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West Virginia University freshman offensive tackle Wyatt Milum was named to the Football Writers Association of America’s Freshman All-America Team, as announced by the organization.

This marks the third freshman All-America honor for Milum as he already earned spots on The Athletic’s Freshman All-American team and ON3’s True Freshman teams in December. Milum becomes WVU’s first offensive lineman to make the team and fourth player to make the FWAA’s Freshman All-American team.

In all since 2005, the Mountaineers have placed 12 players on 22 different freshman All-American teams, including the third offensive lineman. Ryan Stanchek was named to The Sporting News’ team in 2005, and Zach Frazier made 247Sports’ and ESPN’s True Freshman teams in 2020.

Milum played in 12 games at right tackle in 2021, starting eight in his first year. He played on 622

offensive snaps. He was the WVU Offensive Lineman of the Game (Iowa State) and finished with 29 knockdowns, 17 great blocks and had eight games without allowing a sack.

In all on the FWAA Freshman All-America Team, 28 different schools from 10 conferences and two independents were represented.

Monday, January 17, 2022

The Mountaineers continue their journey through the Big 12 gauntlet when they host No. 5 Baylor (15-2/3-2) Tuesday afternoon in a showdown that tips off at 5 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN2.

Having lost at No. 7 Kansas, 85-59, this past Saturday and with a trip to No. 18 Texas Tech (13-4/3-2) coming up next Saturday, West Virginia (13-3/2-2) is staring down the barrel of the defending national champion Bears, who had been ranked No. 1 this season and also was undefeated until losing a pair of contests in Waco – 65-62 to Texas Tech and 61-54 to Oklahoma State – last week.

So both BU and WVU clash on Tuesday at the Coliseum looking to right their respective ships.

“This league is hard, and the coaching in this league is fantastic,” answered West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins, when asked why Baylor had stumbled twice recently. “I was told earlier today that all 10 teams in the league are ranked in the top 75 in the NET. You just don’t get a break in this league.

“There are variables, and sometimes you just miss shots. (The Bears) were going through a stretch where they weren’t making shots as consistently as they were earlier in the year.”

Center Flo Thamba is Baylor’s only returning starter from last year’s 28-2 club that captured the school’s first-ever men’s basketball national championship. Gone are Jared Butler (now in the NBA), Davion Mitchell (NBA), MaCio Teague (G League) and Mark Vital (NFL, tight end on the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squad), but despite those significant personnel losses, BU’s 19th-year head coach Scott Drew still has the Bears near the top of the heap in not only the Big 12 but also in all of college basketball.

“I don’t think their guards shoot it quite as consistently as the ones they had a year ago, but they’re still good,” explained Huggins, whose Mountaineers are 8-12 all-time against Baylor, including a 4-5 mark at the WVU Coliseum. “They create. They create for themselves, and they create for others.

“They’re hard to match up with.”

The rebuilt 2021-22 Bears feature five players who currently average better than nine points per game – 6-foot-1 senior guard James Akino, who previously played at Georgetown and Arizona before transferring to Baylor this past summer, is averaging 13.9 points per game this season while converting 36.1% from 3-point range; 6-foot-1 sophomore L.J. Carr (13.1 ppg, 46.5% from three); 6-foot-3 junior Adam Flagler (12.1 ppg, 38.9% from three); 6-foot-8 freshman Kendall Brown (10.6 ppg, 4.0 rebounds per game); and 6-foot-9 senior Matthew Mayer (9.1 ppg, 30.2% from three).

As a team, BU leads the Big 12 in 3-pointers made (150) and is second in offensive 3-point percentage (36.4%). Defense has long been a Bear calling card under Drew, and they are still very good in that category, allowing 59.0 points per game (fourth in the league) and 29.8% from three (third in the Big 12).

“In our league, people play a variety (of defenses),” said Huggins. “Baylor is not going to play us just man-to-man. They’re also going to play zone. They’re going to press a little bit. I think everyone in the league does that; they throw something out there to see if it sticks. If it sticks, they stay with it longer, and if it doesn’t, they go to something else. Scott is one of the guys who really has that figured out.”

* * * * * *

West Virginia senior guard Taz Sherman is currently second in the Big 12 in scoring, averaging 18.9 points per game.

That average sat at 20.9 points per game until Sherman was struck down by Covid in late December. He missed WVU’s loss at Texas on Jan. 1, and while he returned to action for the Mountaineers’ next game against Kansas State on Jan. 8, Sherman obviously hasn’t been his self since getting back on the court. He’s averaged just 10.7 points in his three games since returning, including a season-low five points in Saturday’s loss at Kansas.

“He’s still not 100% yet,” acknowledged WVU’s head coach. “I’m not a doctor, so I can’t put a percentage on it, but I know he’s not what he was.

“He didn’t look like he was 100% yesterday,” said Huggins of Sherman’s practice performance on Sunday. “We tried to get him out as much as we could but still get him in there so he knew what was going on.”

Sophomore forward Jalen Bridges has stepped up his scoring as of late to try to make up for some of what the Mountaineers are lacking without a 100% Sherman. Bridges was averaging 7.3 points per game prior to the trip to Texas, but he has scored at a 13.5 clip the last four contests, three of which he reached double figures.

“I think J.B. has been terrific,” stated Huggins.

Jarret Doege, who threw for 6,453 yards in his three seasons at West Virginia (2019-21) and 4,041 yards in his two seasons at Bowling Green (2017-18), has announced that he will spend his final year of college eligibility at Western Kentucky.

Doege had started the past 26 games for the Mountaineers since late in the 2019 campaign, but the quarterback from Lubbock, Texas, decided to enter the transfer portal shortly after WVU’s 18-6 Guaranteed Rate Bowl loss to Minnesota.

“I will forever be grateful for the friendships and memories I’ve made at WVU over the past three years,” Doege tweeted on Dec. 31. “Thank you to the coaching staff for giving me the opportunity to live out a lifelong dream of mine. West Virginia will always have a special place in my heart. I am excited about the future and will be looking for a new home for the 2022 season.”

That new home will be Western Kentucky, where Doege will try to replace one of the breakout stars in all of college football last year, Bailey Zappe.

A transfer himself from Houston Baptist, an FCS program, Zappe led all Division I quarterbacks in passing yards (5,987) and touchdown passes (62) last season while completing 475 of 686 passes with 11 interceptions. In three seasons at Houston Baptist, the Victoria, Texas, native threw for 10,004 yards, but followed his Husky offensive coordinator/quarterback coach Zach Kittley to Western Kentucky prior to the 2021 campaign.

West Virginia will face Kittley in the future, as he will be the new offensive coordinator/quarterback coach at Texas Tech.

After losing four of its first five games to start the 2021 season – a win over Tennessee-Martin (59-21) followed by losses to Army (38-35), Indiana (33-31), Michigan State (48-31) and UTSA (52-46) – Zappe led the Hilltoppers to wins in eight of their final nine games.

The only loss for WKU in that stretch was a Conference USA championship game defeat to UTSA (49-41), but it bounced back with a 59-38 victory over Appalachian State in the Boca Raton Bowl.

Western Kentucky finished the 2021 season second in scoring among all FBS teams, averaging 44.2 points per game.

Doege heads to a WKU program looking for an experienced quarterback to replace Zappe. Not only is Kittley leaving for Texas Tech, but Zappe is departing for a shot at the NFL. Already invited to the NFL Combine, Zappe is projected to be a fourth or fifth round pick in this year’s NFL Draft.

The Hilltoppers’ backup QB in 2021 was Drew Zaubi, a former juco transfer who attempted only four passes, completing three, for WKU this past season.

The other quarterbacks on Western Kentucky’s roster in ’21 all were true freshmen who redshirted, though one of those, Grady Robison, is currently in the transfer portal. The ‘Toppers also signed two high school quarterbacks as part of their class of 2022.

Thus there would certainly appear to be an immediate need at Western for an experienced quarterback like Doege, who has one season of college eligibility remaining.

Doege will be working with a rebuilding Hilltopper receiving corps this coming season, as WKU’s top receiver in ‘21, Jerreth Sterns (an FBS-leading 150 receptions for 1,902 yards), is giving up his final year of college eligibility and declaring for the NFL.

In addition, the team’s second-leading receiver in 2021, Mitchell Tinsley (87 receptions for 1,402 yards), is transferring to Penn State.

Doege is not the only Mountaineer departing via transfer who has landed at a new school.

Wide receiver Sam Brown recently committed to Houston, wide receiver Sean Ryan is headed to Rutgers, defensive back Jackie Matthews will attend Mississippi State, receiver Winston Wright is enrolling at Florida State, tight end T.J. Banks and defensive back K.J. Martin have both announced they’re going to Akron, linebacker Devell Washington is moving on to Northern Iowa, linebacker VanDarius Cowan will transfer to Maryland, offensive lineman Parker Moorer is bound for East Carolina, while defensive linemen Darel Middleton and Eddie Watkins each are headed to Alabama A&M.

That leaves wide receiver Isaiah Esdale, linebacker James Thomas and running back A’Varius Sparrow (who has visited Middle Tennessee) as the only WVU scholarship players who entered the portal last fall but have not yet announced new homes.

In the meantime, West Virginia has four incoming transfers from four-year universities – running back Lyn-J Dixon (Clemson), defensive lineman Zeiqui Lawton (Cincinnat)i, defensive back Marcis Floyd (Murray State) and tight end Brian Polendey (Colorado State) – all of whom have already enrolled at WVU.

The Mountaineers plan to add additional transfers before the 2022 football season begins, but in today’s world where the portal runs both ways, further exits are always a possibility as well.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) -- In his heart of hearts, Bob Huggins would expect his West Virginia basketball team to come out like a pack of rabid dogs after the way they were beat up in the second half of an 85-59 loss to Kansas on Saturday.

But he just isn't sure how the Mountaineers will react at 5 p.m. on Tuesday when former No. 1 Baylor, which has its own problem with a two-game home losing streak riding on its back coming into the Coliseum.

Asked if it is easier to shrug off a loss of 25 points like Kansas than one in which your team lost at the buzzer, Huggins put it this way:

"I think you're more excited about going out to play to get the bad taste out of your mouth (from losing badly). That's been my experience over the years. I've been blessed to have some great competitors, which certainly helps.

"I think whenever you take a beating like the one we took in Lawrence, everyone is foaming at the mouth to get out and play again."

But circumstances make it such that Huggins, despite 40 years of experience as a head coach, doesn't know what to expect from this team.

"Honestly, I don't know. I don't know our personnel well enough because we haven't gone through that before. Some guys are foaming at the mouth and can't wait to get out there while other guys are like 'Here we go again.' You can't get which are which out of practice," he said.

"Other than what, UAB and maybe one other team, Connecticut, we really weren't tested as much as what some years we are or you have returning guys, or enough returning guys that kind of carry the load for you."

