Viola: Mountaineers Remember Loss in Lubbock Last Season
MORGANTOWN – Shaq Rowell still remembers the sting of defeat he felt after West Virginia fell to Texas Tech, 49-14, last year in Lubbock.
The defensive tackle was on the field when Red Raiders fans stormed it to celebrate their team’s upset victory.
“We almost had to fight a few of their fans (to get back to the locker room),” Rowell recalled. “The cop said if you don’t feel safe, swing. I’m being honest. He said if someone comes up to you, swing. It was one of the Texas cops. But, hey, they beat us. We were ranked No. 5 in the country. We had Geno (Smith), Tavon (Austin) and all those guys. They enjoyed their victory. It was what it was.”
If he had any problems remembering, coach Dana Holgorsen has been showing the team the celebration video all week on repeat.
The story seems to be reversed this year, though, as now it’s Texas Tech who comes into Morgantown highly ranked for the Mountaineers’ homecoming.
“We will definitely be playing with a chip on our shoulders after last season,” offensive lineman Pat Eger said. “We need to worry about playing West Virginia football. At the end of the day, if we go out there and play for four quarters with great effort, great energy and Mountaineer football, we have a great opportunity to win.”
The Mountaineers will also need a solid effort by their defense after giving up 73 points and a conference-record 864 yards to Baylor.
According to cornerback Ishmael Banks, however, a lot of those yards weren’t because of the Bears’ prolific offense, but due to mistakes made by the Mountaineers defense.
“It was kinda interesting because when it was going on, it was just going on,” the redshirt junior said. “Everything was falling apart around us, but when coach sat us down as a defense and showed us what went wrong and what we did wrong in certain situations, all of it could have been prevented. It’s actually a good thing. In the past few games, we’ve been getting away with the little things. But coach told us all these little things are going to catch up to us and they finally did. We would have shut out Oklahoma State after all the little mistakes we made. Even though we made some plays, we still made a couple mistakes.
“I think we let our highs get us too high (after the Oklahoma State victory). We kinda went away from the little things. And when you get away from the little things, good teams will hurt you.”
Banks also admitted after Baylor began to pile up yardage against the defense, the unit began to panic.
“The defense has got to come together,” he said. “We kept telling ourselves to stay calm, but we never really linked up and got back together and calmed ourselves down. We actually let it get to us and it showed.”
It’s no secret quarterback Clint Trickett has been having problems with his communication between himself and Holgorsen.
To Trickett’s credit, though, all the signs and signals Holgorsen is throwing at him were a foreign language just a few months ago after he transferred to WVU from Florida State.
“If I don’t get the full signal, sometimes I can piece it all together,” Trickett said. “I know what we repped in practice so he probably wants this. Then if I have no idea what he’s talking about I’ll go out there and make up something that will put us in the best position.”
While Trickett may be doing the best he can to call the play in the huddle, receiver Kevin White can tell when his quarterback doesn’t get the whole play down.
“He’ll stutter and move his hands a lot and that’s how I know,” White said with a smile. “We always get it together, try to be on the same page. It’s just funny cause before the play, I know that he didn’t get the signal or something went wrong.”
Trickett may be able to avoid that situation this week, if he gets the starting nod, after spending last week healing his shoulder and simplifying the offense.
“The communication with Clint has gotten a lot better,” offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. “We have done some things on our end to clear some questions up, so it has gotten better. We have also switched a few things around, which has really helped.”
The Return of Kwiatkoski
After missing the past two games with a hamstring injury, linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski will return Saturday against Texas Tech.
Kwiatkoski injured his hamstring during a special teams play against Maryland.
“It was on a punt,” he recalled. “Went on it wrong, tried to keep going and just heard a pop. I limped off to the sidelines and it tightened up immediately.”
Since he’s been back at practice, Kwiatkoski says he’s finally getting back to normal.
“It’s been good. I thought I would be a little sluggish, which I was a little bit. I think I’m getting back into it day-by-day. It’s been good the first two days. The first hit, it was different. I was a little rusty.”
To the West Virginia’s coach’s delight, White is finally making noise and showing everyone what they have been seeing at practice.
“Coaches have been dying for me to let everyone see what I can do,” the junior said. “I just hadn’t done it in a game. Baylor week I finally came out a little bit.”
White finished the game with a career-high 130 yards receiving and two touchdowns against the Bears.
“I know I could do it, it just never came to me,” he said. “When I did have chances, I’d drop it or something happen.”
Tony Viola can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.