www.charlestondailymail.com WVU Sports http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2014, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers WVU FOOTBALL: Mountaineers, Cowboy favor deep passes http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141023/DM03/141029499 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141023/DM03/141029499 Thu, 23 Oct 2014 22:20:06 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Though it might seem like a trick play given the way college offenses have evolved in this era, what Oklahoma State and West Virginia will do Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium is very much their definition of normal.

In today's college football with quick releases, short throws and high-percentage plays that keep the ball moving forward, with coordinators who create space for athletes who are hard to tackle after catching easy passes, few other teams gamble or rely as much on the deep pass.

"There's been a little more of a focus on throwing to inside receivers and the short game and stuff like that to where not a lot of people are out there throwing it over the top," Mountaineers offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said, "but it's something we do a lot."

The 3:30 p.m. game on ESPN will feature the Big 12's most prolific and most persistent deep play quarterbacks. WVU's Clint Trickett leads the Big 12 with 8.74 yards per attempt and 28 pass plays covering at least 25 yards. Oklahoma State's Daxx Garman is second in the Big 12 with 14.64 yards per completion and ranks third with 19 25-yard passes.

Garman is Oklahoma State's second quarterback this season and he'll make his sixth start this Saturday. He ranks near the top of the big-play categories even though he's thrown 105 fewer passes than Trickett and 30 fewer than Baylor's Bryce Petty, who leads in yards per completion and is second in 25-yard plays.

"He does a great job throwing the deep ball," WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said of Garman. "Probably the thing that concerns me more than anything is how accurate he is throwing the deep ball. They've got four or five receivers who are long and fast and go get it. They beat Texas Tech with it, so one thing we're going to have to be able to do is do a good job of defending their deep ball."

Not that either offense needed to be encouraged to throw it more often, but the defenses they'll be facing are susceptible. The Mountaineers have allowed six touchdown passes of 25 yards or more and lost starting cornerbacks Terrell Chestnut and Daryl Worley to injury against Baylor. Neither is certain to play Saturday.

Starting cornerback Ashton Lampkin has missed the past three games for the Cowboys with an injury, but could play against WVU. He was replaced by a redshirt freshman, and Oklahoma State was already starting a sophomore and redshirt freshman at safety.

"We're going to try to take advantage of that," WVU receiver Kevin White said.

The Cowboys (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) have six receivers who have caught a 25-yard pass. Seven of Garman's long completions were touchdowns and four were stopped inside the opponent's 12-yard line.

"That was what Baylor was," WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said. "They were more over-the-top than anybody I'd ever broken down with deep shots. That's what scared me."

Petty entered last week's game as the Big 12's leader in 25-yard pass plays. He had just two against Gibson's hyper defense that would blitz or fake a blitz to confuse or corrupt Petty's plans.

The Cowboys have allowed a Big 12-high 18 sacks, which is tied for No. 100 nationally.

"To disrupt vertical routes, you have to get pressure on the quarterback so he sees it or gets hit, and if he sees it or if he thinks he sees it, he'll throw it quick," Gibson said.

Meanwhile, the Mountaineers have five receivers who have caught a 25-yard pass and nine of Trickett's long plays were touchdowns. WVU (5-2, 3-1) also has the nation's leading receiver in big plays. Nobody has more than White's 13 25-yard plays.

None of that is a matter of coincidence. WVU knew this was a possibility and made it a reality.

"We worked on throwing the ball vertically more than I ever have in my life because of what we believe is a great running back room and an extremely physical offensive line," Dawson said. "We figure that teams are going to have to man up at some point to stop the run, so we have to be able to throw it vertical.

"And we've worked on it. That was our biggest emphasis in the offseason, and obviously we're way better throwing and catching it."

It remains a part of WVU's practices during the season. Most days start with a drill where cornerbacks are set at different depths and with varying leverage and the quarterback and receiver are in charge of completing a deep pass.

"We haven't worked on a lot of the back-shoulder stuff because our guys are getting by them," Trickett said. "If they're even, they're leaving, and I have to go for the home run shot. If guys are winning on the edge, I've got to put it out there. It's always about letting them make a play, don't throw it out of bounds, don't throw it short. I've always got to give them a chance to make a play."

Working on deep passes is one matter, but the types of deep throws the Mountaineers rehearse make them more effective. Trickett said long throws in the middle are increasingly rare in college but have become a part of his repertoire, especially to wide receiver Mario Alford and inside receiver Jordan Thompson, who have both scored on one the past two games.

"You look around and maybe see it once or twice a game, where it used to be a consistent staple of offenses," Trickett said. "We know we're going to take those shots. That's our mentality. The shots are there and you've got to take them."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

]]>
WVU ATHLETICS: Mountaineers, Hokies to play in common sports http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141022/DM03/141029646 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141022/DM03/141029646 Wed, 22 Oct 2014 19:40:07 -0400

FROM STAFF REPORTS

MORGANTOWN - West Virginia University and Virginia Tech have come to a mutual agreement in which the schools will play each other in common varsity sports when schedules permit over the next several years, starting in 2014-15. The series will be called the Black Diamond Challenge, a tribute to the region's history in the coal industry.

West Virginia and Tech will not sign a contract, preferring instead just to make a strong commitment to work with each other to schedule as many of these non-conference games as possible.

"It only makes sense for these two great land grant institutions, with long and rich athletic histories, to be competing against each other in the athletics realm," West Virginia director of athletics Oliver Luck said. "Many of our sports teams have long-standing rivalries with Virginia Tech, the oldest dating back to baseball in 1905. This border rivalry is good for the fans and coaches and it provides great competition for the student-athletes. I applaud the teamwork and cooperation of both schools to get the Black Diamond Challenge finalized. It's a win-win for both institutions and for college athletics in general."

Separated by a four-hour drive, the two border schools have a long history of playing each other in various sports. They first met on the field in 1905 when the two schools' baseball teams faced each other.

"Rivalries are a special part of college athletics," Virginia Tech athletics director Whit Babcock said. "They are enhanced based on frequency of playing each other. We certainly have some great rivalries within our conference, but this has been, and will continue to be, a special one for us outside of the ACC. This unique scheduling arrangement will be exciting for our fans and student-athletes in all of our sports over the next several years."

In 1997, the two schools began competing for the Black Diamond Trophy, which went to the winner of the football game between the two schools. The Black Diamond Trophy will remain a part of the football series and will be on the line when the two schools meet on the field in 2017.

Here is a look at the series in each of the two schools' common varsity sports (in alphabetical order):

Men's basketball - West Virginia and Tech have agreed to a home-and-home series (one game per season) through the 2017-18 season, but both sides have plans of continuing the series even beyond that season. West Virginia will play in Blacksburg on odd-numbered years, while hosting Tech in Morgantown during even-numbered years. The two teams have met each of the past two seasons, and WVU plays host to Tech on Dec. 30 this year, with the Mountaineers returning the trip in 2015.

The Hokies won 87-82 last year in Blacksburg. Prior to the Hokies-Mountaineers' game in 2012, though, the two programs had not met since 2003. They have played 77 games overall against each other, dating back to 1920, and the Mountaineers hold a 47-30 advantage.

Women's basketball - The Mountaineers and Hokies are in preliminary discussions on future dates. The two schools have played just 16 times in the series dating back to 1977 and haven't played since a 2006 tournament in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a game the Hokies won 60-56. The Hokies have won seven of the past eight meetings with the Mountaineers and hold an 11-5 advantage in the series.

BASEBALL - The two schools have agreed to a home-and-home series for the next two seasons. West Virginia will travel to Blacksburg next spring, with the Hokies returning the trip to Morgantown in the spring of 2016.

The Hokies and Mountaineers played in Princeton, West Virginia, last May, a game won 4-3 by the Mountaineers. The two schools have met 85 times in a series that dates back to 1905 and have played three of the past five years. The Hokies own a 52-32-1 advantage in the series.

WOMEN'S CROSS COUNTRY/TRACK - The two teams will compete against each other in invitational meets over the course of the next few years.

In cross country, Tech, which started women's cross country and indoor track for the 1982-83 season, last faced West Virginia in competition at the 2003 BIG EAST Championships. That year, the Hokies finished in sixth, while West Virginia finished seventh. In 2002, the Hokies finished in seventh place, while West Virginia came in sixth. In 2001, Virginia Tech finished in sixth place, while the Mountaineer women finished in ninth.

In track, the two programs last met at the 2004 BIG EAST Outdoor Track & Field Championships. The Mountaineers finished in eighth place, with the Hokies coming in one spot behind them. West Virginia finished ahead of Tech in all four years that the Hokies were in the BIG EAST.

MEN'S GOLF - Tech and West Virginia are striving to play in a common tournament over the course of the next few years. West Virginia dropped men's golf in 1982, but reinstated it in July of last year and will begin competition in the fall of 2015.

The two programs last competed in a dual meet in 1978 and last competed in an invitational in 1980 at Marshall. Tech leads all-time series in dual-meet competition 16-0.

The Hokies and West Virginia also competed against each other 13 times in conference tournaments while members of the Southern Conference. Tech won the Southern five times during that span (1956, 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1965) and finished ahead of the Mountaineers on 10 occasions.

FOOTBALL - The scheduled games between the two schools will remain with no new additions.

The two sides mutually agreed to discontinue their football series following the 2005 season (a 34-17 Virginia Tech win in Morgantown), but recently scheduled a non-conference game to be played at FedExField in Landover, Maryland, on Sept. 2, 2017.

Also, in July of 2013, the two sides agreed to a home-and-home series starting in 2021. Tech will play in Morgantown in 2021, with the Mountaineers returning the trip the following year.

The 2005 meeting between the Hokies and Mountaineers marked the 33rd straight season in which they had played. They have played 51 games overall against each other, dating back to 1912, and West Virginia holds a 28-22-1 advantage.

MEN'S SOCCER - The two schools met on Sept. 4 in Morgantown, with Mountaineers beating the Hokies 3-0. West Virginia will come to Blacksburg next season. The two sides are continuing discussions on future dates beyond next season when schedules permit.

This year's match marked the 10th meeting between the two programs in a series that dates back to 1987. Prior to September's meeting, the two schools hadn't played since 2004. The Hokies hold a 7-3 edge in the series.

WOMEN'S SOCCER - Tech and West Virginia are discussing a home-and-home series and are looking to start it in 2017 because of prior scheduling commitments. The two programs - both of which are nationally ranked - have agreed to remain flexible as far as moving or subtracting dates as needed pending any unforeseen scheduling issues.

Tech and West Virginia have played just five times, but met last year and in 2011 at the NCAA Championship. The Hokies won both games 1-0. Prior to the 2011 meeting, the two teams had not played since 2002. West Virginia holds a 3-2 advantage in the series.

MEN'S AND WOMEN'S SWIMMING AND DIVING - Tech and West Virginia coaching staffs are having ongoing discussions about participating in to-be-determined meets in the future.

