Several keys to this ballgame will probably go by the boards, but I will expand on them here:
1. You will not beat anyone on the road when you continuously bail them out with personal foul penalties. Good teams exploit your mistakes. WVU made mistakes, Wisconsin made us pay every time. Before we jump on the "undisciplined" bandwagon, know that I watched the replays of those "late hits", and watched several games all day long, and the hits, in my opinion, were not that late. One of the "hits" was a mere push, which wouldn't have knocked down a third grader.
2. Rasheed Marshall is a very inexperienced QB. His first start on the road, in front of 75,000+. Mistakes happen. It was very frustrating to see him overthrow wide open receiver after wide open receiver. This was merely a case of being too hyped up. It was equally frustrating to see guys drop balls he got to them as well. Several times he looked like he could have tucked it and ran, and threw it anyway. Good decision making comes with experience. And there is no doubt he has talent.
3. The pass defense was horrid. On several occasions Wisconsin had two wide receivers so wide open you couldn't see a WVU jersey within ten yards. And WVU had eight guys dropped into coverage, against three receivers. That should not happen. It was also painfully evident that UW thought they could pick on our top cover corner. After the game, they know they can. This had better improve in a hurry, because we get into a stretch of games against teams where the pass is their top priority, including this coming Saturday.
4. The offensive line was shaky at best on Saturday. Avon had no room to run, and Rasheed was under pressure all day. The fact that Lance Nimmo played with a pulled hamstring and a tweaked knee speaks volumes about the lack of depth across the line. Our young linemen are going to have to step it up in a hurry, or this season will be loooooong.
5. There wasn't a lot made of field position in the game. But our crew quickly pointed out that UW was starting drives around their 40 almost every time, while WVU was starting at the 20 or deeper. Add that field position to six straight three and outs in the second quarter, and you are in for a long day.
6. The punt coverage was horrendous. Net 12 yard punts don't do a team a lot of good. But we had three of those in the first half. UW knew exactly what they were doing out there. And we didn't.
Make no mistake, Wisconsin was the better team. But if WVU just executes on some wide open plays down the middle in the first half, the Mountaineers are right in it, and the defense isn't hung out to dry.
I am not jumping off the bandwagon just yet, even though the message boards this morning are full of wagon jumpers. There were a couple of really impressive half gainers from the left rear wheel this morning. That is OK. It leaves the rest of us more elbow room.
For some reason I don't remember what my pre-season prediction was for this game. But I know it wasn't a 17 point loss. We showed some guts in the second half. We didn't quit, we ran our offense, and moved the ball. We completed some long passes down field, which was a big concern coming into the season. We could have packed it in and lost by 40 or worse. But we didn't. This is a better team than last year. Stick around, enjoy the ride. I like where we are headed.