As many of us are enjoying the Thanksgiving weekend with our families, we still have a football game to look forward to this weekend.
It is hard to even believe that the regular season is two days away from being over in what seems like a blink of an eye. As there are with many seasons, there were highs and lows to a campaign filled with high expectations. With the addition of Will Grier, Mountaineers fans thought the 2017 season could be something similar to last year.
As we approach the season finale in Norman with a 7-4 record and our star quarterback injured, things look bleak for the latter half of the schedule. Looking back on it, I believe Mountaineer Nation’s expectations were a bit too high, including my own.
Yes, having Grier is an upgrade, but there was a lot of talent lost to the NFL and graduation one year ago. The offensive line lost its rock in center Tyler Orlosky and guard/tackle Adam Pankey. Josh Sills and Matt Jones have filled into their roles and look like first-year starters. The biggest hit on offense was the depletion of the wide receiver core. Daikiel Shorts Jr. (graduation), Shelton Gibson (declared for the draft), and Jovon Durante (transfer) really gave West Virginia an immediate lack of depth. Depth has continued to be a problem throughout the year, but despite that fact, Tyron Carrier has churned out a 1,000 yard receiver with Gary Jennings and an opportunity for David Sills V and Ka’Raun White to reach that mark with two games remaining. Justin Crawford has been hot and cold as the starting running back this year, which is not terrible considering the offensive line having their own struggles and the play calling leaning more on the passing game.
Tony Gibson lost 8 starters off the leagues best scoring defense and has been losing 7-8 starters per year for 3 years now. It was due to catch up with them. The defense has had its moments of looking extremely young and inexperienced but has also shown strides in development over the past month. There is no doubt that this defense will indeed get back to that aggressive style possibly as soon as next year when the experience grows.
So that brings us to the true question, “Were the expectations too high?”
The argument can be made either way, but I feel as if they were. Typically, West Virginia quarterbacks do really well in year two in Holgorsen’s system. Granted, if Grier comes back healthy, there should be a significant improvement in his timing and decision making, which for the most part, is already pretty good. West Virginia has never regularly been a 10 win team, so why do we feel its necessary to jump to conclusions to fire the coach, or blame the AD, or somebody else? Next year could be a special year. I know this is what every Mountaineer fan says, but there is a lot of promise with a team full of veterans and guys who have been in the program.
Most betting websites had West Virginia pegged to only win 5-6 games this year and here we are sitting at 7-4 with two games remaining. You can even make the argument that West Virginia is two touchdowns away and a healthy Will Grier from being 10-1 or at least pulling out one of the games vs Virginia Tech and TCU and be sitting at 9-2. The schedule sets up nicely next year – talent and depth will be there. The Big 12 loses 6 starting quarterbacks to graduation/NFL so there is potential for it to be a special year.
It can be gloomy for Mountaineer fans to stare at a potential 7-5 year following a 10 win season, but I promise you the best is yet to come.