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Each week I try to give you, the informed Bearcat fan, a different look at the opponent of the week, that of a fan. This being West Virginia week there can only be one source Country Roads of The Smoking Musket. On the docket Geno Smith, the defensive line and the sneaky explosion of Stedman Bailey.
Me: Geno Smith is he meeting or exceeding your expectations?
Country Roads: I'd say meeting expectations. Geno had a pretty good year last year an a much less pass-centric offense, so we expect he would put up video game numbers this year. And he's done a pretty good job, but the reality is he still misses some throws, still drops the ball on occasion, and still isn't very good at picking up yardage with his feet. Part of me wonders whether his numbers would be better if our offensive line and running game were better than what they are, but it's hard to really tell at this point. Without looking them up, I'd say his numbers are pretty comparable to Brandon Weeden's numbers last year, so I can't complain too much. But just like the rest of our team at the moment, I feel like there's a winning attitude missing somewhere.
Me: Whats up with the defensive line this year, just 14 sacks one year after Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller combined for 23 sacks themselves?
CR: Everyone seems to have their own theory on this. I think it's the combination of a number of factors. First and foremost is the loss of other key cogs on the defense, such as linemen Chris Nield and Scooter Berry (who required double-teams and commanded more attention from opposing lines), linebacker JT Thomas, and defensive backs Brandon Hogan and Robert Sands (who were able to cover better, thus giving the line more time to get pressure and sacks). The other part of that equation is that this year's defense is giving up more yards on first and second down, thus not creating as many third and long passing downs where guys like Irvin and Miller (who has battled injuries this year) can pin their ears back and attack the quarterback. Finally, defenses are doing things to nullify both Irvin and Miller, such as double-teaming them and throwing short, safe passes. So it seems like the decline is explainable, but it's still a huge part of why WVU's defense isn't as successful as it was last year.
Me: Sticking with the defensive side of the ball I think everyone expected a slight step back from 2010's numbers. The stats are about where I expected them to be, but this group doesn't play with the intensity of last years group. Is that a fair assessment.
CR: Lacking intensity is definitely a fair assessment, but I think it's more than that. We lost a lot of talent to the NFL, and the younger guys we replaced them with aren't as talented as we thought they might be. So not only are we young, we're young and not very good. Some fans are calling for Defensive Coordinator to be replaced, but I think that would be throwing the baby out with the bath water. Casteel has had a very good career at WVU, and shouldn't lose his job based on one bad year. But something needs to happen for this defense to click, and I agree it starts with intensity and leadership. The lack of talent I talked about can be overcome---at least to an extent---by discipline, intensity, and fundamental play. That's the biggest concern at the moment, in my opinion.
Me: Steadmen Baily has been spectacular all season long. Did you expect this from him, or did you think that Tavon Austin would be the principal beneficiary of this scheme
CR: Most folks were predicting that Austin would explode this year, but I wouldn't say it's all that surprising for Bailey to be doing what he's done. As you may or may not know, Bailey and Smith were high school teammates (as was Ivan McCartney, who is a year behind them), so they definitely have a great rapport. Austin is probably the more explosive of the two, but I don't think it's a stretch to say Bailey is the better pure receiver. He's taller, runs better routes, and has better hands. And he's not exactly slow, either. One good thing about our receiving corps is they complement each other well. Now if we could just find a running game and fix our fumbling problem...
CR: Ugh. I'm usually an optimistic homer-ish guy, but even I'm down on this team right now. They seem to have talent, and at times look like a pretty good team. They competed well against LSU until faltering late. They dominated UConn and Rutgers in the second half. But they seem to keep making huge mistakes at the most inopportune times, particularly on special teams. Deep down I hope and believe that WVU will get this turned around and be right in the thick of it at the end of the season. But until they show me something, I just can't pick them to win. Cincinnati 33, WVU 28.
Thanks again to Country Roads for taking the time to put this together. Be sure to check out The Smoking Musket where they will have this game covered from all angles.