The two men's teams have met 25 times in competition dating back to 1979, with the Mountaineers holding a 13-12 advantage. The two women's programs have met 27 times dating back to 1977, with Tech holding a 16-11 advantage.

WOMEN'S TENNIS - The two programs are working on dates and locations for future non-conference matches, and both hope to begin a series in the spring of 2016.

The two programs met on the court in 2013, with the Hokies winning 5-2. Tech and West Virginia have met 23 times in the series dating back to the 1983-84 season, and the Hokies hold a 19-4 advantage.

VOLLEYBALL - West Virginia and Tech are continuing preliminary discussions in regards to playing a home-and-home series as part of a four-team tournament with other high-quality RPI programs. This tournament would be played in Blacksburg one year and in Morgantown one year. The dates and teams have not been finalized.

Tech and West Virginia have played seven times dating back to 1979, but the last meeting came in 2003 when the Hokies beat the Mountaineers 3-0. Tech has won four straight in the series and holds a 5-2 advantage.

WRESTLING - Tech and West Virginia have agreed to a four-year series (one match per year), beginning next season. There potentially could be more dates in the future.

The Hokies and Mountaineers have met in dual action on 18 occasions, with West Virginia holding a 12-6 advantage. The two schools haven't met since 2004.

]]>
Mike Casazza: Clay proves his worth for Mountaineers http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141022/DM03/141029692 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141022/DM03/141029692 Wed, 22 Oct 2014 16:26:37 -0400 MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - More and more it seems that West Virginia turns to Cody Clay when the opposition knows what's coming. And more it more things turn out all right for the Mountaineers, even when it's not necessarily what they had in mind.

Take the scene at Texas Tech two weeks ago.

"They knew all our checks and they knew I couldn't go to the line and check anything," quarterback Clint Trickett said. "I was going to have to stand back there and do it with my words."

Trickett stared at the Red Raiders defense, saw something he didn't like and then checked into a new call using words instead of signals the defense would recognize.

"Dude," said Cody Clay, who was standing next to his quarterback in the shotgun, "do you realize what you called?"

Trickett realize he'd made a mistake, but he knew the play clock was ticking toward zero. He quickly answered Clay.

"You're going to have to run this one, bud," he said.

The first career carry for the junior from Alum Creek gained 5 yards.

"I'm not going to lie," Trickett said. "I was laughing the whole time."

Clay has had a serious impact on WVU's evolving offense all season long, but especially lately. He's a wrecking ball that swings through, clears a path and knocks people over so this burgeoning running game can do what it's designed to do.

The Mountaineers (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) visit Oklahoma State (5-2, 3-1) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday and coach Dana Holgorsen will return to the place where he served as offensive coordinator in 2010 and show off an offense that ought to look familiar.

In the past two games, WVU has handed the ball off 93 times and lost yards on only two plays - and one was a jet sweep to a receiver.

"We're equipped to do that because of recruiting, because of coaching, because of scheme and because of mentality," Holgorsen said." We've got some older kids up front. We were very physical. We were as physical on Saturday as we've been in the four years that I've been here. I'd like to think we started heading in the direction due to the fact that I was at Oklahoma State, and that was the mentality that existed there."

WVU runs the ball more than it throws it, and opponents know it but cannot stop it, frequently because of Clay. He's a tight end, a slot receiver, an H-back and a fullback and he's in a zone.

"I thought he had his best game two weeks ago against Kansas, but now I think he had his best game to date Saturday against Baylor," Holgorsen said. "He's just consistent. Hard-working. High effort. Great motor. Great leader. He does everything the right way."

That last part has been a key. As Holgorsen went to work on his offense years ago and molded it in a certain image, he knew he had someone he could use and maneuver so it would work, even if took a couple years. The Mountaineers have trusted Clay for some time now, including the team's trip to Stillwater, Okla., two seasons ago.

Clay played 60 or so snaps and the Mountaineers finished with 78 yards rushing while never getting things going the way they wanted to on offense. He remembers it as the worst game of his career.

"I was not ready for that at that point in time," he said.

He was north of 260 pounds and merely early in the process of redesigning his body and redefining his skill set. He's 260 pounds now and muscle has replaced mass. In the spring, he was given the Iron Mountaineer award for his performance in the offseason conditioning program.

It was a fitting award for a unique role.

"They expect me to lift as much as a lineman," he said, "and run as fast as a receiver."

He's only slightly kidding. His responsibilities require him to be a little of each. Clay is sometimes a sixth offensive lineman who has to handle defensive linemen up front or linebackers taking a head start into the backfield.

Other times he's lining up behind the line or to its side and he's on the run when the ball is snapped. He's going after a quicker defender out in space, but he has to put his hands on someone so they don't get their hands on the running back.

He's cutting a defender on one play and knocking him over on the next. He's backing up in pass protection to keep his quarterback safe on first down and then pushing forward to create a lane for a running back on second down.

The Mountaineers ask for more from Clay than anyone else, but they're constantly rewarded.

"I expect a lot out of Cody and I challenge him every week to be the most physical guy on the field at the point of attack," running backs coach JaJuan Seider said.

"He's a 260-pound guy and most of the time he's blocking a 240-pound linebacker. When he gets that matchup, I want him to win it because most of the time they're overmatched, just like Cody is when he's blocking a big defensive end. But that's part of the game and he's one guy who's got to help us find a way to scrape out a win."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

]]>
WVU FOOTBALL: Banged up Mountaineers reach into depth chart http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141022/DM03/141029693 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141022/DM03/141029693 Wed, 22 Oct 2014 16:26:08 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The time has come for West Virginia's football team when it won't be practicing the day after a game. The Mountaineers need that break so they can recuperate quicker, if only from the minor things that accumulate during the season.

WVU also figures to keep dipping into the depth chart to replace players and replenish parts of the team that need some help. Two weeks ago, WVU played nose guard Darrien Howard even though he was on track to redshirt. The defensive line was without the starting defensive end and a backup nose guard against Texas Tech.

Last week, nose guard Christian Brown returned from a one-game suspension and defensive end Dontrill Hyman played after missing two games with a knee injury. WVU still needed cornerback Nana Kyeremeh to play some snaps in his second game of the season.

Cornerbacks Terrell Chestnut (concussion) and Daryl Worley (rib) were knocked out of the win against Baylor. Starting running back Rushel Shell (foot) didn't make it out of the first quarter but was ably replaced by Wendell Smallwood, Andrew Buie and Dreamius Smith.

"It was a very physical game, one of the more physical games that I've seen since I've been here," coach Dana Holgorsen said. "We had a lot of guys banged up and beat up, but that's part of going into the eighth game."

The Mountaineers (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) play at Oklahoma State (5-2, 3-1) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN) and could have all three of the players they lost against the Bears or none of them when they take the field at Boone Pickens Stadium. They could be with or without other players who have been hurt along the way this season.

"There are probably going to be a few that play. There are probably going to be a few that don't," said Holgorsen, who figured to have five or six players go through non-contact practice Tuesday and ideally progress to full-scale practice later in the week.

"That's the best I've got for you at this point. Nobody has been ruled out. Nobody is long term."

Worley said on Twitter he'll play against the Cowboys. Holgorsen said the Mountaineers are likely to travel with cornerback Keishawn Richardson, a junior college transfer who hasn't played yet this season.

* * *

Special teams coordinator Joe DeForest, who was an Oklahoma State assistant for 11 seasons, said the punt return formation with no punt returner remains "an option."

After Worley was injured when he lost a fumble return fielding a punt, the Mountaineers twice lined up in the second quarter without a returner.

"Just wanted to give a different look and make other people prepare for it," DeForest said.

Worley has had issues in his two games as the punt returner. He misjudged an attempt against Texas Tech and ran into a defender when he hurried forward to catch the ball, though that was ruled kick catch interference. He fumbled out of bounds later in the game. DeForest said he has a plan if Worley can't play or isn't the returner, but he wouldn't share the name of the replacement.

* * *

Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said the Mountaineers blitzed on 48 of 79 plays against Baylor and 19 blitzes were Cover Zero calls with no safety back to help defensive backs.

The Mountaineers were only beaten twice. The first was a 63-yard touchdown pass against Chestnut, which was also the play that forced him out of the game. With Worley and Chestnut out of the game, Gibson had to trust his safeties to hold up in pass coverage. It backfired just once when safety K.J. Dillon was beat on a 43-yard pass on a touchdown drive.

Dillon, though, broke up two passes in one-on-one coverage later in the game.

"If you're going to leave a kid in zero coverage or in Cover 1 40-some times a game, (getting beat) is going to happen," Gibson said. "I thought he played a tremendous game with a couple big plays at the end of the game. In the fourth quarter, they tried him and he knocked two balls down. He's finally getting healthy. As crazy as it sounds, he's still not 100 percent after that (preseason) ankle injury."

* * *

Gibson called Oklahoma State running back/receiver/return man Tyrek "the fastest kid in college football." He's actually one of the fastest kids in the world.

Hill, a junior college transfer, ran the second-fastest 200 meters (20.14 seconds) in high school history as a senior in 2012, and the time would have been the sixth-fastest time at the Olympics that summer. His 2012 time in the 100 (10.19) was the fastest in all high school competitions that season.

The 5-10, 185-pound Hill has a two kickoff return touchdowns and averages 5.1 yards per rush and 9.9 yards per reception, most of which are designed for him and his skill.

"Coming in, you heard he was the fastest kid you've ever seen, but it's the truth," Oklahoma State linebacker Ryan Simmons said. "He's fast. He's very, very fast. Your angles have to change with a guy like him. If you mess up on one run fit, if you let him get to the edge, he's gone. Nobody's going to touch him. Everyone has to be basically in perfect position to stop a guy like him."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

]]>
Chuck McGill: Heisman buzz builds around WVU's White http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141021/DM03/141029745 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141021/DM03/141029745 Tue, 21 Oct 2014 21:52:12 -0400 By Chuck McGill MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University receiver Kevin White is adept at separation, so could it be that he is distancing himself from the field as the top pass-catching threat in college football?

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior is the nation's only player with more than 1,000 receiving yards, and now he is popping up on NFL first-round draft boards and Heisman lists. But here is the scary proposition for the five remaining teams on the Mountaineers' Big 12 schedule: White may not be at his peak yet.

"He ain't even close yet," said WVU running backs coach JaJuan Seider, a college quarterback who would've loved to have a behemoth like White terrorizing defensive backs downfield. "You're still talkin' about a young kid. He's a kid that you'd be crazy to think he would even stick around another year if he had another year. In this state, there haven't been too many like him.

"Maybe one down the road."

That "one down the road" would be Randy Gene Moss, who spent two years torturing defenders at Marshall University before taking his game to the pros. That comparison by Seider makes one wonder: Is White a legitimate Heisman candidate?

Moss finished the 1997 season with 96 receptions and 1,820 receiving yards in 13 games, earned an invitation to the Heisman ceremony and finished fourth in the balloting behind Charles Woodson, Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf.

