Other than a hot-rod offense, couches and knowing ”Bob Huggins went home,” West Virginia has been somewhat of a secluded curiosity for Big 12 and Kansas State fans as it works through its first Big 12 season.
Kansas State’s turn to experience Morgantown is this Saturday, so for a better look at what the Wildcats team and fans have on tap this weekend, we turn to Chris Anderson of EerSports - part of the 247Sports network.
Anderson tackles everything from Geno Smith’s NFL prospects, WVU’s lack of defensive expectations, and a somewhat surprising answer regarding the locals’ view on couch burning.
1) We all saw the insane video game stats that Geno Smith put up earlier this year in that ridiculous Baylor game. We’ve also now seen a little adversity thanks to Texas Tech. On that spectrum, which is closer to the “normal” level of play.
Chris Anderson: I know it’s a cop out, but somewhere in the middle, maybe even trending toward the video game stats.
Having a stink bomb of a game is nothing new for Geno. Last year, a week after throwing for 450 yards and 4 TDs against UConn, he traveled up to Syracuse and was 24-of-41, threw two interceptions and was sacked four times. In 2010, the offense was far more subdued, but he was still abysmal, again versus Syracuse. He was 20-of-37 for 178 yards and three interceptions.
I think people just forgot about those types of games because of those ridiculous numbers he had earlier this season. They thought everything was clicking and he was past that. Apparently he’s not. The biggest question will be if he can rebound from that.
2) People already are looking very hard at Tech’s win and trying to determine if there was some sort of blue print for future opponents to use against the Mountaineers offense. Based on what you saw, were the Red Raiders exotic in any way? Were there some unexpected big plays made? Or, did Tech really find a go-to type defense that helped solve what seemed to be an impossible puzzle?
Anderson: I don’t think they did anything crazy and what they did do was certainly nothing new in how to slow down Geno Smith. What has caused Smith problems in the past has been pressure – both of those Syracuse teams had Chandler Jones, first round draft pick of the New England Patriots. He gets hit a couple times and the ball starts sailing on him. Next thing you know, he’s throwing off-balanced even when he doesn’t need to. The Red Raiders weren’t blitzing a lot, but their defensive line was still able to get into the backfield.
The other thing Texas Tech did well – and it’s no small task – is to “lock down” Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, the top two receivers. “Lock down” is relative here because Tavon still had 10 catches for 92 yards while Stedman had six for 56 and a touchdown while only playing the first half. Still, Geno was forced to throw the ball to other receivers and there were obvious problems. I counted six drops by wideouts during film review and there were several discussions about where receivers should have cut or stopped on certain routes. That connection just isn’t there with the third, fourth and fifth receivers.
3) What are your thoughts on Smith as an NFL quarterback? People in Kansas City are looking — with a lot of interest — at what might be available regarding quarterbacks in the next NFL draft. In your best skills evaluation, what are Smith’s strengths? Where is he lacking when compared to productive professional QBs?
Anderson: If you had asked me this question last year, I would have had some concerns about his ability to make “NFL throws.” He was, well, awful when it came to quick fades and certain deep patterns, but he has done a tremendous job with improving that over the summer. I still believe he has some work to do in that area, particularly “go” routes, but that will come with time.
His top two skills are his accuracy and his decision making. Geno can pinpoint passes like few other quarterbacks I’ve ever seen. More than a few times this year, he has thrown the ball in an area that no quarterback should be able to hit. His decision making on who to throw it to and when has been a big plus this year. Last year, he found himself forcing a few balls instead of checking down to his second or third option. This year, he’s done that. A lot of the credit goes to his tireless work ethic, constantly watching film.
4) Virtually all of the attention this year has been on WVU’s offense. What about the other side of the ball? What are the expectations for the defense from the coaching staff? From the media/fans? Have a few games in the Big 12 been enough to maybe change the way WVU will approach defending (through recruiting and philosophy) in the future?
Anderson: Based off what I’ve seen on our board, I’d say the fans don’t even have expectations for the defense anymore. As part of the media and covering the team, I can’t say my thoughts are much different. They rank near the bottom in every conceivable defensive category other than rush defense (43rd).
As for how the coaching staff feels, it was odd to hear them say it, but they specifically mentioned the goals of the defense was to stop the run and force some turnovers. No mention of pass defense.
Some of the biggest issues on defense have to deal with the lack of depth and the abundance of youth out there. West Virginia lost eight starters from last year’s team, replaced all but one defensive coach and changed out of a scheme the school had run for the last decade. There are eight TRUE freshmen who are seeing significant playing time just on defense. Three other regulars are redshirt freshmen.
That has resulted in a lot of mental mistakes, players out of position and the opposing team making big plays. And, if you take what Dana Holgorsen said to heart, it’s also playing with the psyches of the offense because they know they essentially have to score every time they have the ball in order to win.
5) Off the field, we hear stories every week about couch fires. What’s the history with that? And, is it safe to say the local kids embrace how the rest of the conference and country views that “tradition”? How does the local community feel about it overall? Is it becoming an issue? Or, has it been in the past?
Anderson: I’ve heard a million different stories of how it all got started, but the one I’ve heard most was after a last second victory over Pitt in the Backyard Brawl all the way back in 1975. It may have even started before that, but there are confirmed reports of it happening then, so we can safely assume it’s been going on (maybe not a “tradition”) for almost four decades.
However, I think we’re coming closer and closer to the “tradition” ending. It’s generally frowned upon by 99% of the fans and most certainly by the local community. In fact, even students who are natives of West Virginia despise it because of the stigma that comes with it and how West Virginians as a whole are labeled because of it. If I remember correctly, the last rash of students arrested for burning coaches were all out-of-state students.
There have been issues in recent years where the fires have gotten out of control (shocking: drunk kids can’t handle large, open-air fires) and have caused extensive property damage to residences and businesses. Prior to 2011, burning a couch was a misdemeanor and carried up to a $1,000 fine. Last year, however, they made it a felony, punishable with expulsion, larger fines and jail time.
After the Texas victory, fires were set once again and several arrests were made. It got politicians talking again, including discussions about higher fines, bigger punishments and adding a “tax” onto students’ tuitions to help pay for a bigger police presence.
For my Q&A with Chris on K-State, click here.