That's basketball, 2022. Between the transfer portal and the NBA draft, keeping a roster intact is difficult, if not impossible.

Huggins has seven freshmen or transfers on his roster. He knew what he had in Deuce McBride, Derek Culver and Emmitt Matthews Jr., all of whom could be playing at WVU this year, but instead he's still trying to learn not only what players like Pauly Paulicap and Dimon Carrigan down low can, how guards Keedy and Kobe Johnson will react when facing tough losses with tough games ahead.

"We don't have a bunch of guys who are familiar and understand our culture. I'd be lying if I told you I had them figured out, I don't."

And, in the Big 12, every day is not only a new challenge, it's a difficult and a different challenge.

Kansas and Baylor may be the class of the league, but they are totally different. Huggins approach is different from there's and Jamie Dixon's approach at TCU is more like Huggins' than it is like Scott Drew's at Baylor.

You set up a game-plan for Kansas, then have to scrap it to face Baylor.

"That's what makes the league so hard," Huggins acknowledged. "What they do, they do really well. You don't see two teams in our league playing basically the same. You don't see anyone playing the way Baylor plays.

"It's all personnel-driven. You do what you do to try and fit players that you have and get the most out of them."

That may be true, but it is also coach driven because coaches recruit to the system that want to run. Press Virginia was a unique, personnel-driven team of Huggins but it didn't happen by accident.

He didn't inherit that team. He built it, where his first and second WVU teams inherited from John Beilein saw him adapt to his personnel and use a lot of 1-3-1.

"It's got to be the best coached league in America. You know, I've been in a lot of different leagues. I was in leagues really big-time coaches like Denny Crum and I was in the Big East when the Big East was the Big East," Huggins said, setting a record by managing to get the term "the Big East" into a single sentence three different times.

"I don't think any of those leagues top to bottom were as good. Some of them were really terrific at the top, but the bottom was the bottom. I don't see that in this league."

Huggins began thinking to some of the challenges he faced in other leagues and almost giggled.

"We were playing a team that had four first-round draft picks," Huggins continued. "My assistant said to me he was nervous. 'Man, are they good. This is the best team we've played.' I said, 'Just look at the fat guy down there in the suit and you'll feel better.'

Huggins was referring to the coach.

"This league is hard. We get that it's supposedly a football league, but the coaching in this league is fantastic," Huggins said.

In all, the 10 active Big 12 coaches have 3,317 career games, according to Sports Reference (which does not count Huggins' 71 wins in three seasons at Walsh. As a group, the 10 active Big 12 coaches possess a .664 career winning percentage, and that makes it a unique group.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) -- It was supposed to be the biggest, most important night of West Virginia's basketball season.

No. 1 Baylor was coming to the Coliseum to face a new-look West Virginia team that was establishing its own identity as a contender in the Big 12 race.

A week ago, everything was on track for a gigantic showdown between two talented, hard-playing teams roaring toward each other like a couple of teenaged drivers playing a game of chicken.

What a difference a week makes.

The Mountaineers were 12-2 as they went to Kansas, facing the No. 9 team. A win would have turned the Baylor game into a national event.

Baylor was undefeated and had won 21 games in row dating back to last season.

This figured to be one of those tickets you would keep in a scrapbook, one of the games you would tell your grandchildren about in future years.

Then the unthinkable occurred.

Kansas beat up on West Virginia by 25 points.

OK, that happens when teams go to Kansas.

But Baylor? The Bears lost to Texas Tech. Then they lost to Oklahoma State, the team that WVU had managed rather easily in its last win.

From No. 1 to nowhere went Baylor. They became the first No. 1 team in the history of AP's men's college basketball poll to lose two home games in a week.

All of a sudden, this took on the aura of a game for survival for both teams.

Certainly, WVU is teetering on the edge with a trip to Lubbock to face Texas Tech scheduled next and a game against Oklahoma after that.

As stated, it wasn't so much that WVU lost at Kansas, not even so much by the margin of losing.

But the Mountaineers lost more than a game. They lost their attitude.

"We quit competing, which we don't do. But we did," Huggins said. "We quit competing."

That was the most troubling development. The game may have been over when KU went on its dizzying run, but the season didn't end there.

Playing in the Big 12, the toughest conference in the country, you will be buried if you don't bring your best and play your hardest every game.

OK, Taz Sherman had a bad game against Kansas, but Huggins put an asterisk aside it by noting that he had not yet come all the way back from a battle with COVID-19.

He indicated on Tuesday's Zoom call that Sherman was not back to himself in Monday's practice.

In fact, all three players who were quarantined by Covid-19 protocols -- Sherman, Gabe Osabuohien and Keedy Johnson -- all had sub-par performances at Kansas.

The one good thing WVU could take out of that loss was that Malik Curry made up for the points lost by Sherman's off night.

Curry scored 23 and went 11 for 11 from the free throw line, but nearly everyone else went AWOL and that is unacceptable to Huggins, to the fans and, to be honest, to the players themselves. But they are human and when you have no answers it eats away at you.

"We have gotten into this habit of kind of jogging through things rather than running through things," Huggins said. "(Against Kansas) things started going bad and ... when you are not as athletic, not as big and strong, you have to make compensations.

"You have to play harder. You have to concentrate on boxing out every time. You have to pass the ball every time. We don't have the work ethic that we had when the season started for whatever reason."

Now this is perhaps an overreaction, for just a couple of days earlier the effort was superb against Oklahoma State.

That magnified letdown that occurred in Lawrence when shots failed to fall and when the Jayhawks fed off the energy of the crowd and turned the game into a track meet.

WVU is hoping that rather than being the start of a slide, the Kansas game will provide an awakening.

"It's definitely a wake-up call," forward Jalen Bridges said. "I felt like people were too up on themselves. As a team, we got a little too satisfied and you can't ever do that."

If WVU has problems, so, too, does Baylor, which went from invincible to invisible in a week and now has to try to straighten things out on the road in as difficult a road environment as there is in the conference.

The Baylor defense, which had been among the nation's best, did not break down. But like WVU, the offense disappeared, scoring only 54 points against Oklahoma State after scoring just 62 in the Texas Tech loss.

Unlike WVU, Baylor showed heart in the Oklahoma State loss, cutting a one-time 18-point deficit with a late 14-2 run to move to within a point.

The Bears did not score again, however, and looked as if they lacked confidence at times, according to color commentator Fran Fraschilla during the broadcast.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

AUSTIN, Texas — The West Virginia University women’s basketball team fell to No. 13 Texas, 73-57, on Saturday night at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin.

West Virginia’s (8-6, 1-3 Big 12) scoring efforts were co-led by junior guard KK Deans and freshman guard JJ Quinerly, who each tallied 19 points in the game. Junior forward Esmery Martinez tallied five rebounds to pace WVU on the glass.

Deans and Quinerly accounted for 38 of WVU’s 57 points scored.

Texas (12-3, 2-2 Big 12) saw four players finish the game in double figures, including guard Aliyah Matharu, who tallied a game-high 26 points.

Deans opened game scoring with a baseline jumper, which led to a 7-0 run for the Mountaineers early in the contest.

After Texas missed its first five shots of the game, UT broke its scoring drought at the line but WVU countered on the other end to make it a 10-2 game.

The Longhorns then rattled off a 7-0 run of their own, which cut West Virginia’s lead to one at the first media timeout.

Deans scored seven of WVU’s first 10 points to begin the contest.

Texas took the lead with a pair of free throws coming out of the break, and then added another bucket in transition. West Virginia found themselves trailing after UT ripped off a 15-1 following its first score.

Quinerly halted the Longhorns’ onslaught, and fifth-year senior forward Ari Gray added a score before the quarter ended, but WVU trailed, 19-15, at the end of the first.

West Virginia found themselves behind 23-15 to begin the second period, as Texas netted back-to-back, putback scores.

After the Longhorns extended their run to 6-0, WVU was forced to call timeout.

UT continued to score following the break, as WVU found itself in a scoring drought for the next four minutes.

Another steal-and-score by Quinerly got the Mountaineers back on the board. The two teams played even for the next three minutes, but two scores by Texas increased the deficit to 15 points with 1:35 remaining.

West Virginia got three points before the end of the quarter and trailed at halftime by 14.

West Virginia fell behind by 23 to begin the second half, as the Longhorns opened the third quarter on an 13-2 run. Senior forward Kari Niblack got a score before the media break, where the Mountaineers trailed, 52-31, with 4:38 to go in the period.

West Virginia finished the quarter the quarter on a 9-4 run, which included four points from Deans and a 3-pointer for Quinerly. The Mountaineers trailed Texas, 56-40, heading into the final 10 minutes of regulation.

The two teams traded to begin the fourth quarter, but five points from Quinerly made it a 62-49 game in favor of Texas with 5:12 remaining in the game.

Despite the Mountaineers’ attack, Texas continued to counter on the other end. WVU called a timeout with 3:48 to go and trailed by 15.

WVU continued to attack, and UT continued to counter for the remainder of the game. A jumper by Deans cut deficit to 14 with 52 seconds to go, but that was as close at the Mountaineers would get, as they fell to Longhorns, 73-57.

Next up, West Virginia returns to Morgantown to square off against No. 23 Oklahoma on Wednesday.

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. inside the WVU Coliseum in Morgantown. Wednesday’s contest against the Sooners will be broadcast on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.

For the first 15 minutes of West Virginia’s game Saturday at Kansas, the Mountaineers appeared poised to gain their first-ever win at Allen Fieldhouse.

The next 25 minutes was a completely different story, though, as the Jayhawks turned a deficit into domination, pulling away for an 85-59 victory.

“The easiest way to say it is we came out of the halftime flat,” said WVU’s Bob Huggins, who is the fourth-winningest coach in Division I men’s basketball history (912-384) but is now 0-10 all-time at Allen Fieldhouse. “We didn’t make shots. We turned the ball over entirely too much in the second half (13 times for the game and seven times in the final 20 minutes). They played way better than we did.”

West Virginia (13-3 overall and 2-2 in the Big 12) led by six with just over five minutes remaining in the first half, but it was outscored 64-32 in the remainder of the game.

“We came out with a lot of energy the first half, and even when we weren’t making shots, we were getting stops,” explained WVU sophomore forward Jalen Bridges, who posted the second double-double of his career with 12 points and 11 rebounds. “The second half, I felt like we came out flat, they went on a big run, and you all saw what happened.”

The ninth-ranked Jayhawks (14-2/3-1) were especially dominant in the paint, outscoring the Mountaineers there 54-20. KU big man David McCormack was forceful inside, as he had 19 points and 15 rebounds.

Sophomore forward Jalen Wilson had a career-high 23 points for Kansas, while senior teammate Ochai Abgaji contributed 20.

“When a team is getting easy buckets, that’s definitely a killer,” explained WVU senior guard Malik Curry after Kansas outscored West Virginia 16-9 in fast-break points. “One of the main things against Kansas is transition defense, and that’s obviously something we need to get better at.”

