Monday, April 24, 2017

Media Will Say Otherwise, But WVU Had Great 2016

No matter what ESPN and the mainstream media says, the West Virginia Mountaineers have had a tremendous football season.

The 16th ranked Mountaineers finished their campaign at 10-2 overall and 7-2 within the Big 12, both win totals the highest they have had since they joined the conference five years ago.

If you have followed the college football playoff rankings over the last month or so, it’s possible WVU fans may think that this was an average year for Dana Holgorsen and his program. Besides, the West Virginia has been undervalued in each set of rankings with the exception of when they were beaten by Oklahoma by 28 points and then they only fell four spots, which is strange considering when they win it never seems to matter. But the committee has been anything but consistent, and strange would be an understatement to describe that fiasco group, but it is what it is.

Anyway, don’t listen to them. Focus on the Mountaineers.

West Virginia’s highs this year have definitely outweighed their lows. There are really only three lows on the season–losses to the aforementioned Sooners, a loss to the Oklahoma State Cowboys and unfortunate injuries at key positions. To say the state of Oklahoma wasn’t kind to WVU this year would be an understatement, but the state of Texas has been more than giving as the Mountaineers won at Texas Tech 48-17, beat TCU 34-10 and won in Austin, Texas over the Longhorns 24-20. They also closed out the season with a 24-21 victory over Baylor to seal a perfect 4-0 record against the Lonestar state.

And they did it in spite of major health concerns that plagued them all year.

WVU was beaten to a pulp when speaking of the injury bug. Before the season even started, two year starter Dravon Askew-Henry went down. Then prized freshman linebacker Brendan Ferns was lost in practice and was ruled out for the campaign. Fans began to panic and wondered if that was the kind of luck the team was destined for. Then during the Missouri game, starting left tackle Yodny Cajuste was hurt in the first quarter and later that week coach Holgorsen announced he too was done for several months.

But West Virginia, mainly Holgorsen and the whole coaching staff, just kept plugging players in that obviously had been well coached and prepared to step right in and contribute. That shows two things—that the staff has recruited well and that the players they are getting are good, coachable athletes. That most likely played a big part in Holgorsen receiving a five year contract extension.

Perhaps no other position has been as injury riddled as the running backs. Opening day starter Rushel Shell went down first and has had only one carry in the last four games. Justin Crawford, who has big numbers with 1,168 yards rushing and four scores (540 yards in last two games), has done so with a nagging ankle and knee injury pretty much all year. Kennedy McKoy has spelled those two nicely, but a nagging shoulder problem has slowed him the last few games. Still, the true freshman has run for 466 yards and is averaging 6.5 yards per carry. In the win over Iowa State, another true freshman, Martell Pettaway, was supposed to be redshirting, but was called into action midway through the first quarter and finished the game with 181 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries, and then added 63 more yards against Baylor. So even with all the health concerns there, fans have realized the running back spot will be loaded for a few years.

Receiver Ka’Raun White is now also lost for the year after breaking a bone in his foot against the Cyclones. Five other players were banged up in that contest as well, but here we are at the end of the season and the Mountaineers have 10 wins while overcoming all the negatives in the process.

But the CFP committee won’t tell you that, but it’s fine. I have been DONE with those biased lunatics for a few weeks now. Their ranking system makes Rich Rodriguez’s 3-9 Arizona team look like a title contender.

But my hope is that fans appreciate what the Mountaineers have put on the field this year. Skyler Howard has played his tail off, the running backs and receivers are deep and talented and the offensive line is arguably one of the top units in the nation. Not to mention Tony Gibson’s defense is tops in the Big 12 even after all the injuries that side of the football has dealt with as well.

Sure, they had a couple hiccups against the Oklahoma schools, but two losses all year up to this point is a great building block and next year the potential is there to be even better.

The focus now is for the 21 seniors to leave Morgantown on a high note with a Russell Athletic Bowl victory over the Miami Hurricanes. But no matter what happens in that contest and no matter what the media will continue to say, fans hopefully will appreciate the great season WVU has provided.

It has definitely been a fun ride.

 

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