White has 69 receptions for 1,020 yards in seven games, putting him on pace for 128 catches and 1,894 yards - projections that would set school records in both categories and top the totals Moss produced against a Mid-American Conference schedule.

"I've never been around a guy who's got a thousand yards this fast," Seider said. "I guess the only guy in the state of West Virginia who has been close is Randy Moss, and you're talking about a future Hall of Famer."

White had 143 yards against Alabama, the only receiver to top 100 yards against the Crimson Tide defense this season. He torched Oklahoma for 173, far away the best output against the Sooners' defense in 2014. If White finishes near his 1,900-yard pace, it would rank as the fifth-best single-season receiving output in college football history, besting names like Michael Crabtree and Justin Blackmon. Crabtree blossomed under WVU coach Dana Holgorsen at Texas Tech and finished fifth in Heisman balloting in 2008, while Blackmon worked under Holgorsen at Oklahoma State and also finished fifth for the Heisman in 2010.

"His play on the field is unmatched," WVU cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell said. "It's been a while since I've seen a receiver like that, to be that productive and that grounded. We were with Crabtree for three years at Texas Tech and (White is) on track to be one of the best."

A wide receiver hasn't won the Heisman since 1991 (Desmond Howard at Michigan) and only 11 receivers have finished in the top 10 of Heisman voting since 2000, so the odds are obviously against White climbing to the top of any voter's Heisman ballot. The discussion, however, is beginning after White's school-record seventh consecutive 100-yard game.

NFL.com and SI.com put White at No. 10 on their Heisman Watch List for this week, while The Sporting News listed White at No. 5. The pro buzz is getting louder, too, as White appeared at No. 24 on SI.com's draft board and as the fourth-ranked wide receiver on Mel Kiper's draft list.

"The kid's special," WVU offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Shannon Dawson said. "He's a physical kid; he's playing with a lot of confidence right now."

White would have to average 173.3 yards per game to target the all-time single-season receiving record of 2,060 yards, held by Nevada's Trevor Insley. The WVU single-season records could fall before the bowl game, though, as Bailey's 1,622 yards in 2012 and the 114 receptions Bailey and Tavon Austin had that same season are in jeopardy.

White's first seven games have been so dominant, he already ranks seventh on the school's single-season receiving yards list. Only Bailey (twice), Austin (twice), David Saunders (1996) and Chris Henry (2003) have had more productive seasons, but White is over 1,000 yards and it's not even Halloween.

That is scary. This, too might spook Big 12 defenses.

After last Saturday's 41-27 win over No. 4 Baylor, a game in which White had his first multi-touchdown game of the season, drew six pass interference penalties and had a one-handed grab in the end zone while drawing a defensive pass interference penalty for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, Holgorsen had this to say about his go-to receiver:

"He keeps getting better," the WVU coach said. "He keeps getting better and I think his best football is ahead of him."

]]>
WVU FOOTBALL: Trickett's father on mend after heart attack http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141021/DM03/141029746 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141021/DM03/141029746 Tue, 21 Oct 2014 21:46:00 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Tara Trickett's phone rang early Saturday morning, a few hours before she'd be at Mountaineer Field to watch her son Clint pass for 322 yards and three touchdowns to lead West Virginia to a 41-27 victory over then-No. 4 Baylor.

The celebration should have been longer and happier than it was, but Tara could no longer keep her son in the dark. His father, former Mountaineers offensive line coach Rick Trickett, had a heart attack around 5 a.m. in Tallahassee, Fla.

"She was prepared when she told me," Trickett said Tuesday. "She calmed me down after five, 10, 15 minutes and after I'd talked to him. But the first time you hear that your dad had a heart attack, it's like, 'What?'"

Rick has been the offensive line coach at Florida State since 2007 and he would sit out his chance to get the family another win against a top-five team. Trickett did not coach the second-ranked Seminoles that night as they defeated then-No. 5 Notre Dame.

"When he said he wanted to coach and he was upset about not coaching, it was just like, 'Retire. I'm going to be done after this year. Come watch me play in Canada next year,'" Clint said.

"I want him to live forever, obviously. Everybody wants their parents to live forever. I love my dad."

Clint said his father is fine now.

"He's good, and that's the most important thing," Trickett said. "He's back at work."

Rick was a WVU assistant from 2001-06 and Clint was around the football program at practices and in the locker room a whole lot in that time, experiences he and his coach, Dana Holgorsen, believe stick with him today and help him lead the Mountaineers (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) into Saturday's 3:30 p.m. ESPN game at Oklahoma State (5-2, 3-1).

The family moved to Florida after WVU defeated Georgia Tech in the 2007 Gator Bowl and Rich was reunited with Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher, who had been a friend of the family long before he and Trickett worked on Nick Saban's staff at LSU in 2000. Fisher was the offensive coordinator then and would succeed Bobby Bowden in 2010.

Clint made the moves from one job to another, but seemed set in Florida. He was a star quarterback at North Florida Christian and pursued a dream of playing with his dad when he decided to go to college at Florida State. He graduated after three years and transferred to WVU, but the distance didn't diminish the bond he had with his father.

"It's strong. It's a lot stronger and a lot different than most father-son bonds because there are so many similarities between me and him and our love for this game and our work ethic, but also because he wasn't there a lot," Clint said. "I'm not saying he was an absent father, because he wasn't, but it was his job and he was a very busy guy, especially with him being overly competitive and spending more time on it than he had to, which was already a lot of time."

The two made sure to stay in touch Saturday night as the Seminoles beat Notre Dame and dedicated the win their offensive line coach afterward.

"I was texting him during it," Clint said. "He wished he could have been there and he felt like he let his guys down. He wanted to be there for them and they missed him, but his health comes first. I'm just glad he's good now."

n n n

The quarterback is healthy, too. His eighth-straight 300-yard passing game, which extended his school record, was the first one he'd played with a nasty hit-and-run virus.

"He was fine," Holgorsen said. "He had a 24-hour bug. I told him Michael Jordan did it. He can do it. He was sick, but he got out there and played well. It was no big deal."

Trickett downplayed it, too, but it hit him hard Friday and bothered him Saturday.

"It was a rough day," he said. "The day before was rough. I don't know what happened, but it kind of just came up on me, and it was rough. I had a lot of sleep and my body felt drained, just exhausted. I had to get an IV at halftime, and that helped, but it was rough.

"It was about all the adversity I could take in a game."

As news of his illness and his dad's scare spread, Trickett said friends, family members and strangers reached out to congratulate and console him.

"I received so much support from everyone - teammates, coaches, fans, fake Twitter accounts," he said. "That's not me, by the way."

Holgorsen made Trickett get rid of his Twitter account in the preseason after Trickett tweeted something he thought was funny and others thought was sexist. Trickett apologized and his account disappeared.

After Saturday's game, an account that claimed to be Trickett's appeared. The first tweet said he was back on Twitter and subsequent ones made veiled references to his dad's situation before it the public knew. One of those had a family photo of father and son. The fake account as since vanished, too.

"That guy got a picture off my brother's Twitter," Trickett said. "I was like, 'Wow, this guy is serious.'"

n n n

Florida State's win was defined by an offensive pass interference penalty that took away Notre Dame's game-winning touchdown. The Fighting Irish tried one of the pick plays where receivers slow, stall or reroute defensive backs so a teammate can get open. What happened on the play was a little too egregious.

Trickett couldn't have been more torn over the call. The Seminoles are still special to him, but he's also a quarterback who tends to cheer for offenses. He struggled for a few seconds Tuesday before conceding it was a penalty.

"It's a call that never gets made and you hate to see it, but (the receiver) tackled the guy," Trickett said. "You have to call it. If he keeps his feet still or moved his feet and doesn't put his hands on him, it's a touchdown and that's the end of the game. But the guy went out there and sumo-wrestled him. You've got to call it."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

]]>
WVU FOOTBALL: Oklahoma State linebacker has plenty of motivation http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141021/DM03/141029747 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141021/DM03/141029747 Tue, 21 Oct 2014 21:44:21 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - As he was growing up central Texas, the young Ryan Simmons was a lot like the running backs and receivers that encounter the older Ryan Simmons today.

He never had a chance.

Oklahoma State's middle linebacker is from an athletic family. His older sister, Meighan, was one of the best basketball players ever at the University of Tennessee. The 2014 SEC player of the year who was drafted by the New York Liberty is one of only five Volunteers to score 2,000 points in her career.

But basketball was never the choice. The ball was too round. The distaste for contact was too much to stomach.

It was always going to be football for Simmons, just like it was for his older brothers who played in college and his uncle and cousins who would do the same and go to the NFL.

"I've played since I was 5 years old, so their presence always benefited me because they've all showed interest in me and helping me reach the same level ever since I was a little bitty boy," Simmons said.

His uncle, Reggie Pinkney, was a defensive back at East Carolina and then in the NFL. Pinkney's son Patrick was a quarterback at ECU and Patrick's half-brother Aaron Curry was a star linebacker at Wake Forest who the Seattle Seahawks drafted in the first round of the 2009 draft. Aaron's older brother, Chris, played receiver at North Carolina. Another cousin, Eric Barton, played linebacker at Maryland and then for 11 seasons in the NFL.

Their successes served as constant reminders of what Simmons needed to do and who he had to emulate to be just as good, though they'd never let him settle for that. The junior seems well on his way as he leads the Cowboys defense into Saturday's homecoming game at Boone Pickens Stadium against No. 22 West Virginia (5-2, 3-1 Big 12).

The 3:30 p.m. game will be televised on ESPN.

"It was definitely motivation for me," Simmons said. "My cousin Aaron was the No. 4 pick in the draft. When you're a young player, that's a big deal. I used to talk to him all the time to see what I had to do. But we're all family and they want to see me be better than that, so now I'm pushing myself to where I can be just like him in the sense I can be drafted high and have a great college career and win the Butkus Award like he did."

While the extended family had the most recognizable success, it was the immediate family that gave Simmons the most intimate sense of competition. His father, Wayne, was in the Army and Simmons just happened to be one of seven kids under the same roof.

Dad was the disciplinarian who'd let Ryan seek the outside advice and soak in the congratulatory words from his cousins and his uncle, but wouldn't let his son live on praise alone.

"My dad was always more of the, 'Why aren't you doing more? You can always do more. You can always get better,'" Simmons said. "Everyone else was always congratulating me and supporting me, but my dad knew what it was going to be like in college and that I needed to be focused the right way. But he was always supportive of me. He made sure I was doing things the way I needed to."

That started at a young age, too. The family moved to Fort Sam Houston in Texas when Simmons was a little kid, and they grew up there playing sports with and against one another. The brothers and the sisters mixed it up in football and basketball games. They'd foul hard and tackle harder, knowing they were helping when they were harming.

