure that trait does not repeat itself in West Virginia’s homecoming game against Kansas.
“Basically, it was preparing to finish. We didn’t do that too well last week,” Cajuste said. “We have to do a better job of finishing this week.”
Cajuste has no doubt offensive line coach Joe Wickline will have his unit ready to rebound.
“He’s a guy that’s going to get the best out of you at all costs,” Cajuste said. “He’s not going to send you out there to play if he knows you can be 10 times better. He’s going to get the best out of you. That’s his style.”
Despite backup right guard Joe Brown not making the trip due to injury, eight offensive linemen played at some point. Even in a performance where the offense gained 489 yards, the unit left Lubbock with the sense improvement is needed.
“Even after the game, guys were on their iPads on the plane watching the game,” Cajuste said. “We were talking about stuff we can fix. Obviously it’s too late as far as that game. But you have to take those things and adjust them for next week.”
Those adjustments will be made on the practice field, and it won’t necessarily be much fun.
“Practice is definitely going to be amped up this week,” said left guard Josh Sills.
That’s exactly what Cajuste wants. He might not be able to bring the pain to Howard anytime soon, but he’s ready to inflict some on the Jayhawks.
“We’re the offensive line, we have to be nasty,” Cajuste said. “We have to be the hogs on the team.”