The Mountaineers were icy on offense, even when they were building an early lead. They made just seven of their 23 field-goal attempts (22.6%) in the first half.

While they shot a little better in the second half (10 of 32, 31.3%), it wasn’t nearly enough to keep up with the red-hot Jayhawks, who made 22 of 36 field-goal attempts (61.1%) in outscoring West Virginia 52-28 in that period.

Despite its first-half offensive struggles, WVU held the lead for 10:22 in that frame. It led by as many as eight in the half and trailed by just two, 33-31, at the midway juncture, because it used the foul line to its advantage.

West Virginia made 14 of 15 free throws in the first 20 minutes, while Kansas was just two of five from the stripe.

A pair of Taz Sherman foul shots at the 5:29 mark of the first half, which were two of his season-low five points in the game, gave West Virginia a 27-21 advantage. But the Jayhawks took charge there, ending the first period on a 10-4 run and then starting the second by outscoring WVU 9-0.

That left KU with a 42-31 lead before the second half was three and a half minutes old.

With a sellout crowd of 16,000 rocking Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas kept pulling away before winning by 26 points, which equaled its largest margin of victory ever over West Virginia (91-65 in 2013).

The only Mountaineer who made better than 37% of his field goals was Curry, who finished with a WVU career-high 23 points.

While the former Old Dominion transfer was a solid – especially compared to his teammates – 6 of 13 from the field, he did a lot of his damage at the foul line, where he was a perfect 11 of 11.

The last West Virginia player to convert 100% of his free throws with 11 or more attempts was Truck Bryant, who was 12 of 12 against USF in 2012.

“We were getting more calls than we expected,” noted Curry, as KU had 19 fouls whistled against it compared to 13 for WVU. “Usually when I go down hill, sometimes they call the foul and sometimes they don’t. I was drawing enough contact today where they had to call the foul.

“Honestly, I didn’t realize I shot that many — 11 for 11. I just have to stay consistent with that one,” said the 6-foot-1 guard, who had been 25 of 38 (65.8%) prior to his flawless foul line performance against Kansas.

One Mountaineer who wasn’t flawless from any area was Sherman, as he missed eight of his nine field-goal attempts, including all of his five tries from 3-point range.

His total of five points is his first non-double figure output this season, and it was also his lowest mark since scoring just four against TCU last season.

It is part of a continuing trend at Kansas, though.

While Sherman, who is currently second in the Big 12 in scoring with an average of 18.9 points per game, exploded for 25 points in leading West Virginia to a 91-79 win over the Jayhawks at the WVU Coliseum last season, he’s now scored five, two and four points respectively in his three trips to Allen Fieldhouse.

“We have to try to get Taz more uncontested shots,” noted Curry. “Usually he’s going to make those. I’m not worried about him, though. He’s going to bounce back the next game.”

“What they did that bothered us is they switched every single action we ran,” added Bridges. “Whether it was Sean (McNeil, whose 10 points Saturday was his second lowest this season), Taz, whoever was the screener’s man, they just switched out and took away that shot.”

West Virginia’s 26-point loss Saturday was its largest margin of defeat since it was pounded by 31 at TCU (98-67) midway through the 2018-19 season. That was a forgettable year for the Mountaineers, as they stumbled to a 15-21 record.

“I feel like this is definitely a wake-up call,” stated Bridges, who after a 22-point outing in Tuesday’s win over Oklahoma State has now scored double figures in back-to-back games for just the third time in his career. “I feel like people got too up on themselves and got too satisfied. In this league, you can’t do that. You have to bring your best every night, and tonight we just didn’t bring it. The good thing about it, we have another opportunity on Tuesday to make it back (against No. 1 Baylor).”

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — On the surface, one would find it hard to mistake Kansas basketball player David McCormack for the legendary author and humorist Mark Twain.

McCormack stands 6-foot-10 and weighs in at 250 pounds.

Twain may have been a literary giant, but physically he would be dwarfed by McCormack.

So, what connects them?

To play off the famous words first uttered by Twain, reports of both their deaths "were greatly exaggerated."

Indeed, in land of giants in which McCormack operates — the Big 12 — he came into the season expected to be perhaps the most dominant big man in the league, but through the early going he disappeared a magician's assistant who had been put into a box.

He was going to be all Big 12, or so they said, after scoring 13.4 points and averaging 6.1 rebounds a game last season.

But as this season played out he wasn't the same player, averaging just 8.1 points a game and 5.9 rebounds. There whispers behind his back about his inability to do what had been expected of him.

Then, on Saturday, West Virginia tried pull off a biblical reversal and slay the giant who was named David ... but instead it was David doing the slaying.

All season long WVU has somehow covered up a weakness down low with Derek Culver having left a year early. They used a number of players who had performed quite well, guys named Pauly Paulicap and Dimon Carrigan.

But when McCormack comes armed for bear, the bear runs and hides.

He swatted Mountaineers aside down low all game and turned in a performance they could not overcome, scoring 19 points, 11 more than his average, and grabbing 15 rebounds, nine more than his average.

What's more, he clogged up the middle to keep WVU from getting much down low while Kansas was piled up points in the paint at will. In fact, if all that counted were their points in the paint, without any free throws or outside shots, WVU would only have beaten them just 59-54.

He was a man toying with boys in this game that Kansas would win 83-59,

WVU tried to guard McCormack with its own long and thin 6-11 redshirt freshman Isaiah Cottrell. Didn't work.

"I think Isaiah realizes," coach Bob Huggins admitted. "He's been pretty much a perimeter guy. I wanted to get him out on the perimeter. He made one shot out there but it was after the shot clock went off. We're probably going to have to find some offense for him to get shots on the perimeter.

"At the same time, we need him to play against size because he's the best size we have."

McCormack was bigger, stronger, more powerful and more experienced.

Not a good matchup. Had Cottrell been able to hit from outside, it might have changed Kansas' thinking on how much McCormack would play, but he couldn't.

No one could, for that matter ... Taz Sherman, Sean McNeil and Jalen Bridges shot a combined 8 for 31 in the game.

"He's big, he's strong and he's athletic," Huggins said of McCormack. "We tried to front him and didn't do a good job of that. We can't play behind him. We didn't have a lot of options."

"It's not just the person who's guarding inside," Bridges said. "It's the guard, whoever's on the wing. They have to have good ball pressure so they can't just see and throw into the big. Inside, it's the big's responsibility to be fronting it and the opposite side guy's responsibility to cut off the lob over the top.

"I feel we didn't do that."

McCormack didn't beat WVU. Kansas beat WVU playing Kansas style basketball.

"They made shots. They've got a lot of weapons," Huggins said. "We tried go 1-3-1 to see if we couldn't slow down the onslaught, but that didn't work. Honestly. their transition was what killed us. We didn't get back. We didn't stop the ball. The first guys down the floor didn't hurt us but the second guys did because they spread it and got to the rim.

"The one thing that turned the game around it was their transition game more than anything else."

The Jayhawks stayed in the game in the first half with their defense, then put it away with their defense and an offensive onslaught where when they didn't get in transition, they worked to McCormack.

"They were better than us," Huggins shrugged. "They are athletic, they are long, they have good lateral quickness, when you have that athleticism and size and get things around the rim, the other guys don't have to be that good. Think about when we had Sags. People didn't score close.

"They have McCormack and he's a very good shot blocker. When they don't block it, they change your shot."

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) -- Somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on Friday, an underwater volcano erupted and all the cable news channels reveled in the chance to air spectacular tape taken from space of the eruption.

Twelve hours later it was the sports channels that were showing tape of an eruption that seemed equally as powerful and certainly as spectacular within Allen Fieldhouse, not in the middle of any ocean but in the middle of America, Lawrence, Kansas, to be precise.

It wasn't smoke and water and lava spewing skyward but instead it was the scoreboard ringing up point after point in a second-half eruption Kansas used to bury West Virginia in whatever the basketball equivalent of molten lava is.

The final score was 85-59 and if you tuned in on CBS for only the second half it looked worse than it even was, if that's possible.

Perhaps the eruption took place not really on the floor but in the KU locker room from coach Bill Self at halftime, for his team was up only 33-31 as the teams went to their dressing room, but when they came out it was the Jayhawks who were scalding hot, outscoring WVU 52-28.

There is no typographical error there. Kansas outscored WVU, 52-28 -- BY 24 POINTS -- in the second half to turn what seemed like a scary moment for the Jayhawks on a court where they had never lost to the Mountaineers or to Bob Huggins into one that they were laughing in the closing minutes of the game.

They soared over, ran past, outshot, out rebounded, outfought the Mountaineers with a fury you seldom see in any sport that isn't normally ended in a knockout.

"We came out with a lot of energy in the first half. We were making shots and getting stops. It's easy to play when that's happening," WVU forward Jalen Bridges said, apparently having seen shots going into the basket that no one else saw for WVU had only seven baskets and could not crack 30% from the field in that first half.

"In the second half, we came out flat, they went out on a big run and y'all saw what happened."

What happened was that mugged the Mountaineers so badly that if it had happened out on the street, they would have been sent to jail for it.

Defensively, Kansas locked the Mountaineers down like they have not been locked down this season.

Taz Sherman, averaging 20 points a game coming in to rank second in the conference in scoring, made 1 of 9 shots with defenders sticking to him as if they were Band-Aids on his wounded ego, finishing with five points.

WVU for the game shot 27%. Only Malik Curry had any offensive success, scoring 23 points and going 11 for 11 from the free throw line, but that was probably because the KU game plan was to stop Sherman, Sean McNeil and Jalen Bridges.

"Malik scored quite a bit a lot of was because they isolated him and were staying close to Sean and Taz and JB. Those guys didn't shoot it particularly well today, but you're not going to shoot it well every day," Huggins said.

"We have to figure out to get easy baskets. Their transition points were off the charts. In the second half they had 16 transition and 18 second-chance points. You are not going to win when that happens."

Kansas had an incredible 54 points in the paint coming off transition and from the suddenly awakened big man David McCormack, who finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds. In addition to him, Jalen Wilson had 23 points and Ochai Agbaji, the Big 12's leading scorer, had 20.

Kansas opened an early lead looked as if they were going to make fast work of the Mountaineers, but WVU scraped and made nearly every free throw it got, finishing with 21 of 28 from the line, to being within two at the half.

Then the earth shook as the Jayhawks hit the floor running in the second half and never stopped shaking. They scored the first nine points of the second half and before you look back up at the scoreboard again the lead grew to 20 and beyond.

Kansas, with the win, went to 13-2, 3-1 in the Big 12, while WVU is now at 12-3, 2-2 in the league with No. 1 Baylor next in line at home on Tuesday.

Friday, January 14, 2022

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — It is a citadel of sports, certainly of college basketball, the old arena in Lawrence that has served as home to the University of Kansas basketball teams since it was built back in 1955.