Simmons turned into a tackling machine at Steele High, in Cibolo, Texas, not long after changing jersey numbers. He'd worn No. 40 because he was a fullback and he wanted to be the next Mike Alstott, but then a middle school coach saw how Simmons could dart and tackle and convinced him he'd be better at middle linebacker.

Now he wears No. 52.

"I started watching Ray Lewis videos on YouTube all the time trying to find ways to replicate his game," he said.

He had 151 tackles as a junior and 179 as a senior when he led the Knights to a Class 5A state championship. Simmons was first-team all-state and the defensive MVP of the championship game and was recognized around the country as a top-20 high school linebacker recruit.

The scholarship offers rolled in, as his family members assured him they would as long as he followed their advice, and Simmons picked the Cowboys over Stanford, Oregon and others. Stillwater, Okla., was somewhat close to home and Simmons enjoyed the bond he'd made during the recruiting process with assistant coach Glenn Spencer, who is now the defensive coordinator.

The 6-foot, 235-pound Simmons leads the team with 55 tackles - all but nine of which came with no help from others - in his first season as the starting middle linebacker. He started all 13 games as an outside linebacker as a sophomore last season and finished with 67 tackles, nine tackles for a loss and an interception.

The Cowboys (5-2, 3-1) have first-year starters to either side of Simmons, two more up front on the defensive line and two more in the secondary. Oklahoma State and Tulane led the country with 32 freshmen and sophomores on their opening day depth chart, and 12 freshmen have played on Simmons' defense this season.

"Moving back to the middle linebacker position puts me in a leadership role in the sense I have to make sure the calls are perfect and the line is adjusted right and everyone knows the adjustments we make to certain things," said Simmons, who was a reserve middle linebacker and made 23 tackles in 2012. "It's a lot of responsibility controlling so many things with a young team."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

]]>
WVU FOOTBALL: Holgorsen calls injured Shell, cornerbacks day-to-day http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141020/DM03/141029874 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141020/DM03/141029874 Mon, 20 Oct 2014 22:34:13 -0400

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Three injured starters haven't been ruled out for No. 22 West Virginia's next game at Oklahoma State.

Coach Dana Holgorsen said Monday that cornerbacks Daryl Worley and Terrell Chestnut and running back Rushel Shell are day-to-day. They were hurt in the first half of West Virginia's 41-27 win over Baylor on Saturday.

Worley injured his ribs after fumbling a second-quarter punt. Later in the period, Chestnut sustained a head injury after a hard block from Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman.

Shell hurt his right ankle after a first-quarter run.

All three did not return.

"We knew it was going to be a physical game. We wanted to play that way," Holgorsen said. "I thought we were nasty. We played the type of game that I felt like we needed to in order to win."

The Mountaineers overcame the injuries with their depth.

Backup cornerback Ricky Rumph made six tackles, while Ishmael Banks had a tackle and broke up a pass. The Mountaineers limited Baylor to season lows for points and total yards.

In Shell's absence, three other running backs combined for 150 yards on 42 carries. Baylor had entered the game allowing an average of 108 yards on the ground.

Dreamius Smith, the Mountaineers' fourth-leading rusher, gained 39 yards on a second-quarter drive that he capped with a 9-yard scoring run. Wendell Smallwood, who had a season-high 123 rushing yards a week earlier at Texas Tech, led West Virginia against Baylor with 66 yards on 20 carries.

"Having guys go in to play at a high level when guys go down is what you have to do if you want to win games in the Big 12," Holgorsen said.

Worley's fumble was the latest in a season filled with problems on punts for the Mountaineers. Their average of 3.6 yards per return is among the worst in the nation. Jordan Thompson also has had fumble problems and deciding when to catch punts. Twice on Saturday, West Virginia lined up with all 11 players rushing the punter and no one back to field it.

West Virginia (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) plays at Oklahoma State (5-2, 3-1) on Saturday.

]]>
WVU FOOTBALL: Mountaineers go from finesse to physical http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141020/DM03/141029876 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141020/DM03/141029876 Mon, 20 Oct 2014 22:32:29 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - No matter how often West Virginia runs the ball, pulls its guards and topples defenders, there remains a perception that's more of a stigma and is rapidly becoming a falsehood that the Mountaineers use finesse to move the ball.

They do spread out formations, seek to isolate receivers in space and ask their quarterback to avoid hits at all costs. They play with an extra player in the secondary so they can be faster on defense and they all but concede their linemen aren't big enough to play without help.

But what WVU engaged in during Saturday's win at Baylor was anything but soft, and the timing was unmistakably critical. The tenor of a 41-27 victory didn't erase last season's 73-42 loss to the Bears, but it did prevent another embarrassment.

"The mentality this game was to play their game," WVU running backs coach JaJuan Seider said. "We were not going to be intimidated by anybody. They were not going to come in here and run over us again. They embarrassed us last year. Call it like you see it. They kicked our butts up and down the field.

"But as a man, you've got to look yourself in the mirror and say, 'That is not going to happen. Not on our field. Not in front of our crowd."

What worked for the Mountaineers last week can't work against them this week. No. 22 WVU (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) plays Oklahoma State at Boone Pickens Stadium at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN. The Mountaineers won last season's game at home.

The Mountaineers ran the ball 50 times against Baylor. It's the second consecutive week and the fourth time this season they've had at least 50 runs. They never ran the ball 50 times in coach Dana Holgorsen's first three seasons.

Running back Rushel Shell hit a Baylor defender so hard he hurt himself and came out of the game. Tight end Cody Clay shoved a safety out of the way on one play and then saw the safety avoid him on the next, which was a touchdown run by Dreamius Smith on the last of five straight runs. When WVU had to run out the clock on the final possession, running back Wendell Smallwood pushed forward for a pair of game-ending first downs.

"They knew it was coming and we still hit their guys in the mouth," Seider said. "There was nothing finesse about that. We can play finesse if we want to, but we're still going to come off the ball and hit you."

Even what the Mountaineers did with their passes was a bit more brutish than usual. Receiver Kevin White won one-on-one matchups outside to get open for eight receptions for 132 yards and two scores, but he also battled with defensive backs and drew five pass interference penalties, plus a facemask penalty as he shoved a defender to the ground.

A screen pass at the end of the first half was "probably the best we've run that play all year," according to offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, because WVU knocked Bears over and shoved them aside.

"We knew it was going to be rough and dirty," Smith said.

There were also 32 penalties in the game. The Bears, now the most-penalized team in the country, had seven defensive pass interference penalties and four personal fouls. WVU committed seven personal fouls. All of it was the product of the game and one team matching the other with actions during and after the play.

"I could have told you it was going to look like this," Holgorsen said. "They had 17 (penalties) against Central Florida (in January's Fiesta Bowl loss). They average about 12. It's how they play.

"We were going to do the same thing. We weren't going to be intimidated. We were going to be physical. I told our guys to take chances. I told our guys in man coverage to be physical."

Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson took that advice. His team attacked.

"A year ago, they did that to us," he said. "They physically beat us up and physically assaulted our kids. Coming into the week, I told them, 'You better respect them, but you better not fear them.'"

He did not want his players to be passive, and he had a hunch the Bears didn't like to be pressured. The Mountaineers played man-to-man defense, and sometimes the cornerbacks had only one safety - and sometimes none - to help out.

"They didn't expect us to come out and play like we did," WVU cornerback Ishmael Banks said. "That caught them off guard because last year, all we did was sit back in coverage on defense."

WVU's constant pressure delivered four sacks after having just eight in the first six games. The Bears allowed only seven sacks in the first six games.

"We knew we had to get to the quarterback," West Virginia linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski said. "Playing aggressive and putting him under as much pressure as we could to get a sack or force a bad throw or just knock him down was our biggest emphasis."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu.

]]>
WVU FOOTBALL: Gibson's plan worked to perfection (video and photos) http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141019/DM03/141019108 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141019/DM03/141019108 Sun, 19 Oct 2014 21:23:44 -0400 By Mike Casazza

(Reading on our app? Click here for video and more photos)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Tony Gibson might have been crazy, but he was not insane.

West Virginia's defensive coordinator spent last Sunday watching how other teams went about defending what was then the nation's leader in points and yards per game. He would not do what so many others before him tried with no success and expect a different result.

He'd be different. He's be aggressive. He'd be physical. He'd be questioned.

"If you watch the film, you'd be scared about what you did see," he said. "But nobody had ever done that to them the whole game. We were going to keep the pressure on them rather than drop guys back."

So he met with his coaches that day and explained the plan: Crowd the line of scrimmage, blitz a lot and demand the cornerbacks thrive in one-on-one coverage.

An assistant spoke up, remembering Gibson coaches the linebackers now after coaching the safeties before.

"I can tell you don't coach the defensive backs anymore," the voice said.

Gibson convinced the room it was the right thing to do, even if it was a little risky and might further facilitate a Heisman Trophy contender at quarterback who excels at hitting receivers in open space.

"I didn't care," coach Dana Holgorsen said. "I thought it was the best thing to do. He thought it was the best thing to do, and I seconded it."

Gibson then met with the players. The plan excited the linebackers, who knew they'd be attacking quarterback Bryce Petty and his massive offensive line. The cornerbacks were a little less enthusiastic.

"Whoa," cornerback Ishmael Banks said, "that's the plan?"

It was the plan and it was the difference. Gibson's defense held Baylor to its lowest yardage total (318) in four years, sacked Petty four times and stopped the Bears on 13 of 16 third downs in a 41-27 victory Saturday before 60,758 at Mountaineer Field.

The Bears dropped from No. 4 to No. 12 in the Associated Press poll. WVU appeared for the first time since the 2012 season at No. 22.

"It was effective," Gibson said. "I wouldn't want to go back and play them again next week when they know what's coming."

WVU (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) looked closely at Baylor's overall offensive prowess and found something on third down. Baylor had faced 119 third downs in the first six games, but needed 6 or fewer yards 97 times.

The Mountaineers believed their defense was a suitable match. In their six games, they'd forced 97 third downs and 50 needed more than 6 yards.

Gibson wanted to make first down miserable for the Bears (6-1, 3-1). Linebackers, a safety and sometimes two safeties stepped toward the line of scrimmage to stop the run. The cornerbacks played close to prevent quick throws if the call was a pass. The Mountaineers controlled the early downs and set up third downs the way they wanted.

Baylor faced 11 third downs that needed more than 6 yards for a first down. The Bears converted two and none in the second half.

"If you do the breakdowns and watch them, nobody's been able to do that to them," Gibson said. "That's where we kept them off balance."

The Mountaineers won their first home game against a top-five team since 2003 on the strength of those third downs. Petty was 4-for-14 passing for 59 yards and two first downs. That included a 63-yard touchdown to Antwan Goodley on one of the rare times WVU's plan failed, but also on a play that saw the Bears block downfield to wipe out a cornerback and create the score.

