So WVU embarrassed itself last Friday against Syracuse. Instead of showing up and playing like men, the team showed up, barely tried, and got eviscerated on all fronts. Good times. In the aftermath of the cataclysmic performance, fans were eager to blame somebody (ANYBODY!) save one person: Dana Holgorsen. So who can we accuse of being at fault instead?
The gnashing of teeth began as soon as it become clear that Syracuse’s tight-end (Nick Provo) was never going to be covered. His three touchdowns were an embarrassment, as was the fact that Syracuse could get a first down whenever it wanted one. Looking back on the game - a 49-23 laugher - one wonders if Syracuse was choosing to punt the ball as a means of getting in some special teams practice. For those though than genuinely believe that the defense is to blame, I say only this: you’re being a revisionist. Yes, giving up 49 points to an offense that doesn’t really do anything is horrendous, but none of us went into this season expecting anything better. We all knew that the defense was going to be awful, both because the players were young or inexperienced or simultaneously both. At the start of this season, the idea that we’d be relying on our defense to keep us in games sounded laughable. Why would they need to after all?
The Guy Who Coaches The Special Team
We do have one of those, right? A guy in charge of coaching the special teams? Because I’d swear that we don’t, that in fact special teams has somehow taken an enormous leap backwards from the position that it was in before the season began. We’ve given up three kickoff returns for touchdowns. We’ve had a punter who couldn’t average more than ten yards per shank. We’ve had a placekicker who missed a PAT. At this point, I’m not sure we’d be in any worse shape if we let the other team start every possession at the 50, if only because it would mean leaving that entire unit on the bench.
Seriously, what in the hell is going on with the refereeing in WVU games? (I want this article to loop back around to one core point: Holgorsen maybe isn’t having quite as good a first year as we were being lead to believe, but this requires attention.) Friday night against Syracuse, Geno Smith was knocked down repeatedly after throwing the ball, including at least one play in which Syracuse defenders were aiming at his knees, and the referees didn’t throw a single flag. The referees also badly botched a too-many-men on the field penalty against Syracuse, and then refused to allow Holgorsen to appeal the penalty, despite the fact that he was allowed to. Then - and this was a call that baffled even the announcing crew - the referees called Bruce Irvin for a personal foul for allegedly trying to get untangled from a Syracuse player that he was literally attached to. (No replay was shown, curiously.) So far this season we’ve seen WVU penalized for hitting too hard (Maryland), for retaliating (LSU), for disentangling (Syracuse) and yet few of those same penalties have been called against our opponents. What is the deal? Why can’t the Mountaineers have a single game refereed squarely?
BUT NOT DANA HOLGORSEN
Here’s who reputable fans inform me can’t be blamed for Friday’s debacle: Dana Holgorsen. In our two losses this season, our offense has run up gaudy numbers that haven’t equaled points (although productive against both Syracuse and LSU, neither game was close). His offensive line has been repeatedly blown up (Syracuse was rushing three men by the end of the game, and repeatedly getting to the quarterback). His receivers have repeatedly dropped the ball (I’d be interested to know what Geno Smith’s numbers would be without so many obvious drops). The fact of the matter is that this is Holgorsen’s offense, and as staggering as the numbers have been, perhaps we all need to collectively catch our breath and realize that they’re not producing the season we imagined. Yes, there have been blowouts, but not the number we expected. Yes, they have been dazzling displays, but they’ve been offset by prolonged periods of ineptitude. Yes, things are better, but they’re looking mighty familiar to last season in terms of the record (the same), the losses (to the same teams), and the performances (in which we scratch our heads and go, “What was THAT?”).
Nobody’s longing for the past. But in our first season of a brand new era, I still find myself longing for the brand new era that we were promised, and not the one that has thus far been delivered.