WVU Sports Notebook – Busy Weekend

West Virginia receiver Winston Wright secures a touchdown grab (Dan Shrensky photo)

There are a couple of long weekends each year that seem to have just about every West Virginia University sports team in action. Of course, it’s never all of them, as some are only active in one semester or the other, but the crossover between the first and second academic divisions on the calendar often serve up completion of competition in some sports and the startup of another, making for busy facilities and work schedules on campus.

Last weekend was one of those times. There was West Virginia’s football win over Texas, the cross country team’s participation in the NCAA Championship, led by Ceili McCabe, who took third in the nation with another outstanding run. The men’s soccer team advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament with a home win over Virginia Tech, and both the women’s and men’s basketball teams got their seasons underway. The men’s and women’s swim and dive teams hosted the WVU invitational, volleyball hosted a two-match meeting against Texas Tech, and wrestling continued its early season schedule with trips to Davidson and North Carolina State.

There’s a three-day break currently underway, and the schedule lightens a bit this Thanksgiving week, with just the basketball, volleyball, football and men’s soccer teams in action, but the pace of games continues to argue for more spread out seasons and a utilization of the summer months to help with scheduling overlaps.

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On the football field, one of the items that stood out in West Virginia’s Texas takedown was the play selection of Longhorn head coach Steve Sarkisian. WVU, due to personnel available issues that were well known, had to deploy a safety-heavy defense that was basically the dime version of its base alignment, and often featured just three down linemen and one linebacker (or at least linebacker-sized) defender. Texas should have been able to figure out that running the ball against this set should have been the best option, even given WVU’s previous stout play against the run game.

However, on its first four possessions, Texas ran the ball just thrice while throwing it nine times, and a more personnel-loaded WVU back end of the defense was able to force incompletions and catches short of the sticks on every attempt.

The Horns seemed to figure it out on their next possession, running it five consecutive times for a total of 72 yards and a touchdown, but that lesson didn’t stick. Taking possession with 2:34 to go in the half, the Horns threw it three times for nine yards while rushing it four for 30 before kicking a field goal with 1:04 to play. Had they been less impatient, they had plenty of time to run the ball, even though a penalty had moved them back to a first and 20 situation at the WVU 39. In that quarter, UT averaged 10.8 yards per rush.

For the game, Texas averaged 7.3 yards per carry on 28 attempts, but threw it 30 times for an average of only 5.4 yards per attempt. For WVU, every time Texas dropped back to pass, it was a win.

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West Virginia’s short defensive bench was highlighted by the fact that only 14 different players made tackles on a defensive play from scrimmage during the game. Texas, by way of comparison, had 15 players record at least one tackle.

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After seeing West Virginia fans seated in the top three rows of the stadium and strung out over several sections of such on trips to Texas, the fact that Texas pep band was given equal seating in Milan Puskar Stadium was a bit, well, equalizing.

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After watching the first four games of the men’s basketball season, the thought was that the Mountaineers could not play defense — at least team defense — against good competition. The second half of the Clemson game, if not flipping that script, at least provided some signs that WVU can do so, but many questions remain.

There is no doubt that WVU as a number of players without the ability to prevent straight-line drives. An unfamiliarity with proper rotation and help techniques mean those drives often result in either easy lay-ups or one-pass assists to very open opponents.

However, in a 10-minutes stretch in the second half against Clemson, West Virginia helped effectively, rotated efficiently and turned what could have been a very difficult defeat into a resume-building win. Unless it was just a lucky turn, it would appear that WVU has a least  a couple of player groupings that can play good team defense.

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On the women’s side? The Mountaineers look loaded. WVU has 11 players averaging at least 10 minutes per game, and nine of thos eare scoring at least six points per contest. Head coach Mike Carey’s team hasn’t been tested yet in a 3-0 start, but will get that with a trip to the St. Pete showcase, and games against Purdue and either Florida State or BYU this week.

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    There are a couple of long weekends each year that seem to have just about every West Virginia University sports team in action. Of course, it’s never
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Home Page forums WVU Sports Notebook – Busy Weekend

Home Page forums WVU Sports Notebook – Busy Weekend