Three of WVU's four sacks were on third down, as well. One of Shaq Riddick's three sacks came late in the third quarter and gave WVU the ball to take a 27-20 lead. Another was a one-handed feat by Brandon Golson in the fourth quarter that gave WVU the ball to take a 34-27 lead.

Entering the game, Petty was just 17-for-33 for 183 yards and 12 first downs on third down, and he and his receivers were erratic against the Mountaineers.

"I wanted to see if he could do it under extreme pressure," Gibson said. "I thought our blitzes were good. Sometimes we weren't getting home, but we were affecting the throw because he was seeing the rush and getting rid of the ball. Sometimes he was throwing under the route and the receivers kept running. Sometimes they'd pull up and he'd overthrow them."

Baylor, the Big 12's leader in rushing this season and the past two seasons, could only run twice on third down and totaled minus-two yards. That included a 1-yard touchdown run that only happened after a third-and-goal stop was erased by an offsides penalty.

The success came despite an unexpected development. Gibson was using Banks and fellow backup Ricky Rumph with starters Daryl Worley and Terrell Chestnut to cover receivers better behind the pressure. Cornerback Jaylon Myers was a deep safety who could help the others or come forward to cover a fifth receiver.

Safeties K.J. Dillon and safety Karl Joseph would move forward to be linebackers next to linebacker Shaq Petteway and they'd pressure with Riddick and Golson at ends and defensive end Eric Kinsey at nose guard.

It worked early, but Chestnut and Worley were lost to injury in the first half. Halftime couldn't come soon enough for Gibson, but his team led 24-20.

"I said, 'Guys, I'm not going to draw anything on the board. I don't know what to tell you. Keep doing what you're doing,' " Gibson said. "Sometimes good coaching is leaving your players alone. I didn't want to screw up anything. They were hitting at a high level."

WVU played its base defense on early downs and its nickel package with safety Jarrod Harper as the extra defensive back after halftime. Baylor managed one touchdown, and that 92-yard drive was the only one to go more than 32 yards.

"We probably played better going back to the regular packages," Rumph said, "because the guys we did have were real familiar with that."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

]]>
Chuck McGill: WVU handles adversity in pivotal win http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141019/DM03/141019110 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141019/DM03/141019110 Sun, 19 Oct 2014 21:18:40 -0400 By Chuck McGill MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia's Wendell Smallwood hesitated on the opening kickoff and made the ill-advised decision to bring the football out of the end zone. He was tackled at the 9-yard line, a 16-yard swing if he would've taken a knee for the touchback.

Then, on first down, quarterback Clint Trickett threw into double coverage and severely missed his target, Mario Alford. Rushel Shell was stuffed for a 1-yard gain on the next play. Trickett was sacked and fumbled on third down, giving visiting Baylor - first nationally in points and No. 1 in total offense - the ball on the 7.

It took the Bears one play to score a touchdown, and it seemed then-No. 4 Baylor, an 8-point favorite against the Mountaineers, was off and running again.

"We probably have the worst first drive you can probably have," West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said.

"It was pretty bad," added WVU coach Dana Holgorsen, before adding, "but nobody panicked."

Instead, the Mountaineers overcame themselves and flummoxed the opposition after Baylor's quick-strike touchdown 59 seconds into the game, and outscored the Bears by three touchdowns in the final 59 minutes of Saturday's game in front of 60,758 at Mountaineer Field. WVU defeated Baylor, 41-27, for its first win over a top five team at home since 2003, and nudged its way into the Associated Press poll at No. 22.

The Mountaineers (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) are ranked for the first time since the 2012 season that ended with six losses in eight games.

This WVU team, unlike the one two seasons ago, is trending up in late October, as evidenced by the unlikely thought of outscoring Baylor 41-20 after flubbing the first five plays.

The Bears' 318 yards on offense - more than 300 below their average - was the fewest for the program in 55 games. Baylor had been 17-0 all-time under coach Art Briles when forcing three or more turnovers, which it had accomplished by the first play of the second quarter.

WVU had two punts and three turnovers in its first six possessions, and little went the home team's way.

Shell, the starter at running back, left with an ankle injury and carried the ball three times before exiting for the game. Smallwood, the most likely running back to spell Shell, missed time. The plan to use four cornerbacks against the Bears hit a major snag when starters Daryl Worley and Terrell Chestnut were lost for the game because of first-half injuries.

"It didn't change our game plan," Holgorsen said. "We didn't blink."

The Mountaineers stared down adversity, survived and thrived.

It wasn't just the personnel losses, self-inflicted wounds or ill-timed penalties that portended something calamitous.

Trickett, WVU's starting quarterback, was under the weather, according to teammate and star receiver Kevin White. The fifth-year senior QB shook off an injury to his throwing hand when he hit the hand off a defender's helmet on the follow through. Then, after the game, the media learned of that medical issues would keep Trickett's father, Rick, from coaching Florida State's offensive line in a game against Notre Dame on Saturday night.

Trickett didn't make his usual postgame appearance with the media. He threw for 322 yards, his eight consecutive game with 300-plus passing yards, and had the go-ahead and game-icing touchdowns to White and Alford, respectively, in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, a week after Baylor scored 24 fourth-quarter points to erase a 21-point deficit against TCU, the Bears were blanked in the final period by the Mountaineers and managed just 74 yards of offense on 22 plays. Baylor (6-1, 3-1 Big 12) scored one touchdown on its final nine possessions.

"If you've got depth, you've got a chance to win these games," Holgorsen said. "We felt like we were pretty good. We were disappointed in Oklahoma, we were disappointed in Alabama ... we didn't feel good about just being in the game."

WVU is in it now. The Mountaineers, picked eighth out of 10 teams in the preseason Big 12 poll, are tied for second place in the league with five conference games to go. There is little respite ahead.

West Virginia alternates road and home games the rest of the way, starting with this Saturday's game at Oklahoma State. Home games against No. 10 TCU and No. 11 Kansas State remain, plus road trips to Texas and Iowa State, loom.

The Mountaineers appeared on 52 of 60 Associated Press poll ballots when the results were revealed Sunday afternoon. Three voters placed WVU as high as No. 13 and 14 have the Mountaineers somewhere in the teens.

That's a surprising finish after such a dreadful start.

]]>
WVU SOCCER: No. 13 Mountaineer women top No. 9 Kansas http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141019/DM03/141019127 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141019/DM03/141019127 Sun, 19 Oct 2014 19:02:28 -0400

FROM STAFF REPORTS

LAWRENCE, Kan. - Senior forward Kate Schwindel did what no other opponent has done to No. 9 Kansas all season - scored twice in one game - and the No. 13-ranked West Virginia University women's soccer team pushed its unbeaten streak to 12 matches with a 2-0 win over the Jayhawks Sunday at Rock Chalk Park.

Sunday's win is the Mountaineers' (11-2-2, 4-0-1) second of the season over a ranked opponent and first over a top-10 foe, giving WVU at least one victory over a top-10 team in each of the last 10 seasons.

The Mountaineers close out the regular season with a three-match homestand at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium. WVU opens against Oklahoma State on Friday with kick set for 7 p.m.

]]>
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: WVU, Marshall make Mountain State poll history http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141019/DM03/141019137 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141019/DM03/141019137 Sun, 19 Oct 2014 15:16:20 -0400

FROM STAFF REPORTS

West Virginia University and Marshall University teamed up to make Associated Press poll history Sunday.

The college football top 25 poll, as voted on by 60 media members nationwide, ranked WVU at No. 22 and Marshall at No. 23, the first time ever the Mountain State's two Football Bowl Subdivision programs have appeared in the regular-season AP rankings at the same time.

The only other voting week this occurred was the final poll of the 2002 season, which was released Jan. 4, 2003 after the bowl games. The Thundering Herd was No. 24 in that poll after defeating Louisville, 38-15, in the GMAC Bowl. The Mountaineers finished 25th that season after losing to Virginia, 48-22, in the Continental Tire Bowl. In the last AP top 25 poll before the bowls that season, WVU was No. 13 and the Herd sat in the others receiving votes category.

West Virginia (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) cracked the top 25 for the first time this season after defeating then-No. 4 Baylor, 41-27, Saturday in Morgantown. The Bears plummeted eight spots to No. 12. West Virginia has won three consecutive Big 12 games after losing to then-No. 4 Oklahoma on Sept. 20. The Mountaineers have won five of six games since the season-opening loss to Alabama, with wins over Towson, Maryland, Kansas, Texas Tech and Baylor.

Marshall (7-0, 3-0 Conference USA) is in the national rankings for consecutive weeks after winning at Florida International, 45-13, Saturday in Miami. The Thundering Herd, one of four remaining undefeated teams in the FBS, moved up two spots.

The Mountaineers accumulated 272 points by appearing on 52 of 60 possible ballots. Three voters ranked WVU at No. 13.

The Thundering Herd compiled 184 points and appeared on 44 ballots, with one voter placing Marshall at No. 15. Sixteen voters did not rank the Herd.

MU has won eight consecutive games dating back to last season.

WVU visits Oklahoma State this Saturday after the Cowboys tumbled from the national polls. Marshall hosts Florida Atlantic.

]]>
WVU FOOTBALL: Mountaineers stun No. 4 Baylor http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141018/DM03/141019161 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141018/DM03/141019161 Sat, 18 Oct 2014 19:25:34 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Tony Gibson can relax.

The West Virginia defensive coordinator trusted a risky game plan against a prolific passing offense and did so without his starting cornerbacks, but was wildly rewarded. The Mountaineers suffocated No. 4 Baylor and the nation's leading scoring offense for a 41-27 victory before 60,758 at Mountaineer Field Saturday.

"I haven't eaten much the last 48 hours and I haven't slept much the last 48 hours," Gibson said. "All I heard about all week from some of you guys and some of the TV people and from listening to the TV, even though I try to block all that out, was this was going to be a track meet.

"I took it as a personal challenge and the defensive coaches took it personally, but it all falls back to the kids. We can't go out there and play."

Defensive end Shaq Riddick had three of the team's four sacks, cornerbacks Ricky Rumph and Ishmael Banks played solidly after starters Terrell Chestnut and Daryl Worley were lost to injury in the first half and the aggressive Mountaineers held Baylor to 318 total yards, the offensive juggernaut's lowest total since October 2010.

The Bears (6-1, 3-1) had just 223 yards passing and went 3-for-18 on third down as WVU (5-2, 3-1) asked its cornerbacks to play man-to-man and hang on while the linebackers hovered around the line of scrimmage and blitzed.

The Mountaineers decided Sunday that was their best chance to beat Baylor.

"I think they didn't expect us to come out and play man like we did," Banks said. "It caught them off guard. Last year, we sat back in coverage and their offense spread us out and we left big holes inside. We had to keep guys in the box and tell the corners to earn their scholarship check."

In the 73-42 win in Waco, Texas, last season, Baylor ran for 476 yards. In the rematch, WVU allowed just 95 yards on 42 attempts and five first downs on the ground.

