With WVU’s win over Kansas University, two things happened: (1) WVU became bowl eligible, and (2) Holgorsen will likely be the head coach in 2016.
Up next for WVU is Iowa State at home this coming Saturday, and then Kansas State in Kansas. WVU could very well have an 8 win regular season, but I’m not sure WVU can defeat both teams. If WVU does win out, Holgorsen’s job becomes even more secure. A bowl win over a prominent team and a 9 – 4 record would probably land him a two year contract extension.
Early on I predicted this team would have a 7 or 8 win season due to an immature offense, and we have seen this. It was especially true in October when WVU lost to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas Christian.
Another major problem with the WVU offense this season is the lack of a viable threat in the passing game. The reason for this is two-fold: (1) WVU has a group of inexperienced receivers, and (2) WVU’s starting QB has limited passing skills.
I do not expect Skyler Howard to remain the starting QB for WVU in 2016, but I cannot predict which of the others it may be. WVU’s young receivers will have a year to mature as well as the offensive line. However, the Mountaineers will apparently not have the quality depth they need at running back.
There has been a great deal of improvement from RB Rushel Shell III, but he is not yet on the same level as Wendell Smallwood. Donte Thomas-Williams and the others lack of performance in practice has finally given FB Eli Wellman an opportunity to show off his power running skills. With the exception of his fumble against Kansas, he has done well. Wellman and TE Cody Clay are both exceptional blockers.
Clay made the highlight reels with his TD pass reception in the end-zone against Kansas. On a lighter note; After being shown the end-zone by Coach Holgorsen in practice, Wendell Smallwood found it twice against the Jayhawks. After being stopped a half yard short of the goal line again, he sprinted in on the following play.
Another improvement I’ve noticed in WVU’s offense is fewer penalties. Last season, I was all over the offensive line for not run blocking, and we have seen much improvement in this area of the WVU offense throughout the season. The offensive line will have to focus more on pass protection next season, This is nothing against the coaching staff, but more due to player personnel.
If you go to CBStats.com you’ll see WVU has drastically improved in several areas. WVU has one of the top punter’s with Nick O’Toole, and one of the top RB’s in Wendell Smallwood. While there has been improvement in the punt return game there is still much room for improvement, for while WVU isn’t on the bottom of the list they are still ranked in the 80s. WVU’s defense ranks 80th and 71st in run and pass defense. With these ranking WVU’s defense hasn’t really played up to all the hype. However, in turn-over margin WVU ranks 14th, and WVU ranks 3rd in interceptions. Not all is bad defensively or offensively, but there is plenty of room for growth.
Its hard to judge the play of WVU yesterday, for Kansas was its own worst enemy, Kansas had given TCU a tussle the week before and were beginning to look like a real threat, but they were flat against WVU. This coming Saturday, Iowa State will test WVU at Milan Pulsar Stadium in Morgantown, and the following week WVU will be tested again in Kansas against Kansas State.
WVU may win both of these games, but I can’t help but feel that WVU will lose at least one of them. For WVU to become a contender for the Big 12 title it must have a balanced passing and running attack. This year, WVU has a running attack, next year I see more of a passing attack,
WVU is still a few years away from being able to compete for the conference championship. With Oklahoma State losing to Baylor, chances are now slim for a Big 12 team getting into the national play-offs unless one of the current top four loses a conference championship game.