One might say it is the Yankee Stadium of college basketball, the Boston Gardens of the sport. It has history, this place where West Virginia will play at 2 p.m. Saturday, a game and a place brought to you by CBS.

Kansas loses there about once every millennium.

We can put perspective on that by offering up coach Bill Self's record on his home court as evidence ... 261 wins and 14 losses.

A question about the mystique of Allen Fieldhouse, named after Hall of Fame coach Phog Allen, was put to WVU men's coach Bob Huggins on Friday morning before his team left for Kansas.

"I don't think Allen Fieldhouse has ever beat us," Huggins said.

Maybe not, but the record there is 0-9, and WVU, as Huggins would say, has had its chances.

Tom Keegan knows something about the mystique of Allen Fieldhouse. Keegan has had adventurous career as a sportswriter, his travels taking him to New York, Los Angeles, Boston and to Lawrence, Kansas, where he spent a number of years as the sports editor of the local paper there.

He's currently working in Indiana, between Chicago and South Bench. He knows that it isn't Allen Fieldhouse that wins games.

A lot of people point to the talent Kansas has, and certainly that's a big part of it. A lot of people point to the students that come out to root their Jayhawks on, and that, too, is part of it.

Keegan isn't sure that's it's just the players that Self puts on the floor or the students.

"I don't think it's the students. I think maybe it's that the adults act like the students. When you're a student, you really, really care about this. It ruins your day if your team loses," Keegan said.

"But's that how it is with the adults there. It means as much to the adults as it does to the students. It's corny to say, but it really is like a religion in Lawrence and Johnson County, which is Kansas City, too."

Keegan gives an example of what he means about that, and it involves one of the games WVU played at Kansas where the Mountaineers took a huge lead into the locker room at halftime.

"For a couple of years there, WVU would get these big halftime leads there and end up losing," he began. "One time, this guy who happened to be a neighbor of Bill Self's came up to me at halftime saying, 'You better rip the coach for this ... blah, blah, blah, blah.'"

Keegan let him go for a while, then responded.

"I was so shocked I said, 'Last time I checked, the final score doesn't come up until after the second half. There's still 20 minutes of basketball left.' This guy wasn't having any of it. He was furious ... and, of course, Kansas came back and won."

Huggins understands Keegan's assessment.

"I think what sets the building apart is 17,000 people ... and it's 17,000 people no matter who they play," Huggins said. "It's an older, unique building. You don't get to play in places like that very often. There's just not a whole lot of buildings like it, preserved like Allen Fieldhouse is."

"The building does a good job of trapping noise, maybe because it's old. It just feeds on itself. They get on a rally and it gets super loud," Keegan said.

As old as the building is and as good as Kansas has been over the years, Self uses the history to push his team forward. The history includes three national championships under Allen and one to go with two Final Fours under Self, who also strung together 14 consecutive Big 12 regular season championships.

"He talks history to his players. It keeps them humble. Like he says, 'No matter who plays here, now or in the future, they are not going to be best player who ever played here because Wilt Chamberlain played here."

Of course, Huggins could use the same line and insert Jerry West for Chamberlain and, interestingly enough, it took Chamberlain joining the Los Angeles Lakers to get West his only NBA championship ring.

"Then he'll say, 'No matter who coaches here, they're not going to be the best coach here because Phog Allen coached here and he was the greatest.' Well, I disagree with him on that because I think Self is the greatest, but they'll believe Self is the greatest.

"But he does draw on history to try and keep them humble and make them feel they have a lot of responsibility here."

The funny thing is Huggins doesn't believe all that history affects his own players at all.

"I don't think they have a clue who Phog Allen is," he said. "I think the only thing they know about Allen Fieldhouse is what they see on TV, what the commentators have to say about it .... even if that, and I'm not sure they are even paying attention to that."

The game is crucial to both teams, but WVU is pushing for national recognition and is at a point in the season where the schedule has become brutal. Following Kansas is No. 1 Baylor in Morgantown, then a trip to Texas Tech, which has wins over both Baylor and Kansas, then Oklahoma at home.

WVU is coming off its best game of the year, beating Oklahoma State, 70-60, with Jalen Bridges scoring 22 points and with guard Keedy Johnson and forward Gabe Osabuhien having huge defensive efforts.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Mountaineer men’s basketball team has had a lot of success against Kansas in the decade West Virginia has been a member of the Big 12 Conference … at the WVU Coliseum, that is.

West Virginia holds an outstanding 6-3 record at the Coliseum against one of college basketball’s preeminent blue bloods.

WVU’s results against the Jayhawks away from Morgantown have been a different story, though, as West Virginia is 0-3 in neutral-site meetings with KU — all coming in the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City — and an excruciating 0-9 at Phog Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence.

“We’ve had our chances,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, pondering past losses at Allen Fieldhouse. “We’ve played pretty well there at times, but things have had a way of happening.”

By the way, the Mountaineers’ game on Saturday (2 p.m. on CBS) is at the dreaded Allen Fieldhouse.

The Mountaineers have lost in The Phog both big and small. They’ve been defeated by more than 10 points on five occasions, including twice by 25+. But they’ve also been within eight points four other times. The most agonizing of those came on Feb. 13, 2017, when No. 9 West Virginia held a 64-50 lead with 2:58 remaining in regulation only to see the No. 3 Jayhawks go on a 21-7 run to take the contest into overtime, where the home team pulled out an 84-80 victory.

For Huggins, though, there isn’t any real magic in Allen Fieldhouse outside of the talent KU puts on the court and the noise it generates from the stands.

“What sets that building apart is 17,000 people, and it’s 17,000 people no matter who they play,” noted WVU’s veteran coach of the facility that opened in 1955. “It’s an older, unique building. You don’t get to play in many buildings like that, that are preserved like that.”

Of course, West Virginia is far from the only basketball team that has struggled in The Phog. KU has won nearly 75% of all its games in the facility, and it’s been especially dominant in the past 25 years, holding a 381-22 (94.5%) record in that span. Bill Self has been the Jayhawks’ coach for the last 17 of those seasons, and he’s an incredible 286-16 (94.7%) during that time at Allen Fieldhouse.

All that makes WVU’s task on Saturday daunting, but Huggins isn’t shying away from the difficult chore.

“We just need to go in and play. I don’t think the Fieldhouse itself has ever beaten us,” he noted.

This year’s Kansas squad is another in a long line of uber-talented Jayhawk teams. They’ve been ranked in the AP poll 90% of the time since Self took over as head coach in 2003.

“They’re really good. They have two of the best perimeter guys in the country; at least two, maybe more than two,” said Huggins, referring to KU seniors Ochai Agbaji and Remy Martin. “They’re good. They make shots, they penetrate, they’re pretty good.”

Agbaji has swapped places back and forth with West Virginia’s Taz Sherman at the top of the Big 12 scoring list this season. The 6-foot-5 Jayhawk is currently No. 1 in that category, averaging 20.6 points per game, while Sherman is a small step behind at 19.9 points per game.

“He’s probably using his athleticism a little more,” said Huggins of Agbaji, who has always been an excellent 3-point shooter — and still is, hitting 47 of 99 attempts from behind the arc this season for a Big 12-best 48.5% — but is now also driving to the basket more. “He’s a heck of an athlete. He’s using his versatility more. I think he shot more behind the line before than he is now. He’s attacking the rim now, and he’s a big-time shot maker.”

Martin, a 6-foot grad transfer from Arizona State, where was first-team all-Pac 12 the previous two seasons, is averaging 9.8 points for the Jayhawks, though he’s been slowed the past month by a knee injury. He did not play in KU’s last game, a 62-61 win over Iowa State on Tuesday in Lawrence.

Kansas also has a strong inside presence with 6-foot-10, 250-pound senior David McCormack. The Norfolk, Virginia, native averages 8.1 points and is eighth in the Big 12 in rebounding (5.9 per game) and third in blocked shots (1.13 per game).

“(McCormack) is a force. He’s probably the best rim protector in our league,” said Huggins of the Jayhawks’ big man. “His offense has also gotten better and better the longer he’s been there. He’s a really talented guy.”

Rim protection also has been a strength for West Virginia this season.

After finishing ninth in the 10-team Big 12 in blocked shots in each of the past two seasons (2.83 per game in 2020-21 and 3.58 in 2019-20), WVU currently leads the league in that category, averaging 5.53 blocks per game.

There are four Mountaineers among the top 11 shot blockers in the Big 12 at the moment — No. 6 Isaiah Cottrell (1.07 per game), No. 6 Dimon Carrigan (1.07), No. 9 Jalen Bridges (1.00) and No. 11 Pauly Paulicap (0.93).

A sophomore, Bridges is the only one of those four who previously had extensive game experience at WVU. An Achilles injury limited Cottrell to just 10 games last year as a true freshman. Carrigan and Paulicap are each grad transfers who are in their first seasons at West Virginia and were recruited this past summer primarily for their ability to block/alter shots.

“Certainly we are better there,” said Huggins of his team’s ability to protect the rim. “Derek (Culver) was a pretty good rim protector in his own right (averaging a team-best 0.83 blocks last year), but that was one guy. We have more guys now that can and do influence shots.

“That without question was what we thought was a need,” added Huggins of the offseason additions. “The first guy we went to get was D.C. (Dimon Carrigan) because after all, he was the leading shot blocker in the country (a total of 60 in 24 games last year at FIU).

“Pauly has also made big plays for us,” said Huggins. “Those two guys, in particular, are adept at changing things at the rim, and that’s what they hang their hat on, quite frankly. Neither one hang their hat on being a three-point shooter. (Protecting the rim) is what they do.”

Sitting with a 13-2 overall record and a 2-1 mark in the Big 12, West Virginia has done a good job to this point in the season, but a gauntlet lies ahead.

There are five Big 12 teams currently ranked in the AP’s top 25 — No. 1 Baylor (15-1/3-1), No. 9 Kansas (13-2/2-1), No. 16 Iowa State (13-3/1-3), No. 19 Texas Tech (13-3/3-1) and No. 21 Texas (13-3/3-1).

West Virginia plays six games against that ranked quintet in the next 24 days, including three in a row over the next week — at Kansas (Saturday at 2 p.m. on CBS), home against Baylor (Tuesday at 5 p.m. on ESPN2) and at Texas Tech (Jan. 22 at noon on ESPN2).

Huggins isn’t worried about any of those games other than the one on Saturday, though.

“Our focus is on Kansas. We’ll deal with whoever is next — I think it’s Baylor, but I’m not positive,” said West Virginia’s coach. “There’s that old coach’s adage about ‘one game at a time.’ I’m not big on adages, as you know, but I think you have to take care of your business at hand. When you start worrying about business down the road, you generally don’t do a very good job of what you’re doing at the time.”

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons took 10 minutes out of his morning Friday to give his football coach, Neal Brown, a vote of confidence on MetroNews' Talkline. But a lot of what he said needed some interpretation.

