Musings of a Mountain Man: August 25, 2011 - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Musings of a Mountain Man: August 25, 2011

Updated: Aug 25, 2011 05:12 PM
MORGANTOWN -

Hi there, ladies and germs. Here we are, back for a second gig at WVI. We'll be here for the next several months and be sure to tip your waiter.
  By the way, we just flew in from our high school reunion, and boy are our arms tired. No, not from flapping, from lifting beers three nights in a row.
  But it would take a lot more heavy lifting than that to make these arms too tired to write about our beloved Mountaineers; especially in late August, when football looms, anticipation reigns and hope springs eternal in the WVU fan's breast.
  Heading into the 2011 season, there are copious amounts of hope and anticipation to pass around -- tempered, we must admit, by at least a dab or two of apprehension.
 
*****

  FIRST, THE ANTICIPATION: We think we speak for most of the Mountaineer Nation when we say that we're all atither at the prospect of seeing new head coach Dana Holgorsen's offense employed by the men wearing blue and gold.
  To this point, Holgorsen has been an offensive wunderkind whose system has succeeded wildly and quickly at every stop he has made. The most recent example was at Oklahoma State, where he turned a so-so offense into the nation's scoring leader in one, count 'em, one year.
  We have every hope and little doubt that Holgorsen will be able to duplicate that at WVU this season considering that he inherits some notable offensive firepower from last year's team.

 
*****

  WE WILL SAY IT ONCE MORE and then try to move on. With just a slightly above average offense last season, WVU very well could have run the regular-season table and set up all kinds of stratospheric possibilities.
  This is because the Mountaineers defense in 2010 was one of the best, if not the best, in the country. It finished in the top 10 nationally in a variety of categories, including fewest points allowed per game.
  The inconsistent offense, however, sputtered more than it puttered all year. This was markedly apparent late in games, when a string of second-half slowdowns led to losses to LSU, Syracuse and UConn, the latter two costing WVU a BCS bid it definitely had to the talent to win.
  The embarrassing bowl loss to North Carolina State? Don't even get us started on that one. In the second half of the bowl game, WVU looked like it mailed it in on offense, third-class postage. Enough said.

*****

  WATCHING WVU ON OFFENSE last season more often than not was a slow-burning irritation that built as the game progressed, quarter by quarter, half by half. It was sort of like watching a baseball game when the team you want to win keeps leaving people on base, or a hockey or soccer game in which your team's shots keep hitting the goal post.
  By the time the Mountaineers lost to Syracuse in the fourth quarter and to UConn in overtime in consecutive games it was favored to win, its fans by and large had lost hope for a big season and knew that one of the best defenses in program history pretty much had been wasted.
  In the case of WVU in 2010, the old adage that a great defense can win a championship did not ring true because the offense lost it for them.
  As a result, head coach Bill Stewart and the offensive staff in which he placed inordinate trust lost their jobs, with Stewart's long, convoluted, sloppy and mishandled departure thrown in just to mess with our collective heads. After a dysfunctional offseason of this magnitude, if so many 'Eers fans weren't intent on burning couches, they might be prone to get psychoanalyzed on one.

*****

  LOOKING FORWARD, WE TRUST THAT IN 2011, the Mountaineer offense will be much improved under Holgorsen. Based on his resume, what would make us think otherwise?
  Our enthusiasm is whetted by the thought that if junior quarterback Geno Smith could throw for 2,763 yards, 24 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions in last year's sporadic offense, what can he do under Holgorsen's guidance?
  The same goes for hyper-talented junior receiver Tavon Austin, who caught 58 passes for 787 yards and eight touchdowns in 2010. What does this season have in store for Austin and for other potentially standout performers in WVU's seemingly deep receiving pool?
  Ditto at running back, where touted true freshmen speedsters Andrew Buie, Dustin Garrison and Vernard Roberts are pushing veteran performers such as Shawne Alston, Matt Lindamood and Ryan Clarke for playing time. A lot of backfield depth can't hurt, can it?
  Our answer is no, just like a veteran offensive line can't hurt, something that WVU has going into the season opener with Marshall less than two weeks from now. The offensive line, led by tackle Donny Barclay and center Joey Madsen, should be better this year under new line coach Bill Bedenbaugh despite the loss of two-year starting guard Josh Jenkins for the season from a knee injury.

*****

  NOW, THE APPREHENSION: This part won't be nearly as long because the anticipation carries far more weight.
  That said, we have to admit some trepidation about the defense. Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel lost quite a bit personnel-wise from last year and it's hard to conceive how it can approach the effectiveness of 2010's Casteel Curtain.
  There certainly are some fine holdovers, though, such as Najee Goode at linebacker, Terence Garvin at safety, Julian Miller on the defensive line and All-American candidates Bruce Irvin and Keith Tandy at defensive end and Cornerbacks, respectively.
  Casteel is a fine coach, too, and his staff is a good one, so maybe.....
  Well.....maybe Casteel and crew can take the aforementioned top-flight performers, combine them with promising newcomers, emerging underclassmen, capable backups and sometimes starters from 2010 and construct a stout-enough defense.
  If the defense can hold serve a few times each game, if it can be above average or, dare we say, pretty good in complementing WVU's expected jump in offensive output, we like the Mountaineers' chances of winning big this season.

*****

  THE 2011 SCHEDULE is challenging, but not ridiculously so.
  It gives WVU an early chance in weeks three and four to draw poll attention with back-to-back marquee games at Maryland on Sept. 17 and at home against LSU on Sept. 24.
  It is a tall order perhaps, but if the Mountaineers can win both of those games and start the season off 4-and-oh, watch out. We predict that this team will get better as it goes and will be a tough out down the stretch.

*****

  WE CLOSE WITH A HAPPY THOUGHT. NOW THAT RICH RODRIGUEZ
has been asked to leave Michigan -- a place where most people leave on their own -- we now can return to historical form and pull hard for the Wolverines to beat Notre Dame and Ohio State.
  We despise Notre Dame and intensely dislike Ohio State, but little raised our hackles like watching Roddy patrol the Michigan sideline with an upside down "W" on his cap.
  To those few WVU fans out there who didn't enjoy watching Roddy get his comeuppance, take solace in the fact that he will be in the booth this year on some CBS college football telecasts.
  Just to show you that we admire anyone who has read this far, we will help you celebrate Roddy's new broadcasting job. We will run several copies of TV Guide through a paper shredder and then make a symbolic drive to the airport. Better yet, to make it more realistic, we will have an assistant do the shredding.

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