Little went right offensively last season, either, and Clint Trickett was pulled from the game in the third quarter. He, too, did better with his second chance and completed 23 of 35 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns. He extended his school record with an eighth straight 300-yard game and also brushed off a turnover on the third play of the game and another on the fourth series.

Receiver Kevin White caught eight passes for 132 yards and scores in the first and fourth quarter. He has at least 100 yards in every game this season and was the first receiver in the nation to surpass 1,000 yards. Mario Alford caught three passes for 53 yards, and his 39-yard touchdown on third-and-10 with 7:27 put the game out of reach.

WVU would get the ball back two more times and Wendell Smallwood picked up two first downs on the final drive to drain the clock. The Mountaineers ran the ball 50 times for 137 yards, but three sacks cost the total 25 yards and a two more yards went away when Trickett took a knee on the final snap to start the celebration for the first home win against a top-five team since 2003.

"Credit goes to West Virginia," Baylor coach Art Briles said. "They played with a lot of energy and a lot of emotion. We knew the crowd would be engaging, which they obviously were. They played a good game.

"We had a good opportunity early in the game and didn't take advantage of it. We had to settle for field goals. In particular on the road, you have to score touchdowns. That came back to haunt us in the second half."

Quarterback Bryce Petty completed just 16 of 36 passes for 223 yards and two scores. Antwan Goodley caught nine passes for 132 yards and a long touchdown and Corey Coleman added 77 yards and an early touchdown.

"They had a pretty good plan and loaded the box and pressured a lot - a lot more than we thought they would," Petty said. "At the end of the day, I've got the ball in my hands and I've got to be sure what I do helps the team be successful. I was off."

Baylor set a school, Big 12, Mountaineer Field, WVU game and WVU opponent record with 215 penalty yards. The 18 penalties were one shy of a school record and matched the WVU field, game and opponent records. Six of the penalties were for pass interference and five came defending White.

WVU committed 14 penalties for 138 yards and the two teams combined to beat school and site records for penalties and penalty yards in a game.

"I've never been involved with anything like that," Briles said.

WVU took a 27-20 lead early in the third quarter on Josh Lambert's 24-yard field goal, but the Bears tied the score when Shock Linwood twirled into the end zone on a 1-yard run on third-and-goal. That only came about after when WVU was flagged for lining up offside when it stopped Linwood short on third-and-goal.

WVU and Baylor each followed with punts, but Trickett threw a perfect fade to White in the corner of the end zone for a 12-yard score before answering a Baylor punt with the long pass to Alford.

"I was pretty excited about that one," Holgorsen said. "We'd been working on that one against man coverage when they blitz it. We finally hit it."

The Mountaineers led 24-20 at halftime and somehow managed to take all the momentum into the locker room despite three turnovers and losing one starter on offense and two on defense for the game.

The Bears took a 20-14 lead with 8:21 to go in the half when Goodley got behind Chestnut to catch a long pass and then cut left across the field and scored for a 63-yard touchdown. Coleman blindsided Chestnut with a clean block that knocked Chestnut out of the game.

WVU went three-and-out and Baylor went at WVU's two backup cornerbacks with a 10-yard pass on first down. Riddick then sacked Petty and Banks batted down a pass to force a punt. The Mountaineers countered with a touchdown run from Dreamius Smith, who was playing because starter Rushel Shell was injured earlier. Smith carried on all five plays on the drive.

Baylor then ran twice for two yards and Petty was hurried and threw short of Goodley on third down for a three-and-out. The Mountaineers lined 11 players up on the line of scrimmage for the punt for the second time in the half and Baylor managed a 69-yard kick to push WVU back to its 9-yard line with 2:54 to go.

The Mountaineers took every second and completed a 16-yard pass on third-and-11 and a 24-yard pass on third-and-15 to set up Lambert's 54-yard field goal as time expired for a 24-20 lead.

A lead seemed unlikely throughout the half, though. Trickett was sacked and lost a fumble at his 7 on the third play of the game and Petty threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Coleman on Baylor's first snap for a 7-0 lead 59 seconds into the game.

Trickett answered with a 36-yard touchdown pass to White, who was in 1-on-1 coverage, which didn't happen much the rest of the game. The teams traded punts and Baylor added a 38-yard field goal before Trickett was intercepted on third-and-3 to set up a 34-yard Baylor field goal.

Chris Callahan was 0-for-5 from 30 yards or longer entering the game, but his two kicks made WVU's opponents 12-for-12 on the season. The teams punted back to one another again, but Baylor's kick was fumbled by starting cornerback Daryl Worley, who had to run up to catch the short kick and was hurt when he dived forward. He injured a rib and did not return.

The Bears took over at the WVU 29, but ended up giving the ball back after Petty overthrew Goodley on what should have been a touchdown pass on fourth down.

The Mountaineers responded quickly, and Trickett's 37-yard pass to White, Smallwood's 10-yard run and the fourth pass interference penalty of the half against White moved the ball to the Baylor 12. Andrew Buie put WUV ahead 14-13 with a 1-yard run.

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

]]>
MOUNTAINEER GAMEDAY: Attitude key to WVU defensive success http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141018/DM03/141019191 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141018/DM03/141019191 Sat, 18 Oct 2014 01:43:46 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN - K.J. Dillon jogged off the football field Saturday, the first drive under his shoulder pads, his eyes building, his heart pounding. He found defensive coordinator Tony Gibson and offered up a confession.

"Coach," said the junior safety, who more than once this season has been described as the key to whatever good West Virginia does on defense, "that No. 11 can run."

That No. 11 was Texas Tech's Jakeem Grant, and he might be the fastest player in the Big 12. He is a diminutive dynamo, all of 5-foot-6 and 170 pounds, but stout and speedy and thus a handful in the slot. Dillon is WVU's Spur and is charged with covering such players.

It did not go well in that first half Saturday and that was not good news to Gibson, not merely because Dillon is supremely confident and sincerely believes he is faster, stronger and better than everyone on the other team. No, this was a frightening flashback.

"K.J. early on in the game didn't play well," Gibson said. "It was probably, if you go back, the same game a year ago and the same thing with Texas Tech. He just didn't play well."

Dillon got himself in trouble as the Mountaineers fell behind 21-10, but he got them out of trouble before halftime. WVU was playing a Cover 3 defense with three safeties deep, until one safety, freshman Dravon Henry, took Texas Tech's bait and jumped forward to cover a shallow crossing route.

That let Grant arch uncovered across the middle to where Henry should have been. For some reason, Tech's quarterback, Davis Webb, missed it and threw deep along the right sideline. And for some reason, Dillon was there, having spun sharply when he read Webb's eyes and mind and raced back to be in position to float over and intercept the pass.

The storm was over and WVU would head to halftime, which was said to be the most constructive one of the season. It showed in the second half, where the Mountaineers allowed two field goals - both in the red zone and one following a WVU turnover - and a 69-yard touchdown run that only happened because two players conspired cripple the play.

"In years past, in games past, we would have been done," coach Dana Holgorsen said. "Maturity is big. We've got a lot of kids on defense who have played a lot of ball and they understand going into their third year in the Big 12 what the offenses are like."

Grasping that, simply knowing there are going to be bad moments, makes it easier to swallow them and move forward.

"Guys understand what we're trying to accomplish on defense," Holgorsen said. "You're not going to suffocate teams like Baylor, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU. The list goes on and on. You're not going to suffocate them. Nobody is. What you can do is keep playing defense and maintain a positive attitude and get excited about key stops. That translates into winning games."

That constitution is going to be severely and repeatedly challenged when the Mountaineers (4-2, 2-1 Big 12) play host to No. 4 Baylor (6-0, 3-0) at noon Saturday on Fox Sports 1. The Bears come to town with the nation's top-ranked offense, a Heisman Trophy contender at quarterback, a scary swarm of receivers and the Big 12's best running game.

Yet WVU enters with that positive attitude, with a handle on that obtuse approach and even with a little bit of momentum.

Again.

A year ago, WVU won at home against then-No. 11 Oklahoma State and held the Cowboys to offensive marks they hadn't dipped to in quite some time. The Mountaineers felt like they were figuring things out and that they would get better, and perhaps the two would combine to give them a chance on the road at Baylor.

Nope. The Bears scored on a 61-yard touchdown on the third play when WVU had one of those dreadful mental errors that defined last season's group and still pop up often enough to make Gibson ill. It was 56-14 at the half and 73-42 at the end. Rather than recite all the numbers, just know WVU had never played as poorly on defense. Ever.

Gibson said he'd never been as embarrassed and the performance left a mark.

"It lingered for the rest of the year," he said. "We never got back on track defensively after that game. Some of that was maybe playing young guys and some of it was maybe lost confidence and some of it was due to injury - that was the first game where we started losing guys.

"But that lingered throughout the rest of the season. In the offseason, we moved on and forgot about it. It's a whole new deal. And it doesn't matter what this final score ends up being this game. I'm not worried about where we are. We're a completely different group right now."

How different? In last year's disaster, WVU started two defensive linemen and a safety who were seniors, a linebacker who is out for this season and a defensive end who has missed the past two games probably won't play Saturday, one linebacker who doesn't really play anymore and another who is now a backup defensive end and a cornerback who quit the team earlier this season.

This season, WVU will start All-America FCS transfer Shaq Riddick and sophomore Noble Nwachukwu at defensive end and converted defensive end Kyle at nose guard. Junior college transfer Ed Muldrow and veterans Wes Tonkery and Nick Kwiatkoski, who barely played in last season's game because of injuries, will start at linebacker. Daryl Worley, who didn't start last season, will start at cornerback and is now the best the team. Cornerback Icky Banks and safeties K.J. Dillon and Karl Joseph return to fill out the starting lineup.

Recruiting and maturation, which is the general and necessary evolution of any program, have helped this defense. They still make errors, but they get over them. They fall behind, but they understand it's a long game. And their confidence, their general knowledge of the game and how to play it, is fostered by what Gibson admits is a simpler scheme.

"I would think a simple scheme lets them play faster and a little harder when they don't have to think as much," Gibson said.

These Mountaineers rarely ever add to their core package. A year ago, they built game plans from week to week and designed things for opponents. This year, WVU worries about itself and getting better at what it does. What the defense will do in game seven is what it did in game one, except that things should be better now than they were then.

And that is why Gibson will use Saturday's game to measure how far his team has come from the worst experience of his career.

"No doubt," he said. "This will be when we see where we're at. If we go out and execute and play hard and just don't blow any assignments to give, we'll have a good idea of who we are and what we are as a defense."

]]>
WVU FOOTBALL: Mountaineers, Bears armed with comeback experience http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141016/DM03/141019285 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141016/DM03/141019285 Thu, 16 Oct 2014 21:35:33 -0400 By Chuck McGill MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The clock ticked as Baylor running back Shock Linwood rushed for three yards. The Bears were down 21 points to a top-10 team, and just more than 11 minutes remained.

No problem.