And so it is we will take about 10 minutes of our time to step into the Lyons den and try to read some thoughts of our own into the athletic director's views following a 6-7 record in Brown's third year that ended with a Guaranteed Rate Bowl loss in Phoenix to Minnesota in which the Mountaineers scored only six points.

The lack of offense wound up being front and center in the conversation that was held between Lyons and Brown a day following the return home, that resulting in Brown hiring former USC offensive coordinator and one-time Texas Tech record-breaking quarterback Graham Harrell as the OC and QB coach while Brown took on more of a role of CEO in an alphabet full of changes.

Friday's Talkline interview began with Hoppy Kercheval asking Lyons if his level of confidence was as high in Brown as it was when he brought him in from Troy three years ago.

LYONS: Yes, it is. In all fairness. I knew there was a lot of work to be done. A lot of time out there in Mountaineer nation, they don't get to see the sausage being made. I get to be involved in it every day and see how that program is continuing to build. It's a process, not an overnight process by any means.

I have complete confidence in Neal. I absolutely do.

INTERPRETATION: Brown doesn't have to worry about his job right now.

When he came in, there was a lot to do ... but obviously what he has done to date hasn't worked.

Hence the change in Brown's approach to coaching the team and the move of bringing Harrell in as the Doctor of Offense.

LYONS: Here in the past couple of days we've made some adjustments to help us get better on the offensive side of the ball. I see everything that's happening and how he's continually trying to move the different pieces of the puzzle around to make this thing work.

INTERPRETATION: Lyons believes that things are now in place to make offensive strides and he expects to see results next season.

Kercheval asked, too, about the level of satisfaction or lack of satisfaction with the recently completed season.

LYONS: Overall, I can say I was disappointed. I was expecting us to play a lot better on the offensive side of the ball than we did.

Overall, not only myself was disappointed, but I know the coaching staff and Coach Brown and the fans wanted more wins. I'm glad we made it to a bowl game, but at the same time we finished with a losing record after losing the game in Phoenix. Our job is to get better, and that's what we're trying to do.

INTERPRETATION: That almost doesn't need any interpretation. Score more points and win more games this year or there could be some bigger changes ahead.

Kercheval next was interested in if maybe Holgorsen had turned the program over to Brown in worse shape than people thought it was in, a reasonable assumption considering the three-year results, especially the first year.

LYONS: "That's a tough question."

INTERPRETATION: Yes, but I really don't want to talk about it.

LYONS: There are pieces we have to put together to move forward as a whole. It's taken a little bit longer than I and our fan base anticipated. Everyone wants to use the time base of three years. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't.

I'd say remain patient while we continue to build this, but it's a process. There's very few programs that you can look at and say, "Hey, this is what that coach has done in three years and now's the time to either continue to have them as your coach or fire them.

"In this case, it's just a matter of our program being on the right track. It's just not as fast as we'd like it to be."

INTERPRETATION: Expectations are one thing, reality another. Fans are always impatient. As the person who made the decision to hire Neal Brown, I have to let it play out and give him every opportunity to succeed. We have set things up for success, but now it's on Brown's shoulders to deliver.

Kercheval next asked Brown to go through the process of hiring Harrell as offensive coordinator.

LYONS: It's a matter with all of my coaches being evaluating after the season. I think it was the day after we got back from Phoenix that Neal and I had planned on talking. Part of that discussion was how do we continue to make our program better. Jointly we talked about the offensive side of the ball and that there needed to be improvement. It was something we felt was not working. A new voice was needed.

He and I, we ultimately looked it as how do we improve on the offensive side of the ball, give him the ability to be more of CEO as a head coach and have the ability to multitask with a number of different things. That's how we arrived at saying, 'Let's hire an offensive coordinator to free you up as the head coach and make you more of a CEO overseeing the program as a whole."

INTERPRETATION: Brown agreed with the decision, but it really didn't matter. The other way wasn't working, and Lyons wasn't going to let it continue.

LYONS: This doesn't happen overnight. He's the practitioner and knows the people out there who could have an interest in the job. Neal gave me several names and Graham was one of the names. After his initial conversation with several people, he came back to me and said this is who I want to key in on.

We keyed in on him, had a lot of conversations and felt he's the right guy and made him an offer to join Mountaineer football.

INTERPRETATION: The choice was Brown's, with Lyons' backing. Now it's up to Brown to make it happen on the field.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia women’s basketball team travels to Austin, Texas, on Saturday to square off against No. 13 Texas.

Tipoff against the Longhorns is set for 8 p.m. from the Frank Erwin Center in Austin. Saturday’s contest will be broadcast on the Longhorn Network with Alex Loeb and Andrea Lloyd on the call. Additionally, fans can listen to the game on the WVU Gameday App, WVUsports.com or on the Mountaineer Sports Network, including 100.9 WZST-FM, with Dan Zangrilli on the call. Live stats will be available on WVUsports.com.

West Virginia (8-5, 1-2 Big 12) and Texas (11-3, 1-2 Big 12) meet for the 24th time on Saturday. Texas leads the all-time series, 13-10, and is 7-2 when the two teams play in Austin. Despite trailing in the all-time series, West Virginia has won five of the last six meetings against UT, including two of the last three games in Austin. Additionally, WVU coach Mike Carey is 3-1 all-time against UT coach Vic Schaefer.

Last season, the Mountaineers swept the Longhorns in the season series, which included a 34-point upset victory in Morgantown on Jan. 9, 2021.

Texas enters Saturday’s contest after falling to Kansas, 70-66, in overtime on Wednesday. After defeating Oklahoma State, 62-51, in Stillwater on Jan. 2, the Longhorns have now lost two consecutive games in Big 12 Conference play. Following its loss to Texas Tech, 74-61, at home on Jan. 5, UT picked up a 93-58 win over UTRGV on Sunday.

Junior guard Aliyah Matharu leads Texas in scoring this season with 213 points and an average of 15.2 per game. She is one of four Longhorns with a double-figure scoring average this season and one of six players who has 100 or more points for UT. Additionally, three Texas players have totaled more than 150 points this season.

Senior forward Lauren Ebo paces UT on the glass with 91 rebounds and an average of 6.5 per game. Freshman guard Rori Harmon leads the Longhorns in both assists (65) and steals (29).

West Virginia is coming off a bounce-back win over Texas Tech, 64-53, on Wednesday at the WVU Coliseum. The win marked WVU’s first Big 12 victory of the season and helped the Mountaineers snap a two-game losing streak.

In a back-and-forth affair, West Virginia managed to outscore Texas Tech in three of four quarters. The Mountaineers led by as many as 11 points in a game that featured eight lead changes and one tie. WVU also forced 21 Lady Raider turnovers in the game.

WVU was co-led in scoring by junior guard KK Deans and senior guard Madisen Smith, who each tallied 15 points. Additionally, freshman guard JJ Quinerly finished the game with 11 points. Junior forward Esmery Martinez paced West Virginia on the glass with seven rebounds. Of note, 11 of Smith’s 15 points came at the free-throw line. Her 11 makes at the stripe set a new career high.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — West Virginia’s men’s basketball game at TCU, originally scheduled for Monday, Jan. 3, has been reset for seven weeks later, and will now take place on Monday, Feb. 21 at the Horned Frogs’ Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth. The contest is slated to be shown on ESPN+ at 8 p.m.

The game was originally set to be part of a two-game road swing that would open the Big 12 season for the Mountaineers, but was postponed when TCU had too many players in Covid protocols to meet Big 12 minimums, which require at least seven available players.

The WVU-TCU game has now been inserted two days before the Mountaineers’ road contest at Iowa State on Wed., Feb 23. That swing to ISU was originally set to be just a one-game WVU trip, but now Bob Huggins’ team will play two games in three days on that jaunt.

The one positive is that the rescheduled game will not add another round trip to the midwest for WVU, which is always a concern.

The new game date does, though, give the Mountaineers four games in eight days, with the TCU–ISU double bookended by home games against Kansas (Sat., Feb. 19) and Texas (Sat., Feb. 26).

Fairmont State

CHANGES TO WOMEN’S SCHEDULE: The Fighting Falcons will now host Notre Dame on Monday, January 17 at 6 p.m. and Wheeling University on Monday, January 24 at 6 p.m. inside Joe Retton Arena on Dan Cava Court.

DEREMER TAKES OVER WOMEN’S TENNIS: Terry Deremer will now guide both tennis programs at FSU.

Deremer is entering his fourth year in charge of the men’s program and was announced Thursday as the women’s coach as well.

He has been around the game of tennis for over 40 years as a collegiate head coach and tennis professional, most recently serving as Director of Tennis at The Greenbrier prior to his retirement.

WRESTLING, SWIMMING POSTPONED: The wrestling match against Wheeling University and the men’s and women’s swim meet against Notre Dame, both scheduled for Saturday, January 15, have been postponed due to health and safety concerns.

The schools are working on new dates.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Gabe Osabuohien got a lion’s share of the attention after West Virginia’s 70-60 victory over Oklahoma Tuesday night at the WVU Coliseum, and rightfully so.

The usually defensive-minded senior forward contributed a season-best 12 points to go along with his otherwise normal stat line of eight rebounds, six fouls drawn (including three charges taken), two steals, one assist and one blocked shot.

The other Mountaineer who stood out in the win over the Cowboys was Jalen Bridges, who led all scorers with 22 points. He also amassed five rebounds, seven fouls drawn (resulting in 10 free throws of which he made all 10), one assist, one steal, no turnovers and three blocked shots in 33:34 of court time.

Certainly Bridges has always been more offensively skilled than the blue-collar Osabuohien (averaging 8.6 points per game compared to 4.7 for Gabe), but even for the sophomore forward from Fairmont, West Virginia, Tuesday was a heck of a night.

“I was letting the game coming to me rather than hunting shots,” explained the 6-foot-7 Bridges. “I’ve been trying to play more aggressive, but there is a right way to do that and a wrong way to do that. I saw I wasn’t making shots, so I started trying to get to the rim. I wound up getting to the foul line a lot, and I was knocking them down.”

His 22 points equaled his career high, matching the scoring output he had against TCU last season. His performance against the Horned Frogs also included 12 rebounds for his only career double-double.

“He has a really good understanding of how to play,” said WVU head coach Bob Huggins, whose club is now 13-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big 12. “His dad (Cory Bridges, who himself was a very good basketball player at Fairmont Senior High School and Fairmont State University) did a great job with him growing up.

“(Jalen) probably has a better understanding of what’s supposed to happen, (compared) to everyone else. He’ll turn his head and make a cut to the basket. Maybe their defense gets a little mesmerized by the ball, and he’ll make a great cut,” added Huggins. “He does a great job at reading where the ball is coming off the rim. He does a lot of things a lot of guys don’t or can’t do.

“He got 22, but he didn’t shoot it very well (6 of 14 from the floor and 0 of 4 from three). Not as well as he usually shoots it.”

