Musings, Matchups and More: OSU Edition

The Thursday announcement of Ford Childress' injury and Clint Trickett's slated start against Oklahoma State has the Interwebs humming. But behind all of the crazy "analysis" and theorizing, there are a couple of things to consider when looking at the actual game between the Mountaineers and the Cowboys. Game Scorecard
Sat 9/28 12:00 PM ET

Morgantown, WV

Milan Puskar Stadium
Record: 2-2

Last Game
Maryland 0-37 L
Sirius/XM: 85/85
Record: 3-0

Last Game
Lamar 59-3 W
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2013 Schedule

Series: Tied 2-2

First Meeting: 1928
Last Meeting: 2012
Press Release
Season Stats
2013 Schedule


It's almost become lost amidst all the shouting about which QB should start, what Dana Holgorsen should do and whether or not every coach and player should be fired or dismissed. While many vocal Mountaineer fans are debating every aspect of the program, from uniforms to coaches' attire to the very future of football at WVU, the practical aspects of Thursday night's announcement of Trickett's elevation have gone almost unmentioned. So, let's fix that here.

First, it's hard to imagine that WVU has changed much this week as Trickett has prepared for his start. With the Mountaineers struggling to put together decent execution among all 11 of its offensive players, it's not going to make wholesale changes just because the QB is different. In fact, it will behoove WVU to change as little as possible, so as to build on familiarity across the offense.

It won't be a surprise to see Trickett get a couple of chances to throw the ball down the field (that is, assuming Oklahoma State doesn't employ a wholsale copy of Maryland's defensive strategy). Childress clearly has the arm to do so, but WVU has to do something to try to get defenses from flooding the short passing zones, as the Terps did. WVU didn't do that with Childress, but it now must be asked whether or not his injury had anything to do with that decision in the Maryland game.

Otherwise, it will be intresting to see how WVU is able to exeucte its game plan with its third quarterback in five contests at the controls. Will the Mountaineers be able to the play at the pace Dana Holgorsen prefers? It seems unlikely, as they haven't been able to do so during the first four contests of the year. Is it a better idea to do so in any event, given Oklahoma State's desire to move at warp speed? The Cowboys time of possession hasn't been an area of concern for them, as they have been quickly productive when they get the ball, so will it matter? And finally, how will the team respond to Trickett? By anecdotal accounts, he appears to have been accepted well by the players, but it is a large step from there to being a leader on the field.

* * *

After a recent game, Mountaineer receiver K.J. Myers was discussing the switching of quarterbacks, and admitted that going back and forth presented some problems in terms of continuity for the wideouts. First, there's the physical aspect -- every QB throws the ball a bit differently, and Myers said that it does take some time to get used to the different ways in which each quarterback releases and fires the ball. There's also a comfort level in play. Quarterbacks and receivers that have played together over time get to know individual quirks and preferences. Receivers know how long it will take the ball to come out once the QB sets to throw. The quarterback knows how many steps the receiver has left until he makes a break in his route, or senses when he's about to make a adjustment based on coverage.

A year ago, WVU fans saw these things executed at their peak between Geno Smith and Stedman Bailey, who had played together for years and run tens of thousands of pitch and catch drills. Now, they are getting to see it at the opposite stages of development, and it certainly contributes to incompletions and less than optimum execution. That's going to again be seen this week, and it's important that the players involved don't get frustrated by it.


Number nine ... number nine. It's not just a reference to a Beatles song, but also to the number of years OSU offensive line coach Joe Wickline has held his present position.

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The continuity theme that we discussed with quarterbacks and receivers also holds strongly true up front, and Wickline's steady presence has helped the Cowboys develop their line this year, even in the face of injury. Those woes started before the season, when anchor left tackle Devin Davis' season ended with a knee injury, and was followed with right tackle Daniel Koenig missed the Texas-San Antonio game. That unleashed a mini-flood of moves to fill the gaps, with a redshirt freshman and a junior college newcomer also filling big roles.

Because he's been there so long, Wickline has not only experience, but also a deep knowledge of the abilities of each player. He's seen them throughout their entire careers, and was thus able to produce a mix-and-match product that kept the offensive line functioning. It might not be as important as having a nicely stocked roster full of talent, but it definitely plays a part in keeping the wagons rolling.

Compare this to WVU offensive line coach Ron Crook, who certainly has a ton of coaching cred. However, he's still learning what his players can and can't do. That takes time, and it probably has at least contributed to some of the line's issues. Two or three years from now, Crook will be positioned as Wickline is now, with a roster full of players that he has recruited, coached, and worked with daily. In this game, though, OSU has an edge in that department.


It's back to a local classic this week, and that's Yuengling. Specifically, a pair of them - the most popular Traditional Lager and a personal favorite, the Black and Tan. Still a private, family owned company, Yuengling is America's oldest brewery and has been putting out products since 1829. The lager is a traditional brew, but I value it becasue it's simple, crisp and easy to drink, and goes great with most tailgate foods. Beer mavens might not view it as "artsy" enough to included on their list of favorites, but that's not what we're about here. Give it a try, and I don't think you'll be disappointed.

The Black and Tan takes a bit of getting used to. It's reminiscent of a traditional mixed Black & Tan, which is a combination of a pale ale and a dark stout beer that is poured on demand. However, the Yuengling single-bottle version doesn't have the distinctive layering of the classic. It is a mixture of Yuengling's Dark Porter and Premium beers, so it does give most of the flavors of the traditional mixture without the color contrast. It has the expected flavors of coffee, but the presence of the premium smooths some of the rough edges, making it a great entryway into the field of darks.


West Virginia didn't get to see J.W. Walsh last year, as he was sidelined with a knee injury while Clint Chelf steered the Cowboys to a 55-34 win. Although there's plenty of video of the talented sophomore to watch and study, it's always different playing someone in person for the first time.

The challenge that Walsh brings is the one that West Virginia thought it would be seeing a week ago from Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown, but which never quite materialized. (Side thought -- has WVU ever faced two initials-only starting quarterbacks in successive weeks?) Anyway, the point is not to knock Brown, who was efficient in the Terps' overwhelming win, but never showed dazzling runs or thread-the-needle passes. Instead, it's to point out that Walsh has shown the ability to run the ball and make defenders miss, and has also been spot-on accurate in delivering passes to the many players involved in the Oklahoma State offense. He's completing 70% of his attempts and is averaging 7.3 yards per carry -- an outstanding combination.

Looked at another way, Walsh accounts for 7.6 yard every time he is the focal point of a play -- that is, when he either runs it or throws it. That's the height of efficiency, and it makes him difficult to defend. West Virginia's buck and spur linebackers will have to guard against him getting out of the pocket on the corner, and the pass rushers will also have to try to keep him contained. However, they can't slow themselves down in order to do so, as extra time to pick out a receiver will likely mean a completion.

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