"Someone told us the odds of us winning at that point was something like 1.9 percent," Baylor offensive tackle Spencer Drango said, "so we that we decided we wanted to take those odds."

The Bears scored on its final four possessions - three touchdowns and a field goal - to defeat TCU, 61-58, last Saturday after trailing 58-37 with 11:38 left of the fourth quarter. Baylor's offense piled up 228 yards on 14 plays on the final four drives - an average of 16.3 yards per snap.

West Virginia doesn't need reminded that No. 4 Baylor can score quickly. The Bears have averaged 68 points in two previous meetings against the Mountaineers, and have 19 touchdowns against two punts in those eight quarters of football.

If WVU (4-2, 2-1 Big 12) needs a comeback this Saturday (noon, Fox Sports 1) when it hosts Baylor (6-0, 3-0 Big 12), it has confidence that it can be done. On the same day the Bears erased a three-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter, the Mountaineers scored 17 unanswered points in the final period to beat Texas Tech, 37-34, on the road. The Red Raiders led 34-20 with 7:32 left.

"What we did against Texas Tech they did against Baylor," WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. "They were down 21 points and found a way to be able to come back."

Baylor faced a 21-point deficit during its last trip to Morgantown and scored twice to trim the deficit to one score. WVU answered with a one-play, 87-yard drive on a pass from Geno Smith to Stedman Bailey.

If the Mountaineers are going to get over the hump against top five teams - WVU has lost to No. 2 Alabama and No. 4 Oklahoma this season - it'll need to come up with answers and stops. If WVU doesn't have enough of the former or latter early, the experience gained in last week's come-from-behind win from Texas Tech should give the team confidence that it isn't over until the clock is at all zeroes.

"Just believing that you can win more than anything," Holgorsen said. "You've got to have kids that are experienced that believe that they can win. You better have a tight team that sticks together when they're down. They clearly have a tight team with all the games they've been able to win.

"I can't say enough about our coaches and players. We had a great halftime, we were down 21-10, made a lot of adjustments, motivated, challenged each other. Nobody gave up, everybody stuck together and found a way to win there at the end."

After Baylor trailed by three touchdowns against TCU, it had scoring drives of four plays for 45 yards, five plays for 92 yards and five plays for 91 yards to tie the game at 58-58. Meanwhile, the TCU offense had 18 plays for 53 yards on three drives that didn't muster a point.

"It's just amazing to me the team that we have," Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty said. "I was going up and down the sideline like 'Hey guys, we got this' and they would look at me like 'Yeah, I know.'

"It's just confidence, that I got your back, you got my back, we've been through worse. It was just a matter of time before things started picking up."

There should be plenty of opportunities for WVU and Baylor to mount a comeback in Saturday's game at a sold out Milan Puskar Stadium. The teams have combined for 248 points, 35 touchdowns and 11 punts in two meetings since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12.

The ability to whittle away at a deficit is a combination of experience and maturity.

"You can't really teach experience or read it in a book," Petty said. "You just have to live it. So for us, that was living proof that we can come back literally from anything."

West Virginia has won two games on last-second field goals, once after it frittered away a lead, another after it defied odds and erased a big deficit. Both wins came on the road.

"In years past, games past, they would've been done," Holgorsen said of his team. "Maturity is big."

Baylor is favored by 7.5 points Saturday. WVU won 70-63 on the Bears' last trip to Morgantown, while Baylor rolled to a 73-42 win last season.

"It is hard to predict games, especially in this league when you look at how good defenses are getting," Petty said. "I really do not think it was a lack of defense. I think you would be crazy if you said that. It is more or less the talent in the league right now is pretty outstanding.

"Road games are funky, especially in Morgantown. It will just be good to get out of there with a win, and that is what we are going to try and do."

]]>
WVU BASKETBALL: Improved Williams at center of Gold-Blue Debut http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141016/DM03/141019289 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141016/DM03/141019289 Thu, 16 Oct 2014 21:24:10 -0400 By MIKE CASAZZA

DAILY MAIL SPORTSWRITER

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. ­- There will be plenty to observe and admire when West Virginia unveils its men's basketball team Friday night. The Mountaineers will showcase seven first-year players at the Gold-Blue Debut at 7 p.m. at the Coliseum, and the ones who are back from last season's NIT team have added weight, muscle, speed or skill that could make them look or act a little different.

The man literally in the middle of the event that will feature a 30-minute scrimmage will be Devin Williams. The 6-foot-9, 260-pound sophomore tied Kansas center Joel Embiid, the third overall pick in last year's NBA draft, for the most double-doubles by a Big 12 freshman last season.

Williams dedicated the offseason to working on his low post offense and his upper body. He spent time with former WVU All-American Kevin Jones and borrowed Jones' tips to take little things and create a big gap between opponents.

"He's been so much better," said WVU coach Bob Huggins, who's had his team for a little less than two weeks of practice and still has more than two weeks to go before the Nov. 9 exhibition against Shepherd. "It's really night and day right now how much better he's been."

Williams, from Cincinnati, averaged 8.4 points and a team-high 7.2 rebounds last season and started 31 of 33 games. He had eight double-doubles, which was the fifth-best total in the Big 12, and one each in the final three games of the regular season.

But Williams played with a weight on his chest last season. He suffers from asthma and typically takes boring, though necessary Nebulizer treatments before activities and before bed to make sure he can breathe. When he needs it, he takes a puff or two from an inhaler, which, like the Nebulizer, is supposed to open up his airways and make breathing less of a burden.

Only two WVU freshmen had ever had more double-doubles in a season, so by most accounts his first season was a success. But it was a struggle, too.

"It was difficult," Williams said. "We do our warmup drills before practice and we really get into it, and then we'd go full-court as hard as we can. That kind of bothered me. It bothered my breathing."

What Williams was working with was really no different than a teammate handling the ball with a bum wrist or an opponent cutting on a bad ankle. It was only a matter of time until he was overcome. The big man was breathing hard and laboring from point to point, which is less than ideal for the player WVU tried to rely on for rebounds on defense and touches close to the basket on offense.

"I couldn't make it to the first media timeout," he said. "I was usually trying to fight through it by then."

His father had asthma when he was younger and Williams' brothers outgrew it, too. Williams was different because it crept up on him later in life and saddled him when he was in high school. If he thought he had it under control helping Florida's Montverde Academy to the National High School Invitational championship, he learned otherwise with the Mountaineers.

Yet Huggins had to learn to live with it, too. Williams had good days and bad days, but the Mountaineers coach came to recognize the days were not predictable, which meant the team couldn't find a pattern for playing time and breaks to keep Williams fresh.

"If was different all the time," Huggins said. "We couldn't say that if he goes a certain amount of time it was going to hit him. It varies. I'm sure the weather and what the climate was like were factors and different things affected it, but it wasn't a predictable thing."

Huggins said Williams took time in the offseason to seek help from doctors. They thought allergies were an additional problem and that if Williams could manage his allergies, he might also have better control of his asthma.

Williams was a willing patient and has so far noticed a significant change.

"It's way better," he said. "It still gets to me here and there, but as far as where it was last year, it's way better. I run a whole lot better than last year. I last longer, too."

These Mountaineers intend to defend and rebound harder. If Huggins can find the right number and combination of players, they might press, too. WVU will rely less on the perimeter for offense with Eron Harris and Terry Henderson, last season's top 3-point shooters, sitting out as transfers at Michigan State and North Carolina State, respectively.

That turns the attention to the inside, where junior college transfer Jonathan Holton projects to be a player who scores off rebounds and by making himself available to teammates. That's also where WVU hopes Williams emerges as a quick and easy access to a score when the offense needs one.

"I think Devin has made tremendous progress in that area," Huggins said. "I think he scores the ball so much better around the basket. It's nice when you can throw it close and kind of stop the bleeding, so to speak, when people are making runs. I think Dev can do that for us." 

Whatever the tactic, no matter what end of the court, endurance is a significant part of WVU's plan. If Huggins is wary of one or the other now, it's not because he doubts Williams.

"He's been great," Huggins said. "I think he's probably learned to deal with it better. It hasn't been noticeable the way it was a year ago. It stuck out like a sore thumb a year ago."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

]]>
WVU FOOTBALL: Bradley has ties to Baylor star, coaching staff http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141015/DM03/141019461 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141015/DM03/141019461 Wed, 15 Oct 2014 19:19:58 -0400 By Chuck McGill MORGANTOWN - Tom Bradley and Shawn Oakman were once on the same side at Penn State.

Bradley, the West Virginia University football assistant, and Oakman, a star defensive end for Baylor, will be on opposite sidelines this Saturday when the Mountaineers (4-2, 2-1 Big 12) host the No. 4 Bears (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) at noon (Fox Sports 1).

Oakman is a 6-foot-9, 280-pound junior who is tied for 18th in the FBS in sacks (five) and nearly half of his tackles have been for a loss (8 of 17).

"I know Shawn well," Bradley said Tuesday. "We recruited Shawn out of high school, redshirted him as a freshman. I got to see him a lot on the scout team, what he did. No question we thought Shawn would be a great player. We knew his athleticism."

Oakman was a four-star prospect out of Penn Wood High School in Lansdowne, Pa. He signed with Penn State, but left after the 2011 season. Now he is being talked about as a potential first-round NFL draft pick.

"He's a guy, I know he's tall and all, but he's a very athletic person," Bradley said. "We were excited that we got him. Am I surprised about where he is? Not really. He's always been a hard worker and a good football player and had good instincts.

"He's catching up now, putting on weight and I'm happy for him."

Bradley's ties to Baylor aren't limited to Oakman.

Phil Bennett, Baylor's defensive coordinator, held the same role at the University of Pittsburgh for three seasons.

"We used to call each other late at night and commiserate," Bradley said.

Brian Norwood is the safeties coach for the Bears, a position he held for seven seasons at Penn State while Bradley was the defensive coordinator. Bradley remembers Norwood's son, Levi, as a young child. Levi Norwood is a senior receiver for Baylor.

Baylor's defensive line coach, Chris Achuff, was a graduate assistant at Penn State in 2002 and 2003.

"It's going to be fun to say hello to those guys," Bradley said.

* * *

BAYLOR IS ninth nationally in sacks with 21, although nine of those came in the season opener against Southern Methodist. The Bears have six sacks in three Big 12 games.

"They're going to zero blitz you," WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. "Oklahoma didn't zero blitz you, they just had two guys who charged upfield. Baylor is different. They're one of the leaders in the country in sacks."

A zero blitz is when the defense sends one more defender on a blitz than the offense can block.

"It's the most complete rush we've seen because not only do you have two ends that rush, but you have two thick guys inside that rush, and then they bring 'backers in the middle and through the B gaps," Holgorsen said. "They're going to do anything they can to get to the quarterback."

* * *

BAYLOR SENIOR quarterback Bryce Petty is 13th nationally at 306.8 passing yards per game. He has 1,534 yards and 15 touchdowns against three interceptions. Last season, he finished with 4,200 yards and a 32-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting.