Bridges may not have shot the ball as well as he normally does (46.9% on the season from the field and 33.3% from three), but he equaled his career-high in points because he had his best-ever performance from the foul line. He’s long been a good free throw shooter (75.4% in his two seasons of college action), but he had never previously had a game where he was perfect from the line when he had had more than four shots. In fact, the last any Mountaineer didn’t miss a foul shot in a game with at least 10 attempts happened three years ago when Beetle Bolden was 10 of 10 in a loss to Baylor in the 2018-19 season.

Bridges’ free throw performance also led a WVU squad, which entered the clash with Oklahoma State shooting a Big 12-worst 63.7% from the line, to a 21 of 22 foul shooting performance. Only once in West Virginia’s recorded history had it been better as a team at the charity stripe than its 95.5% Tuesday night with at least 15 attempts – 23 of 24 (95.8%) in an 89-51 blowout of Kansas State in the 2017-18 season.

“I’m super excited to see where we can go as a team,” concluded Bridges. “You can kind of tell that we’re starting to buy in and getting that chemistry going. I think the sky is the limit for us, and we’ll go as far as we want to go.”

Thursday, January 13, 2022

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Gabe Osabuohien got a lion’s share of the attention after West Virginia’s 70-60 victory over Oklahoma Tuesday night at the WVU Coliseum, and rightfully so.

The usually defensive-minded senior forward contributed a season-best 12 points to go along with his otherwise normal stat line of eight rebounds, six fouls drawn (including three charges taken), two steals, one assist and one blocked shot.

The other Mountaineer who stood out in the win over the Cowboys was Jalen Bridges, who led all scorers with 22 points. He also amassed five rebounds, seven fouls drawn (resulting in 10 free throws of which he made all 10), one assist, one steal, no turnovers and three blocked shots in 33:34 of court time.

Certainly Bridges has always been more offensively skilled than the blue-collar Osabuohien (averaging 8.6 points per game compared to 4.7 for Gabe), but even for the sophomore forward from Fairmont, West Virginia, Tuesday was a heck of a night.

“I was letting the game coming to me rather than hunting shots,” explained the 6-foot-7 Bridges. “I’ve been trying to play more aggressive, but there is a right way to do that and a wrong way to do that. I saw I wasn’t making shots, so I started trying to get to the rim. I wound up getting to the foul line a lot, and I was knocking them down.”

His 22 points equaled his career high, matching the scoring output he had against TCU last season. His performance against the Horned Frogs also included 12 rebounds for his only career double-double.

“He has a really good understanding of how to play,” said WVU head coach Bob Huggins, whose club is now 13-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big 12. “His dad (Cory Bridges, who himself was a very good basketball player at Fairmont Senior High School and Fairmont State University) did a great job with him growing up.

“(Jalen) probably has a better understanding of what’s supposed to happen, (compared) to everyone else. He’ll turn his head and make a cut to the basket. Maybe their defense gets a little mesmerized by the ball, and he’ll make a great cut,” added Huggins. “He does a great job at reading where the ball is coming off the rim. He does a lot of things a lot of guys don’t or can’t do.

“He got 22, but he didn’t shoot it very well (6 of 14 from the floor and 0 of 4 from three). Not as well as he usually shoots it.”

Bridges may not have shot the ball as well as he normally does (46.9% on the season from the field and 33.3% from three), but he equaled his career-high in points because he had his best-ever performance from the foul line. He’s long been a good free throw shooter (75.4% in his two seasons of college action), but he had never previously had a game where he was perfect from the line when he had had more than four shots. In fact, the last any Mountaineer didn’t miss a foul shot in a game with at least 10 attempts happened three years ago when Beetle Bolden was 10 of 10 in a loss to Baylor in the 2018-19 season.

Bridges’ free throw performance also led a WVU squad, which entered the clash with Oklahoma State shooting a Big 12-worst 63.7% from the line, to a 21 of 22 foul shooting performance. Only once in West Virginia’s recorded history had it been better as a team at the charity stripe than its 95.5% Tuesday night with at least 15 attempts – 23 of 24 (95.8%) in an 89-51 blowout of Kansas State in the 2017-18 season.

“I’m super excited to see where we can go as a team,” concluded Bridges. “You can kind of tell that we’re starting to buy in and getting that chemistry going. I think the sky is the limit for us, and we’ll go as far as we want to go.”

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — When West Virginia plays a basketball game you might notice the player wearing the No. 3 jersey, even though there are others putting the ball in the basket far more often than not.

You notice Gabe Osabuohien because of the floor burns on his knees from diving after loose balls. You notice him from the bruises on his back from hitting the floor falling backwards after taking two or three charges every game, each time getting WVU the ball for an extra possession.

You might notice him because on one possession he might get one or two deflections, maybe even a steal, doing it inside, outside, on a guard, on a big man. He’s everywhere, so you notice him as he trots by the bench, his hand raised because he’s played himself to the point of exhaustion.

He is what you call a competitor, a player who pushes himself as far as he can push himself.

He is a Bob Huggins’ kind of player and he has always had a lot of them, about 912 wins worth. This year the team seems to be filled with them, clutch players who dive for balls, take charges, run the court, block shots and make clutch shots.

You can’t miss it, really, which led me to ask Huggins in his post Kansas State victory interview what makes a clutch player. His answer, as it always does, winds its way down many roads and comes complete with a story that sums up what he means.

In this case his story had nothing to do with this year’s team, or last year’s, or the year before, but it summed up exactly what a clutch competitor is. It is from a recruiting trip he took to see guard Tarik Phillip at Independence Community College in Kansas and a conversation he had with Phillip’s coach, Tony Turner.

It certainly wasn’t Huggins’ first trip to Independence, having brought future NBA player Ruben Patterson to Cincinnati when he coached there. Phillip was the final part of his rebuilding the guard position at WVU when both Eron Harris and Terry Henderson transferred.

He joined a key class of guard recruits with a couple of guys named Jevon Carter and Dax Miles.

Anyway, this is the conversation he had with Tony Turner about Phillip that day, as Huggins tells it.

HUGGINS: “How does he handle the ball?”

TURNER: “Eh, I don’t know. I wouldn’t call him a ball handler.”

HUGGINS: “Well, how does he pass it?”

TURNER: “Eh, wouldn’t call him a passer.”

HUGGINS: “Then, can he shoot it?”

TURNER: “I wouldn’t call him a shooter.”

HUGGINS: “What does he do?”

TURNER: “Coach, he wins.”

Huggins continued the story this way:

“We walked into the gym and he looked around and said, ‘You can pick any five you want and put the worst guys on his team and he’ll still win.’”

It was a done deal from there.

And now you know what Huggins saw in Osabuohien when he was leaving Arkansas.

You take individual skills and they matter only to a degree. It’s what they do with them.

Mike Boynton, who brought Oklahoma State into West Virginia and was soundly beaten on Tuesday, understands.

“I tell our guys we need a Gabe Osabuohien,” Boynton Jr. said, “That’s not a knock on any of our guys. All great teams have somebody like that who every now and then may jump up and have a game where they score, but they don’t place a high value on that personally because they know other guys are capable of doing that. They embrace the dirty work and blue-collar mentality.”

Huggins calls that “the will to win” and he indicates it’s really what he is looking for in his recruiting.

He wants winners who can play far more than players who play.

Maybe his favorite example of what he’s talking about was found on his Final Four team in 2010 in Cam Thoroughman.

“I never thought Cam would play for us because Cam always thought he was a guard,” Huggins said. “But it came down to we needed somebody who could guard (Luke) Harangody in the Notre Dame game, and he went in and did a terrific job and started from there on. We’re the only team in America to have a 6-foot-4 white guy playing center, and he did a terrific job.”

Harangody was Notre Dame’s Big East enforcer, but when he tangled with Thoroughman in the Coliseum, it was he who hit the deck with a thud..

“A lot of it is inside, how much you compete and how hard you compete,” Huggins said.

Huggins says he doesn’t happen to stumble upon competitors while recruiting.

“We try to recruit to that,” he said. “You look for guys who want to win, who want to compete. That’s what we look for.”

“Devin Williams was here this weekend. Did you ever see anyone who wanted to get a rebound more than him? Why wouldn’t you recruit that guy? We recruited Dev hard.”

It’d be nice if everyone was as cool as Stephen Curry, but they aren’t.

“It’s not about how guys look. It’s about how they play. Sometimes you get carried away. You go in and this guy is dunking every which way on everyone and you say you got a great prospect, but at the end of the day he’s not. You want guys who do things when the lights go on,” Huggins said.

Although you have to find out about that in practice, as Huggins learned when he transferred to WVU from Ohio U.

“My first day here at the Coliseum, Coach (Sonny) Moran says, ‘OK, Mother Hen.’ I don’t know what ‘Mother Hen’ is. I’m standing there and everyone else runs to the other side of the circle.

I look over, there’s this guy standing there and he kind of smiles. He’s got like half his teeth. He said, ‘We’ll have some fun.’ And we went at it, just him and I beating the hell out of each other on the court while everyone else is trying to stay out of our way.”

Huggins had proven himself that first day.

“Well, when I came back to coach here, we had a deal over at Kegler’s and he comes walking up and says, ‘You won’t remember me.”

Huggins remembered him well, answering “You got teeth now.”

They both laughed. You remember the guys who aren’t worried about appearances, who aren’t worried about stats, who don’t worry about how their sneakers look, just how high they can jump in them.

They are the winners.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia University women’s basketball team picked up its first Big 12 Conference win of the season after defeating Texas Tech, 64-53, on Wednesday evening at the WVU Coliseum in Morgantown.

In a back-and-forth affair, West Virginia (8-5, 1-2 Big 12) managed to outscore Texas Tech (8-7, 1-3 Big 12) in three of four quarters, including 20 points in the second quarter. The Mountaineers led by as many as 11 points in a game that featured eight lead changes and one tie. WVU also forced 21 Lady Raider turnovers in the game.

“I thought we played great defense for the majority of the game,” WVU coach Mike Carey said. “We didn’t block out well. Third quarter again, I don’t have the answer. I don't know. I tried to run some things that we don't normally run, try to get them moving, we just struggled in the third quarter to score again and come out and let them take the lead. Fourth quarter, I thought we played great defense, started rebounding a bit better, and got some scores. (We) hit our foul shots down the stretch so that was big.”

WVU was co-led in scoring by junior guard KK Deans and senior guard Madisen Smith, who each tallied 15 points. Additionally, freshman guard JJ Quinerly finished the game with 11 points. Junior forward Esmery Martinez paced West Virginia on the glass with seven rebounds.

Fifth-year senior center Yemiyah Morris netted the first score of the game just 18 seconds into the game, but neither team scored for the next five minutes. Smith stopped the drought with 4:53 remaining in the first quarter with a fast-break layup. Tech countered with its first basket of the game to make it a 4-2 game at the first media timeout.

