Royal Review: West Virginia - Cincinnati

The crushing, roller coaster loss to Cincinnati has the Duke looking at West Virginia's glaring problems.

10. In a crushing defeat West Virginia lost in overtime to the Cincinnati Bearcats by the count of 26-23. Once again, West Virginia let the opponent take a sizable lead, but this time West Virginia couldn't finish. Trailing 20-7 late in the forth quarter, West Virginia made it very exciting in the final minutes with a onside kick recovery and Pat McAfee's game tying 52 yard field goal, but in overtime West Virginia had to settle for a field goal while Cincinnati's Tony Pike threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Kazeem Alli to ice the victory for the Bearcats.

9. I've seen enough bad patterns (e.g., West Virginia's slow start this year) through the years, and these patterns simply are very difficult to stop. Many times they don't stop until the off season. One year WVU had a flurry of roughing calls, and we could expect one or two every game. It will require more than talk from the coaching staff to get the team prepared in the first half this year, I'm afraid. One thing for sure, if West Virginia doesn't come out firing in the first half of the next three games, we'll get more unexpected results. The same is true for the kickoff team, which solidified its stranglehold on the bottom spot in return yards allowed.

8. Even if West Virginia had been able to win this game in overtime, it probably wouldn't have deserved. My count had West Virginia with eight 3-and-out drives, 4 for 20 on third down conversions and only 98 yards rushing. I heard a lot of fans complaining about the play selection from the stands, but that wasn't the issue. Gang, this is simple matter of the offensive line not being able to move people and create space.

7. From that perspective I felt like I was watching last year's Pitt game all over again. In a home game where West Virginia clearly expected to win, the offense just couldn't move the ball. Last year against Pitt, West Virginia only rushed for 104 yards. The Mountaineers had more riding on the line for the Pitt game, but the sting of this loss isn't much less.

6. It seemed like déjà vu when Julian Miller was chasing down Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike for sack in the first quarter for a 14-yard loss. Miller's style makes him look very similar to former Mountaineer great Renaldo Turnbull. Both players are tall and slim. Turnbull was 6-5, 240 pounds while Miller is listed at 6-4 and 247 pounds. For a second, as I saw the "7" on the back of Miller's jersey (he is #97), that similarity was further enhanced with a flashback to Turnbull, who wore #87. Now, if Julian, could have the career that Renaldo had, that would be the best flashback of all.

5. West Virginia continues to pass downfield to Jock Sanders and for the third week in a row he couldn't pull in catchable balls. Sanders dropped two key passes in the game. Jock does a lot of positive things for the offensive, but the coaching staff may need to reassess going downfield to him.

4. In my game notes, I had jotted down that the pre-game atmosphere was very electric, almost more so than usual. Fans and players both seemed pumped for the game, but Cincinnati's Mardy Gilyard's opening 100 yard kickoff return for the touchdown quickly burst that bubble, and it was never regained, even after McAfee's tying field goal, because at least half, if not more, of the fans were gone by that point.

3. Despite the disappointment of this loss, the West Virginia defense once again stood strong as they limited Cincinnati to 260 yards of total offense. That total included just 82 yards on the ground and 178 yards in the air on 16 passes in 30 attempts. Cincinnati, which continues to struggle on the third down conversions was 2-13 against West Virginia.

2. West Virginia is now in the three-way tie for first place in the Big East with Cincinnati and Pitt. The Big East picture will become a little clearer on November 22nd when Pitt travels to Cincinnati, but it's still likely to come down to the final game of the season for each team involved. All West Virginia can do at this point is focus on Louisville also on November 22nd, as the team has a bye week this Saturday.

1. Gang, I'll see you in Louisville next Saturday for that contest. Despite the fact this was a painful loss, there is still a lot of football to be played. Take care and keep the faith.

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