Forecasting WVU’s 2017 Football Season
Despite the hype of a new quarterback who can take them to the promised land, and the feeling within the Puskar Center that this West Virginia football program is ready to make an impact upon the Big 12, the public appears to see this year’s Mountaineers as little different than last year’s.
In an effort to take the pulse of the public, I ran a poll on how WVU will do this year.
Here are the results:
Lose 0-1 game: 17 percent; Lose 2-3 games: 63 percent; Lose more than 3: 20 percent
As they say, that’s why they play the games.
So, let’s play them before they play them and take a wild look into the future to see how WVU’s season will play out.
Game 1 … WVU vs. Virginia Tech: Load up the truck and get ready to ship that Black Diamond Trophy to Morgantown as the Mountaineers pull out a squeaker, 24-17.
Will Grier, the transfer quarterback from Florida, lives up to all his billing by completing 35-of-41 passes for three touchdowns, two of them to Ka’Raun White and one to … yep, Eli Wellman.
Tech does a good job on the WVU running game, holding it to 87 yards total, but the Hokies can’t find the right guy at quarterback and WVU’s defense shines with Dravon Askew-Henry and Kyzir White combining on 21 tackles.
Game 2 … East Carolina at WVU: For some reason in the past, East Carolina was often a difficult opponent for the Mountaineers. No more.
WVU scores early and often with a balanced attack that provides 215 rushing yards — 107 of them from Justin Crawford — and 278 passing yards with Grier completing 21-of-27 passes. Final score: WVU 38, East Carolina 21.
Game 3 … Delaware State at WVU: Dana Holgorsen gets that scrimmage he had hoped for.
Delaware State thinks about giving up football after WVU beats them 84-0 with 12 touchdowns, four of them from Crawford and five through the air, with Grier completing 18-of-21 for 360 yards.
Game 4 … WVU at Kansas: No, attendance will not be less at the WVU football game than at the WVU basketball game in Lawrence, but it might be less than the combined attendance at the two basketball games the teams play.
KU is getting better, but there was no alternative.
This will be a fourth straight Mountaineer victory, WVU winning, 38-14, with Grier controlling the ball, the clock and the game. Crawford gets his 100 yards in the first half and David Sills winds up with seven catches of Grier’s 21 completions in 28 attempts.
Game 5 … WVU at TCU: Football fever has hit WVU, standing 4-0, ranked at No. 13, but facing a TCU team that is ranked No. 23.
The Mountaineers are on the road for the second straight week and facing a team that is even better than Virginia Tech with a truly dangerous quarterback.
This one goes down to the wire, TCU snaring a 21-20 victory — seems like all WVU-TCU games are heartstopping, one-point games — with the Horned Frogs taking advantage of a tipped interception to set up the winning score in the final two minutes.
Grier has his first bump in the road with 17-of-34 passes completed for 172 yards and two interceptions.
Game 6 … Texas Tech at WVU: WVU comes home to face a struggling Texas Tech team in what some say will be Kliff Kingsbury’s final game as the Red Raiders head coach. Firing him will be tough for he is a former Tech QB who was a great player and has been true to the school.
But somewhere along the way he lost all sight of defense and WVU goes off for a 52-34 victory, with Crawford running for 245 yards and Grier back on the beam by completing 28-of-34 passes for 374 yards.
Kingsbury’s flight back to Lubbock is his last as Texas Tech coach.
Game 7 … WVU at Baylor: As much as you’d like to see WVU score 100 on Baylor because of the way they abused the college football world under Art Briles, the best the Mountaineers can do is get halfway there in a 49-24 victory.
Grier is razor sharp again, completing 33-of-40 throws for 480 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. Ka’Raun White has a huge day with 12 catches for 210 yards and 3 of the TDs, while Crawford runs for 193 and a touchdown.
Game 8 … Oklahoma State at WVU: The joint is jumping at Milan Puskar Stadium … full house, everyone knowing this is the gauge of WVU football this year.
Oklahoma State comes in off a 35-10 win over a really improved Texas team, still unbeaten and ranked No 6 in the country. Mason Rudolph has emerged as the top Heisman Trophy candidate.
But WVU is at home and you know this is going to be a battle, which it turns into, but the Mountaineers attempt to control the ball with a running game and controlled passing game can’t kept Rudolph off the field enough.
He has four TD passes and sets up the game-winning field goal in a 41-38 Oklahoma State victory with a key 3rd-and-17 completion for the first down in the final two minutes.
Game 9 … Iowa State at WVU: Someone has to pay for that tough loss and it’s lowly Iowa State, another team that is improved but not yet on a level to compete successfully in the Big 12.
WVU bangs the Cycolones around on the ground, with Crawford and Martell Petteway both surpassing 100 yards as the Mountaineers cruise to a 35-17 victoyy.
Game 10 … WVU at Kansas State: Talk about must-win games. On the road against a good team — although one that has shown some signs of slippage this year as its 5-3 record shows — WVU has to be at its best.
The Mountaineers win a physical battle, 24-21, as Elijah Battle makes a late interception to set up Mike Molina’s 32-yard field goal to win the game on the final play.
For the second year in a row, the WVU defense drives quarterback Jesse Ertz insane with its blitz and he completes only 8-of-24 passes and the K-State run game is smothered.
Game 11 … Texas at WVU: Game of the Year. Mountaineers are 8-2, ranked 10th, Texas is 7-3 and ranked 20th.
It’s Senior Day, the final home game of the year with everyone understanding that a victory sets up a showdown at Oklahoma next week, a major bowl bid and maybe even a shot in the Big 12 championship at stake.
The game is a classic, up and down, back and forth, offenses in charge … a battle between Shane Buechele at Texas and Grier.
WVU grabs the lead, 28-24, with 2:36 left on 72-yard pass from Grier to Kennedy McKoy, and needs only to stop Texas for the win.
But the old bugaboo, which was improved greatly this year, comes back to haunt the Mountaineers as Texas runs the kickoff back 72 yards to the WVU 22 and Buechele throws a TD pass with 1:08 to go for the win.
Game 12 WVU at Oklahoma: They will wonder forever what might have been had WVU kicked off out of the end zone or even out of bounds against Texas, but WVU is flat against a fired-up bunch of Sooners.
New coach Lincoln Riley has not missed a beat in replacing Bob Stoops and was looking to set up a rematch with Oklahoma State in the Big 12 championship game as the Sooners bomb WVU, 41-24, with Baker Mayfield giving his Heisman Trophy hopes a huge lift with five TD passes and 448 yards of passing.
Grier completes a solid first regular season with the Mountaineers, passing for 3,497 yards with 38 touchdowns and just seven interceptions while Crawford leads the Big 12 with 1,527 yards rushing.
If only they’d beaten Texas …