West Virginia came out of the break and scored five points, including a Deans’ 3-pointer. On the other end, TTU countered with six points of its own, as the Mountaineers led, 9-8, at the end of the first quarter.

Texas Tech took its first lead to open the second quarter, but a Jasmine Carson triple and a trio of free throws helped WVU jump back out in front, 15-10. An and-one conversion from Tech’s Vivian Gray cut WVU’s lead to two with 7:29 to go. Quinerly scored a pair of baskets heading into the media break, as the Mountaineers stretched their lead to seven points.

The Lady Raiders netted five tallies after the break to cut WVU’s advantage back to two, but a pair of scores from Quinerly and Smith kept TTU at bay. West Virginia continued to hold off Tech defensively for the remainder of the quarter, as Quinerly and Smith continued to add to the Mountaineers’ lead. West Virginia led Texas Tech, 29-22, at halftime.

The Mountaineers surrendered 10 points to begin the third quarter, which forced them to call a timeout and gave the Lady Raiders the lead. Although Deans scored coming out of the timeout to stop the run, Texas Tech answered on its end before the media break.

WVU cut the deficit to one a few times following the timeout and eventually took the lead on a baseline drive from Quinerly with 3:03 to go in the quarter. On the other end, TTU got the lead back with a 3, but fifth-year senior forward Ari Gray tied the game up a few possessions later. West Virginia continued to keep the game within reach for the remainder of the period but trailed Texas Tech, 46-45, heading into the fourth quarter.

After Texas Tech increased its lead to three points to begin the fourth, West Virginia rattled off a 7-0 run to retake the advantage with 3:15 to go in the game, as the Mountaineers were up 52-48. The Lady Raiders added another score, but another scoring run stretched the lead to 10 points and kept WVU out in front. Tech continued its efforts to chip away at the WVU lead, but four more free throws helped the Mountaineers hang on late and earn their first Big 12 win of the season.

Next up, West Virginia squares off against No. 13/12 Texas in Austin on Saturday, Jan. 15. Tipoff against the Longhorns is scheduled for 8 p.m., and will be broadcast on the Longhorn Network.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Mountaineers welcomed 13 new members to their football team this week, all of whom enrolled at West Virginia University for the spring semester, which began this past Monday.

Twelve of the 13 had previously been announced as part of WVU’s class of 2022 signees. The one new name on the list is cornerback Marcis Floyd, who is transferring to the Mountaineers from Murray State. An FCS All-American and three-year starter for the Racers, the 6-foot, 188-pound Floyd had actually committed to West Virginia several weeks ago, but WVU had not put out an official release announcing his addition … until now.

The January enrollees include four transfers from other Division I programs (Floyd, running back Lyn-J Dixon from Clemson, defensive back Zeiqui Lawton from Cincinnati and tight end Brian Polendey from Colorado State), two junior college transfers (linebacker Lee Kpogba and safety Hershey McLaurin) and seven who graduated early from their high schools (cornerback Mumu Bin-Wahad, defensive lineman Aric Burton, quarterback Nicco Marchiol, safety Christion Stokes, punter Oliver Straw, wide receiver Jarel Williams and cornerback Tyrin Woodby).

These 13 new Mountaineers will be able to join their veteran teammates for upcoming strength and conditioning workouts, which for WVU get into full swing on Monday, Jan. 17, and then for the 15 spring practice sessions, which will begin in March.

West Virginia has 11 other signees who will enroll at WVU in the summer. The Mountaineers are also expected to sign eight additional prospects, be they high schoolers, jucos or four-year transfers, at various points prior to the 2022 season who also will join this class.

2022 West Virginia Football January Enrollees

Mumu Bin-Wahad (CB, 5-11, 180, Atlanta, Ga./Grayson HS)

Aric Burton (DL, 6-5, 215, Heufeld, Germany/Clearwater Academy International (Fla.))

Lyn-J Dixon (RB, 5-10, 195, Butler, Ga./Taylor County HS/Clemson)

Marcis Floyd (CB, 6-0, 188, Louisville, Ky./DuPont Manual/Murray State)

Lee Kpogba (LB, 6-1, 225, Winston-Salem, N.C./Parkland HS/Syracuse/East Mississippi CC)

Zeiqui Lawton (DL, 6-3, 266, Charleston, W.Va./South Charleston HS/Cincinnati)

Nicco Marchiol (QB, 6-3, 218, Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton HS)

Hershey McLaurin (S, 6-2, 205, Friendship, Miss./Collins HS/Jones County JC)

Brian Polendey (TE, 6-5, 260, Denton, Texas/Guyer/Miami/Colorado State)

Christion Stokes (S, 6-0, 180, Harper Woods, Mich./Harper Woods HS)

Oliver Straw (P, 6-2, 220, Melbourne, Australia/Mentone Grammar School)

Jarel Williams (WR, 6-2, 185, Saraland, Ala./Saraland HS)

Tyrin Woodby (CB, 6-0, 170, Upper Marlboro, Md./St. Frances Academy)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — Who are these guys?

That was the phrase that kept echoing in one's mind on Tuesday night as West Virginia was disposing of Oklahoma State by 10 points in a game that was nowhere that close.

West Virginia was making shots, running offense, controlling the boards, making quick, sure and sometimes spectacular passes.

And the free throws were falling like a soft summer rain, 20 of 21 for the game, to be exact.

Was this the same team Huggins was speaking about after winning its opener, saying:

"We just got to be better. We're not very good right now. We play like this when we play the Big 12 this year, we'll lose by 20. When you play teams like Kansas and Texas with 7-foot and 6-10 bigs, we're going to get outrebounded by more than the 15 we were tonight, and they are going to capitalize on those offensive rebounds."

Game after game it was complaints, never the same ones, except the free-throw shooting that seemed to be deteriorating almost daily. Huggins' team was being outrebounded, it needed to pass the ball better, handle the ball better, shoot it better.

Don't look now, but even though they are unranked, they are actually beginning to think about the race in the Big 12 and, yes, about March.

With No. 1 Baylor losing to Texas Tech on Tuesday, everyone in the conference understood that the Bears are not invincible.

"I'm super excited to see where we can go with this team," Jalen Bailey said after he scored 22 points against Oklahoma State. "We're starting to buy in. We're starting to get that chemistry going."

So much so that Bridges would even add this:

"I think the sky's the limit for this team, and we'll go as far as we want to go."

Gabe Osabuohien, who put together the most magical game of his career with 12 points and eight rebounds in addition to all those other things he does like stealing the ball, taking charges, shutting down a key player on the other team, tried to tone down the optimism.

"There's still a lot of stuff we need to work on defensively. We're getting better slowly but have a long way to go," he said.

But even he couldn't resist mentioning the unmentionable at this time of year.

"We're making sure we are better in March," he said, speaking of madness.

Perhaps the victory over the Cowboys could be looked upon as a statement game, one of those that warns the Big 12 not to overlook WVU.

"It's not a statement but we are expected to compete every year," Bridges said. "It feels like in our conference it's not just one team that's unbeatable. It's anybody's race. Baylor lost today. Anybody can get the regular season championship."

The improvement for WVU hasn't been easy. Someone asked Huggins if it had been a grind for the players to reach the point where they are now.

"I can’t speak for them, but it was a grind for me," he said. "You would think we got something fixed and try to move on to try and do something else, and then we didn’t do what we had been working on.

"I think our older guys have done a really good job. JB (Bridges) has done a terrific job. Keddy’s (senior guard Kedrian Johnson) done a really good job. Taz Sherman has helped those younger guys. It’s good when those guys are helping you coach. Those younger guys have a lot of respect for those older guys."

The most encouraging thing about WVU is that the one constant positive throughout the year has been the defense. This is important. There are days when you can't make a shot or when a team comes and plays good defense against you, but you can always play good defense if you are smart, physical and hustle.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton had nothing but praise for WVU's defense after his team struggled to reach 60 points.

"They took us out of our game," he said. "Their defense was aggressive as you always expect, and we didn’t respond the right way in terms of playing with the level of composure that we needed to in order to get good shots. I think in the first half we missed five or six easy shots, and you can’t miss your easy ones against them."

But now comes the tell-all moment of the season for this team as it travels to play at Kansas, then faces No. 1 Baylor in Morgantown and follows that up playing at Texas Tech, the team that upset the Bears Tuesday night.

Is it too much to think the Mountaineers can win two of those three?

"We look at it like every team is going to give you their best shot night in and night out," Bridges said. "Any team can get beat on any given night ... Baylor, Kansas, whoever. It doesn't matter."

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Gabe Osabuohien knows defense. Gabe knows taking charges. Gabe knows rebounding, and Gabe knows passing, too.

But Gabe knows offense? Nah!

Check that, Gabe does know offense … at least he did in Tuesday’s 70-60 victory over Oklahoma State at the WVU Coliseum.

West Virginia’s senior forward scored a season-high 12 points, to go along with eight rebounds, six fouls drawn (three of them charges), two steals, one blocked shot and one assist, to lead the Mountaineers to a win over the OSU. Thus WVU improved its overall record to 13-2 with a 2-1 mark in Big 12 play, while the Pokes dropped to 8-6 overall and 1-2 in the league.

Osabuohien wasn’t the only contributor for West Virginia. Sophomore forward Jalen Bridges also reached his 2021-22 best with 22 points, while Sean McNeil and Taz Sherman added 12 and 13 respectively.

On this night, though, almost all the cheers were for Gabe.

“I just tried to be aggressive,” explained Osabuohien, who was averaging just 3.8 points per game prior to the OSU contest. “They had a really small lineup, so I knew I could attack and have easy shots over their little guards.”

West Virginia got things going fairly early against the Cowboys. WVU has had first-half struggles for much of the season, but that wasn’t the case Tuesday night.

The two combatants traded plenty of missed shots (11) and turnovers (9) in the first nine minutes, leaving the game was tied, 12-12, at that juncture.

But then the Mountaineers went on an 11-2 run to distance themselves from OSU. Osabuohien provided the spark for West Virginia in that spurt, not only with his usual effervescent defense but also by scoring nine points in the period, which was one off his season high for a complete game. The 26.7% free throw shooter, who hadn’t made more than two foul shots in any one game this season, even connected on all three of his tries from the charity stripe in the first 20 minutes, and he wound up making four of four for the game. Osabuohien’s first-half effort helped WVU take a 34-23 lead into the locker room at the half. It wound never trail again.

“I felt comfortable. I was just playing basketball,” noted Osabuohien in reaching double figures in the scoring department for just the fourth time in his 72 games as a Mountaineer. “I even made free throws, and once you see the ball go in a couple times, it gives you confidence and makes things easier.”

West Virginia’s lead grew as large as 16 eight minutes into the second half, but then the visitors tried to fight back. Down 51-37 at the 12:18 mark, Oklahoma State outscored West Virginia 10-3 over the next five minutes to make things interesting.

The Mountaineers had another run left in them, though, this of the 14-3 variety to pull away and secure the win.

