The Mountaineers are now 6-5 (3-5 in Big XII play) and will close out the season next Saturday in Morgantown against the Kansas Jayhawks.
Here are some things to take from this win:
1) Geno Smith looked like “early season” Geno Smith.
Smith hasn’t looked like himself since back in early October, when the Mountaineers beat the Texas Longhorns in Austin. Tonight however, Smith made some beautiful touch passes that found receivers in traffic, and didn’t make too many questionable decisions. He ended the game with only nine incompletions.
Credit it to poor defense if you want, but I’ll take it. Smith played relatively well, but at this point in the season, it may be too little, too late. It makes me wonder again how much of Smith’s early success in the season was due to poor defensive play, because once again, he looked pretty good against an average defense.
If not, whatever the reason for his collapse, one would wonder how the Mountaineer’s season would have turned out had Smith not hit his funk.
2) Shawne Alston is back.
WVU running back Shawne Alston has battled a serious thigh bruise all season long, and hasn’t been able to give much to the Mountaineer running game. Tonight’s game showed me that he is back.
He plowed across the line with the power that WVU fans have been missing since he left. He was crucial in picking up several short third down situations.
Against Kansas, look for Alston to continue to receive carries and set up the pass.
3) The WVU defense is still bad.
I don’t care that they won. The defense missed a number of tackles and made another backup, pocket-passing quarterback look like Michael Vick. Combine that with the two touchdown passes to the corner of the endzone with a defensive back who just stood there and watched it happen, and I’d say the defense looks as bad as it has all season.
Another thing I’d like to point out, is a very unsportsmanlike play by WVU linebacker Josh Francis. Francis tackled Iowa State backup quarterback Sam Richardson. After the play, Francis grabbed Richardson’s facemask and tugged and pulled on it, as if he were trying to rip the helmet off. This happened for a few seconds before it was flagged.
This poor decision killed the momentum WVU had built on its previous scores, and very well could’ve cost the Mountaineers the game.
Now I’ve said the defensive problems were linked to coaching in a previous article, but this is absolutely ridiculous. This defense lacks discipline. Defensive back Pat Miller commits at least one pass interference call per game, players trash talk after plays, and now this? If Francis was on a team I coached, he would have sat out the rest of the game. I can’t imagine the coaching staff on the WVU defense allows this type of play.
Aside from the fact that it was totally unsportsmanlike, it also gave ISU an extra 15 yards and probably should’ve given them the game as well. Francis should be benched for the remainder of the season.
Updated Bowl Projection:
I think the Mountaineers finish a crazy season on a high note, beating Kansas. This would make them 7-5 (4-5 Big XII), and could allow them to finish as high as fifth in the Big 12 with a Texas and Texas Tech loss.
I see the Mountaineers playing in the Meineke Car Care Bowl at the end of the season.