Texas Writer Exchanges Q&A With WVi - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Texas Writer Exchanges Q&A With WVi

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MORGANTOWN -

The college football season continues to draw closer. West Virginia University will meet Marshall in less than two months.

WVU will play a whole new set of conference opponents this year. That is due to the move to the Big 12. One of the biggest road games on the schedule will take place on October 6 when WVU visits Texas.

Carter Strickland of Hornsnation, a division of espn.com, which covers the University of Texas exchanged a Q&A with me.

Scott Grayson: Who do you think will be the starting quarterback at Texas this season? Is there a chance both Case McCoy and David Ash will be used in a two quarterback system?

Carter Strickland: David Ash is going to be the starter unless something unforeseen happens. Now the coaching staff refuses to say that Ash is going to be the starter but they gave Ash the majority of the snaps in spring and in the final game of the 2011 season. The reason they are not saying it is Ash is because they want to slightly hedge their bets. Ash has been inconsistent – nine interceptions against four touchdowns – and the staff wants an engaged and content Case McCoy just in case Ash is not the guy. McCoy is much more of a risk taker and cannot be as easily controlled by the coaching staff and that is why he is not the starter. There has been some talk that McCoy would get the third series of every game but if things are rolling with Ash, McCoy is going to stay on the bench.

Scott Grayson: The Texas defense is receiving a lot of hype. What is driving that hype and do you feel it is deserved?

Carter Strickland: Texas finished 11th nationally in defense last year and actually upgraded its talent in every area. This defense has the ability to be dominant because it is so incredibly fast and extremely deep along the defensive line. The two cornerbacks, Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs, are NFL caliber players. The interesting thing to watch when UT plays WVU will be the defensive ends. Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor are both first round picks in 2013 so their skills against Geno Smith's feet will be a good matchup.

Scott Grayson: Is this potentially a trap game for Texas with Oklahoma sitting on the schedule one week later?

Carter Strickland: Not really because Texas does not look forward to playing Oklahoma. It is more a game they dread. See past results. Texas is going to be coming off its first true road test at Oklahoma State the week prior so there should be enough mistakes on film that they are fully concentrated on what they have to clean up from that game.

Scott Grayson: Describe what a home game is like at Texas Memorial Stadium. What kind of atmosphere should WVU fans who make the trip expect?

Carter Strickland: It might be the quietest 101,000 people you will ever sit next to. While Texas has a very large fan base it does not have a very vocal one. It is not like going to an SEC game. The fans are quick to jump on players if they make a mistake. The students arrive late and leave early. It is an impressive stadium and campus. Just don't expect it to be like LSU or Alabama in terms of atmosphere.

Scott Grayson: How do you see the October 6 game between WVU and Texas playing out? How about a score?

Carter Strickland: Texas is going to keep the ball on the ground and run it on at least 65 percent of the snaps. It should be coming into the game confident because the early season schedule is not that tough and I would expect the Longhorns would be undefeated. If this game were in Morgantown I would pick WVU without hesitation. But since it is in Austin and it is WVU's first Big 12 road trip. I think Texas has a lslight edge. I'm going 24-21 Texas. The best way for WVU to win is for the game to become a shootout. Texas cannot put up a huge amount of points.

Carter Strickland: All the talk around Texas is Geno Smith and trying to contain him. I know LSU kept him in check for a bit but did anyone do a good job of it for a full game last year and, if so, how did they do it?

Scott Grayson: Few teams were able to rattle Smith in 2011. Syracuse did do it and did so with a ton of blitzes. That went against everything Syracuse had done all season up to that point. Dana Holgorsen said Syracuse blitzed on roughly three out of every four downs and did it in many different ways. WVU had a hard time figuring out where the pressure was coming from and consequently the offense struggled.

In fact, with about four minutes to go in the game and West Virginia behind by several touchdowns, Smith gathered the offense on the sideline and proceeded to rip into every member on the offense for their poor play. He was also critical of himself. Smith is a very composed quarterback who rarely gets that frustrated on the sideline. It just illustrates how out of sync the offense was in that game.

Carter Strickland: How much should WVU mature offensively in the second year under Holgorsen? And is that  scary proposition given the last time anyone saw WVU it was putting up 70 against Clemson?

Scott Grayson: The expectations from everyone including fans and especially the coaching staff is that the offense should mature even more in the second year. More because nine starters are returning from last season and received a ton of experience in the offense a year ago than anything else. The most interesting part of the Orange Bowl explosion was what Geno Smith and Dana Holgorsen did, or especially did not do throughout the game. They appeared to be on a whole different wavelength in terms of communication and as a result the amount of signals Smith needed from the sideline were far less than at other points in the season.

Holgorsen kept saying throughout the season that once he and Geno Smith are seeing the same thing, the offense will move to another level. That happened in the Orange Bowl. Quarterbacks Coach Jake Spavital acknowledged that Smith and Holgorsen reached that point where Smith was calling audibles without needing much guidance from Holgorsen. Like Peyton Manning, Smith will be making a lot of the calls at the line of scrimmage this season.

Carter Strickland: What are the realistic expectations for WVU in the first year of the Big 12?

Scott Grayson: Fans here in Morgantown will tell you the realistic expectation is to win the Big 12 title. The team is focused on pursuing a National Championship, so I would say WVU expects to win the Big 12.

The schedule is set up favorably for WVU to make a run for that title this fall. By far, the toughest road game is at Texas. WVU has the other so-called preseason contenders Oklahoma, Kansas State and TCU at home.

The biggest question for West Virginia is its defense. Will it be able to hold opponents to fewer points than the WVU offense can score? Everyone looks at the WVU offense, but the key to a Big 12 title for West Virginia may lie in its defensive successes or failures.

Carter Strickland: The Big 12 has been a league that likes to put up points, Holgorsen obviously knows that from his days at Oklahoma State. So knowing that what has WVU done to upgrade its defense?

Scott Grayson: First and foremost, WVU changed its defense from a 3-3-5 odd stack under Jeff Casteel to a 3-4 under Co-Defensive Coordinators Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson. DeForest challenged the defense to force 46 turnovers throughout spring practice. The Mountaineers met that goal. WVU forced 23 turnovers in 2011. That is a little deceiving because the Mountaineers forced 10 of those 23 turnovers in their last four games.

DeForest, like Holgorsen, knows the Big 12. He came to WVU from Oklahoma State. DeForest and Patterson both were pleased with the speed at which the defensive players picked up the new defensive scheme.

Carter Strickland:
How about picking a score, a winner and justifying it all.

Scott Grayson: I see this as a very close game. I think this could come down to who has the ball last. West Virginia's biggest weakness on defense may be in the secondary, but neither of the quarterbacks at Texas appear to be taking full custody of the starting job. Given that, WVU must do a good job of stopping the run in this game. If that happens, Texas could have a hard time moving the ball and that will give the WVU offense plenty of opportunities and good field position to rack up some points.

If Texas can get its running game going and give the passing game time to develop, then it could be a long day for the WVU defense.

I will pick WVU to win a tight one, 37-34.

So, how do you see the WVU at Texas game playing out? Post your answer to the comments section below.
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