Some Friday morning observations and notes before we jump on an airplane and fly out to Waco, Texas to face 17th-ranked Baylor on Saturday night …
- Is Baylor the best thing since the ’72 Dolphins, or, is what the Bears have done so far this year simply a product of who they’ve played as much as it is how they’ve played?
That’s a tough call. This week, Baylor is No. 1 in the country in scoring offense, passing offense, total offense and passing efficiency. On the other side of the ball, the Bear defense is No. 1 in the nation in tackles for loss, red zone defense and is No. 2 in scoring defense.
Junior quarterback Bryce Petty has three games worth of starting experience under his belt after getting a sideline view watching Nick Florence operate coach Art Briles’s high-scoring attack to near perfection last year. And already Petty leads the country in passing efficiency with a 239.5 passer rating and his 20.02 yards per completion percentage is also tops in the nation. He is fifth in the country with an average of 333.7 yards per game.
The Baylor defense has already produced more touchdowns (four) than it has allowed (three) so far this season and in three years under Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, the Bears have scored an impressive 11 defensive touchdowns.
As for the competition, well, Wofford is now 2-2 after a 3-0 loss to Gardner-Webb last week, Buffalo evened its record to 2-2 with back-to-back victories over Stony Brook and UConn (costing coach Paul Pasqualoni his job by the way) and Louisiana-Monroe dropped to 2-4 following last night’s 31-10 defeat to Western Kentucky.
So, has it been a product of great play or a great scheduling? I guess that’s a matter of opinion, but the Mountaineers are going to see for themselves on Saturday just how good the Bears really are.
- During his Thursday night radio show coach Dana Holgorsen announced that Clint Trickett
is going to make his second start of the year on Saturday against the Bears. Trickett led West Virginia to a 30-21 victory over 11th-ranked Oklahoma State last weekend by completing 24-of-50 passes for 309 yards and a touchdown. That TD pass to Kevin White
remains West Virginia’s only touchdown hookup against BCS-level competition so far this season.
- Did you realize that Baylor has only played one football game in the last 27 days? The Bears are on week four of their schedule while West Virginia is now on week six.
“Timing is a big deal,” said Holgorsen, adding that he would not like having that much time off at the beginning of the season. “Whether it’s an advantage for them, I don’t know.”
However, Holgorsen did say he is looking forward to the team’s open date next weekend. “You want to heal people up to rejuvenate some guys,” he said.
- On-field communication between Holgorsen and Trickett was a hot topic after last Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State, and that has continued to be a popular topic of conversation this week. You have to wonder if someone in the program can’t figure out a Rosetta Stone version of Holgorsen’s signaling system to help expedite the process.
“It starts with sign language,” Holgorsen explained. “Try to learn the sign language of the alphabet. You can probably learn it in the course of a week. That’s step one - learning the signals and what they mean.
“From there, the play has to be processed and that’s what he has to improve on,” Holgorsen added. “And that’s on him. He should be better at that right now. There were times in the game when I signaled a play to him and he looked at me like I was from outer space. That’s when I threw my fits.”
There is obviously a delicate balance when signaling play calls. First and foremost, the signaling system needs to be simple enough for the players to understand it. On the other hand, it can’t be simple enough for the guys on the other side of the field to easily decipher because you know someone over there is ALWAYS watching.
- A real pleasant surprise with this year’s team is how well – and how hard – the Mountaineer defense has played so far this year. West Virginia bottled up a touted Oklahoma State rushing attack that helped the Cowboys average more than 45 points per game heading into last Saturday’s game, and the defense produced a fourth quarter goal line stand that will be talked about around here for many years to come.
“I think at the end of the year we will look back and see the significance of that (goal line stand),” said defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. “It shows the character and the pride of our young me and the passion with which they play with. The effort was possibly the best it’s been all year long, and I’ve been impressed all year with the effort they’ve been giving.”
That includes the 37-0 loss to Maryland, which was more a result of poor offensive execution than it was poor play on the defensive side of the football.
“It’s like a guy told me the other day, ‘You guys were down 30 points and you were playing like it was the second half of the Super Bowl,’” said Patterson. “That is an honor to our players for the effort and the character that’s inside. The toughness I’ve been talking about is something we’ve harped on since January. We’re going to play with a physical and mental toughness. That’s the beautiful thing about football is being able to impose your will on the other team.”
Patterson also eluded to the great tradition of defensive football played here through the years that dates all the way back to the 1950s when Sam Huff, Chuck Howley and Bruce Bosley were patrolling the field.
“When you think of West Virginia football and the people that have come before, our players and the teams that have come, the one thing you can say – and everyone says – is the physical toughness,” said Patterson. “We talk about physical toughness and these guys have also showed mental toughness.”
That was never more evident than when the Mountaineers had their backs to the wall against the 11th-ranked team in the country, first and goal with the football sitting at the 6 yard line.
“On that goal line stand we had just held them on third and six and there was a facemask called on the third and six right after we held them,” said Patterson. “They moved the ball half the distance and we hold them again. We held them twice inside the 10 and that was the most impressive part of the game for me.”
Indeed, it was an impressive feat for all of us at the stadium watching.
- Finally, here are the clearances for the Fox Sports 1 telecast
the replay of Saturday night’s game against Baylor. Craig Bolerjack, former Oregon star Joey Harrington and Ryan Nece will be handling the broadcast. The game will kickoff at 8 p.m. ET (7 p.m. in Waco).