"He's big, he's fast, he's strong, he's smart," Holgorsen said of Petty. "He runs their offense the way it's supposed to be run."

ESPN's Mel Kiper ranks Petty as the 12th-best NFL draft prospect and the top overall senior quarterback in college football.

Petty isn't the only reason the Baylor offense ranks No. 1 out of 128 FBS programs in total offense, though. He has weapons.

"Probably as deep of a receiving corps as I've seen in college football," Holgorsen said.

* * *

BAYLOR IS college football's top scoring team with the No. 1 offense, but the first series hasn't been automatic for the Bears.

Still, WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson believes that first series is crucial for the Mountaineers.

"Something's got to give on that first series," Gibson said. "It's just one series, but you'd like to start the game off by getting them off the field."

The Bears scored on the first series of their first three games of the season, but since Big 12 play began Baylor has been held scoreless on the first offensive possession of each game. In fact, last week against TCU, Baylor didn't score on its first four possessions, starting with a turnover on downs. The Bears then fumbled the ball away and punted twice before finally cracking the Horned Frogs' defense.

Baylor finished with 20 possessions against TCU.

WVU hasn't allowed a touchdown on the first possession all season. Alabama kicked a field goal after a seven-play, 45-yard drive. Since then, the Mountaineers have forced four punts and intercepted a pass on the opposing team's first offensive possession of the game.

Overall, the West Virginia defense is allowing an average of 23.2 yards per first possession and 0.5 points.

]]>
Mike Casazza: Depth not an issue for WVU men http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141015/DM03/141019468 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141015/DM03/141019468 Wed, 15 Oct 2014 18:14:58 -0400 KANSAS CITY - Two things about this West Virginia basketball team are hard to ignore and important to highlight.

First is the roster. For the past two seasons, Bob Huggins spoke continually and correctly about how hard it is to coach the game, never mind coach his game, with first-year players who are new to the Division I level.

That's not groundbreaking, but that was never his point. Coaches can survive and succeed with a few first-year players, and talent makes everything come easier. Huggins was dealing with a lot of first-year players and they were not all the talented types who make things come easier.

These Mountaineers have two players who sat out last season, two freshmen and three junior college transfers. That's seven first-year players. Huggins will have 12 players at his disposal with it looking more likely now that senior forward Kevin Noreen's various surgeries that will keep him out until January will also keep him from being much of a factor at all.

Seven is a big number. Eight is a bigger number, and in the 2012-13 season, Huggins had eight first-year players. That team, perhaps improbably, won 19 games and made the NCAA Tournament, but could thank seniors Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant and junior Deniz Kilicli for much of that. Still, between the lines or behind the podium after a loss, you sensed that was not one of the coach's favorite teams.

A year later, WVU had six first-year players. Those Mountaineers went 13-19 and were the worst team Huggins had coached. When that season was over, three of the first-year players from the year before and two from that season were gone before they ran out of eligibility.

Last season, WVU had four freshmen play and had a freshman and a junior college player sit out because they were ineligible. The team went 17-16 and lost in the NIT, then lost two of the first-year players from the year before.

You see the trend and you understand the concern this season. The Mountaineers have the Big 12's best player in Juwan Staten, who was a problematic first-year player Huggins had to bench for a game in 2013, and some second-year players who must play better than WVU's second-season players have in the past, because seven is a big number.

But there's the second part about this team that's hard to ignore and important to highlight: Huggins really likes these Mountaineers, and his reasoning is sound and supported by his Big 12 peers who have been through the same.

"Sometimes it's harder to coach guys who have been around - sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes - because the things you have to do are very boring to them because they've done them before," Huggins said here Wednesday at Big 12 media day, giving you plenty of room to interpret that and recent defections however you choose.

"I think the challenge sometimes is to keep things as exciting as you can for those guys. When you have new guys like we have, everything is new and kind of exciting and they're kind of trying to listen to make sure they understand what they're doing so they don't embarrass themselves. And honestly, they've just brought so much more enthusiasm."

What's familiar to Huggins is common around the Big 12, a conference that not only recruits at a very high level and calls upon both junior and major college transfers to help, but also sees a wealth of underclassmen leave early and create openings that have to be filled sooner than planned.

The vacancies Huggins has been made to deal with are for very different reasons, but they exist, and the need to have a new player be an impact player is the same.

"The biggest thing for me is understanding you need patience with them and understanding it does take time," Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. "What you work on is how you approach the game mentally and how you play with aggression and not whether you run this play right. Their heads are spinning, but I want them to play hard. Don't let me tell you you're not playing hard."

The Mountaineers are a handful of practices into the season and the first exhibition isn't until Nov. 9. They aren't always running the motion offense properly, but they make their mistakes with effort and energy.

"The thing we do like about them is they're all very willing to learn," Huggins said.

In a sport where no two teams are the same, that matters.

"Some of these coaches run real tough systems, so you have to be cerebral to fit the offense," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "If you can't remember plays, you can't play. It's tough for any coach if you don't have a basketball IQ so you don't disrupt the flow of things.

"A lot of times they're coming in after being the best player on their team and things were geared around them. How quickly they're willing to adjust to being a good teammate and a good player who understands the physicality and the intensity of the Big 12 is important."

Early on, BillyDee Williams wasn't playing as hard or as fast as fellow junior college transfer Tarik Phillip. That's no longer the case, and Huggins said Williams has also become the team's best shooter. He's pushed himself to make those changes, which leads to a hidden benefit in this scenario.

Huggins has to play a lot of the first-year players. Starting spots and major roles are out there for someone to grab. If one player isn't going to take it, he has to know another player will. WVU couldn't use playing time as a consequence last season.

"It's hard to make them accountable when you don't have the numbers," Huggins said. "It's hard when you look down the bench and you're kind of void of guys you can put in the game. Now we're not."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

]]>
WVU BASKETBALL: Huggins breaks out bow tie for Media Day http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141015/DM03/141019483 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141015/DM03/141019483 Wed, 15 Oct 2014 17:12:31 -0400 By Mike Casazza KANSAS CITY - A year ago at the Big 12's basketball media day, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins turned the stage into a catwalk. He showed off a dark blue cardigan sweater with a gold Flying WV on the left side. He answered questions about his ensemble by telling reporters they were jealous and perhaps listless.

"It gives you something to write about," he said.

Huggins sent fingers flying again inside the Sprint Center on Wednesday. He wore a dark blue three-piece suit and a bow tie adorned with miniature Flying WVs.

"A tribute to our president," Huggins said, referencing E. Gordon Gee, who wears a bow tie to his job like Huggins wears a pullover to his. "It just kind of seemed like the right thing to do. And I'd kind of like to keep you guessing. I don't want people to think they've figured me out yet.

"I appreciate you being concerned about my wardrobe, though."

* * *

A MORE FAMILIAR look here has Kansas as the preseason favorite to win the conference. The Jayhawks were voted No. 1 by the coaches in the preseason poll again and they've had or shared that spot for six straight years and eight of the past nine. Since the Big 12 started in 1996, Kansas has been the preseason pick 15 times and no worse than third.

Of course, Kansas has followed through and won at least a share of the Big 12 title the past 10 years, but it's rarely ever obvious in the fall. Kansas and Oklahoma State tied for preseason No. 1 last season and Kansas and Texas A&M shared first in 2011-12. The Jayhawks were more than 10 points better than the second-place team just one time in the past six years, including this year's four-point cushion over Texas.

Kansas had six first-place votes and the Longhorns had three. Oklahoma had one and was only 11 points behind Kansas.

"The appearance is that there are going to be a lot of good teams in our league," Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. "Last year our league was fabulous. It was arguably the best league in America, and statistically it was the best league in America. This year I've seen a lot of the preseason publications, and a lot of them have five teams that are preseason top 25 teams, but to me, that really doesn't mean anything either. ... There are multiple teams that would have a legitimate shot at winning our league this year."

* * *

SELF SHARED an update on a unique dynamic between him and Huggins. The WVU coach earned a $25,000 incentive for beating Kansas in the regular-season finale last season. Self said before the game he wasn't bothered by the contract clause and that he and Huggins are good friends.

"I'm going to do everything I can to keep money out of his pocket, and if I don't, I know who's buying dinner," he told the Daily Mail.

Self said Wednesday that Huggins has not picked up a check.

"He's too tight," Self said. "Tell him that."

* * *

THE NCAA USHERED in new rules last season designed to eliminate the contact between a defensive player and the opponent with the ball. The goal was "ease of movement" and higher-scoring games. The concern was different and fans and media repulsed at the idea of lengthy free-throw shooting contests.

Curtis Shaw, a retired official and now the Big 12's coordinator of officiating, said the NCAA got it right.

"We ended up freeing up the basketball game, allowing our teams and our athletes to play basketball, to get in their motion, to get in their systems, and we got the results we wanted," he said. "The results were not necessarily more shots a game, but better shots a game. We didn't allow them to get physically beat up. They could get open looks, and it helped the basketball game. Scoring went up a little over five points a game, and the fouls only increased by about two a game."

Shaw said the emphasis will now shift to granting the same freedom to players moving without the ball, but also post play.

"We found out that 65 percent of the fouls called in the post against the defense were because we missed the first foul against the offense," Shaw said. "We were allowing offensive post players to come down the floor, blow the defender off the blocks, get an illegal post-up possession and then hold them off that post-up position. Then when the defender would come over the top, come back to where he needed to be, we would get them for a foul. So we realized we were penalizing the wrong person."

The major change this season, though, will be how officials interpret blocks and charges. A year ago, the NCAA introduced the three-foot restricted area under the basket, which Shaw said could be extended to four feet next year, when a rule change is permissible. A defender also had to be in position when the offensive player made an upward motion with the ball to pass or shoot.

Shaw said it was too subjective and then too confusing.

"We have tried for three or four years to figure out the terminology on the block/charge that makes it teachable for a coach to his defenders and makes it a play the referees can do," he said. "Last year we butchered it. What we intended to do in June got changed in September and got altered in November. By Jan. 1, I could watch film and couldn't tell you if it was right or wrong."

To simplify it, a defender now has to be set before the offensive player leaves his feet to shoot or pass, which takes away the ambiguous upward motion with the ball. It no longer matters whether it's the primary defender or a help defender. The defender can only move to jump straight up to contest the shot.

"Makes it easy for referees," Shaw said. "It's also made it easier with our coaches because they can now teach their defenders, 'If you can't get there and be still before you leave the ground, don't try to because you're going to get a blocking foul. Go up vertically, defend the rim, but don't try to draw a charge.'

"So the intent of the rule for safety, the intent of the rule for not allowing our great athletes to be up in the air and get undercut, this will make it easier to get the play right. If they get a blocking foul or two, they tend to quit helping out. They'll get there legally, they'll go up and they'll defend the rim."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu.

]]>