“(Scoring) is an added bonus to all the other great things Gabe does on the floor,” said Bridges, who had eclipsed 20 points only one other time in his WVU career – with 22 last season against TCU. “The things he does often don’t show up on the stat sheet. For him to provide that boost on offense, it made things easier.”

“I’m certainly familiar with his ability, but you don’t expect that kind of offensive production from Gabe,” said OK State’s fifth-year head coach Mike Boynton of Osabuohien. “(McNeil and Sherman) didn’t have huge nights, which they’re capable of, but when you have other guys step up like Gabe and Jalen, it gives them a chance to overcome that.”

The Cowboys had won six times in their nine previous trips to the Coliseum, but they wouldn’t make it seven of 10, though.

Gabe knows that.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — For the first time this year West Virginia put it all together for a full game and with Gabe Osabuohien and Jalen Bridges leading the way beat Oklahoma State, 70-60, in a game that was not nearly that close before 10,352 insomniacs at the Coliseum.

Bridges matched his career high with 22 points, going 10 for 10 from the free throw line on a night when the Mountaineers hit 20 of 21 from the line. He tossed five rebounds and three blocked shots for good measure.

And Osabuohien showed off heretofore unseen offensive skills as to go with his smothering defensive play, scoring 12 points and making all four of his free throws while grabbing eight rebounds.

WVU ran its record to 13-2, 2-1 in the Big 12 on a night when the league leader and the nation’s No. 1 team, Baylor, was upset by Texas Tech.

It was a late-arriving crowd, even the early arrivals coming late. Couldn’t help it with a 9 p.m. starting time.

That, of course, gave the crowd a chance to get some alcoholic encouragement for the evening. Had to be some imbibing, especially the fan that arrived wearing his team jersey, which would have been all right had it not been No. 34 with the name Tshiebwe on the back.

Not that anyone noticed. The crowd was caught up in the best first half WVU had put together all year, led as it often is by the manical play of Osabuohien.

The do-everything forward was his usual force on defense, his hand in seemingly on the ball no matter who had it or where. He was credited with only one steal and one block in the half, but it seemed like he had close to a dozen deflections.

But his real dominance came on the offensive end as he scored nine points, one short of Bridges’ 10 and one more than Taz Sherman’s eight as the Mountaineers built a 34-23 advantage.

Osabuohien went 3-for-5 from the floor and somehow made all 3 of his free throws. His season free throw percentage coming into the game was 26.7.

At one point he made nine consecutive points to stretch the WVU lead from 18-12 to 27-12.. This included his play of the year, a drive toward the basket at full speed where he faked right, spun to his left 360 degrees, then threw up a tough layup while being fouled.

“I was in transition and I had a smaller man on me and felt I could get to the rim,” Osabuohien said of the play.

Not seeing the foul, Huggins took him out of the game to a standing ovation, only to have the officials call him back to shoot the free throw, which he made.

He exited again, this time to a louder, longer ovation.

“The offense he gives us is just an added bonus with all the other great things he does,” Bridges said of Osabuohien.

The second half started off with McNeil making sure that Oklahoma State couldn’t draw any closer as he scored the Mountaineers’ first seven points on a couple of baskets and then a 3 from the left corner off a smooth pass from Sherman.

Kaylen Boone answered that with a 3 and the lead was nine, so it was time for Osabuohien to again ignite the crowd, this time with a difficult shot off a drive, then canned his fourth consecutive free throw to give him 12 points.

With it all, WVU had nothing put away, even as the lead grew to 16. You just knew that Oklahoma State had a run in them, especially as they began picking up all over the floor and sure enough they put nine straight points on the board, six of them from Issac Likekele and all of a sudden it was a 53-46 game with still 7:37 to play.

It was Bridges’ turn to take over, with some more help from Osabuohien as he scored eight straight points, four on free throws.

Two more of them came with Osabuohien’s finger print all over them, Gabe wrestling the ball away from Bryce Williams and getting it to Bridges for a dunk.

By the time this run was over WVU’s lead was up to 64-49 ... and Bridges wasn’t done. Already possessing 20 points, sank two more free throws

From there it was a matter of simply keeping Oklahoma State from making a late run.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

WEST MILFORD, W.Va. (WV News) — The Notre Dame Fighting Irish scored a season-high number of points but fell on the road to the Tygarts Valley Bulldogs, 48-32, on Tuesday afternoon.

Bella Ramsey led the Irish with 15 points and 17 rebounds, while Zyla Lanham added 10 points, six rebounds and two steals.

Notre Dame led 9-7 after the first quarter before Tygarts Valley rallied to go up 19-15 at the half and 35-30 after three quarters.

Tygarts Valley (3-6) is at Greenbrier West on Jan. 13 at 6 p.m.

Notre Dame (0-10) hosts Liberty on Jan. 17 at 7 p.m., the team’s first home game since Dec. 4.

College

FAIRMONT STATE UPDATES ATTENDANCE POLICY: The Fairmont State University Department of Athletics has announced an update to the no-spectator policy.

Beginning Wednesday evening, January 12, immediate family members of participants will be admitted through a pass list.

Family groups will be required to be fully masked and seated away from other family groups.

Fairmont State will continue to evaluate the status of infection rates and make further adjustments to the spectator policy as the seasons continue.

WVWC ANNOUNCES HALL CLASS: The West Virginia Wesleyan Department of Athletics has announced the addition of five new members to the 2021 West Virginia Wesleyan Athletics Hall of Fame class.

Stacy Brown Harlan ‘99 (Swimming): Brown Harlan competed on the WVWC Swimming team for four years from 1995-1999. She was the team captain from 1997-99. In her four years of competition, she did not lose a dual meet in the 100-meter or 200-meter backstroke. Brown Harlan is the only WVWC women’s swimmer to qualify for the NCAA National Championships. She qualified for the NCAA Championships in 1996 and 1997 for the 100-meter backstroke. Brown Harlan was named an NCAA Division II All-American in the 200m backstroke (1998) and the 50m freestyle (1999).

Gavin Donaldson (Head Men’s Soccer Coach): Throughout 36 seasons as a head coach, Donaldson has accumulated 402 wins including 260 victories in his 31-year career at WVWC. In 1994, Donaldson led the Bobcats to an NAIA national title en route to NAIA and NSCAA National Coach of the Year. Under the direction of Donaldson, the West Virginia Wesleyan men's soccer coaching staff was named Division II National Staff of the Year by United Soccer Coaches for the 2020 season (played in the spring of 2021).

Chris Patella ‘79 (Football): Patella was a two-time first-team All-WVIAC honoree. He was a team captain for the 1977 and 1978 seasons. Patella was named to the 1976 All-WVIAC Honorable Mention team and was awarded honorable mention honors as an All-American in 1977. Patella recorded 87 tackles in 10 games his junior season.

Eugene Rall ‘62 (Football): Rall was a wide receiver and a placekicker on the WVWC football team from 1958-1961. He was co-captain of the 1961 WVIAC championship team that posted an 8-1 record. Rall led the Bobcats in receiving yards his senior year and averaged 14.4 yards/reception. He received WVIAC honorable mention accolades. Rall was awarded the Murmurmontis Sportsmanship Award.

Jim Wilkinson ‘60 (Basketball): Wilkinson was named co-captain of the WVWC basketball team in the 1958-59 season. He led his team to a WVIAC tournament championship and an NAIA district championship. Wilkinson was the captain of the Wesleyan baseball team for the 1959 season. After his athletic career at WVWC, Wilkinson accumulated over 400 wins as a high school basketball coach in Pennsylvania.

The Class of 2021 WVWC Hall of Fame Inductees will be enshrined on Thursday, April 21, 2022, along with the Class of 2020 as part of Homecoming Week.

The festivities will be conducted in the Benedum Campus Center Social Hall. The meet & greet will begin at 5 p.m. and dinner will start at 5:30 p.m. followed by the induction ceremony.

Women’s Basketball

NEW DATES FOR WVU WOMEN’S GAMES: The Big 12 Conference has announced two changes to West Virginia’s women’s basketball schedule.

The Mountaineers will host TCU on Jan. 25 (game originally scheduled for Feb. 16) and make up its trip to Kansas (originally scheduled for Jan. 5) on Feb. 15.

West Virginia football offensive coordinator Graham Harrell has a three-year deal with the Mountaineers at an average salary of $750,000 per year, sources have confirmed to the Blue & Gold News.

That makes Harrell the highest-paid assistant on Neal Brown’s staff. Defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley, who averages $542,500 over the two years of his contract (2021-22), was previously the top earner, as detailed by BlueGoldNews.com in March, 2021.

Harrell is slated to make $600,000 in 2022, $800,000 in 2023 and $850,000 in 2024. Bonuses, the structure of which are still to be learned, could elevate his salary further. Most of West Virginia’s assistants earn bonuses according to the structure listed below.

Big 12 Champ Game Appearance: $10,000

Big 12 Champ Game Win: $10,000

Big 12 Low Tier Bowl Appearance: $10,000

Big 12 Low Tier Bowl Win: $5,000

Big 12 High Tier Bowl Appearance: $15,000

Big 12 High Tier Bowl Win: $5,000

New Year's Six Bowl Appearance: $20,000

New Year's Six Bowl Win: $5,000

CFP Semifinal Appearance: $25,000

CFP National Championship Appearance: $25,000

CFP National Championship Win: $25,000

While Harrell’s contract numbers are generous, they don’t approach the reported three-year extension he signed at USC in 2019.

According to reports, that deal was for a total of $3.6 million, or $1.2 million per year. USC doled out that contract to fend off interest from the University of Texas and the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, among others.

Harrell is the only WVU assistant with a three-year contract.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — Three years ago, Neal Brown took the big jump from Troy, where he served his head coaching apprenticeship with rave reviews.

He was marked as an up-and-coming coach who was destined for success and our state of West Virginia was as thrilled to land him as he was thrilled to come to this Power 5 program that was in the midst of a transformation not only the football field, but in its facilities.

He came as not your traditional coach, but one preaching family values and having outings with his team and fun competitions. He was so eager, so engaging after Dana Holgorsen had let the program deteriorate, so personable that he was welcomed with open arms.

What he didn't know was that he was walking in steaming cauldron ready to bubble over.

The first year was a honeymoon, for even the most casual fan could realize he was left with not nearly enough talent to compete with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or even many teams a rung down the ladder in the Big 12.

So he said "Trust the Climb." It was a catch phrase, the kind of thing that Madison Avenue uses to hook you on products like Frosted Flakes ("G-r-r-r-r-eat!"), roars Tony the Tiger or Nike's "Just Do It" or Wendy's "Where's the Beef."

That was probably what Brown was thinking when he saw the team he had inherited, especially in the offensive line. If he had asked "Where's the beef?" no one would have questioned why.

The second year one would expect to see a move forward, but that was the year of COVID-19, which all would agree gave him a mulligan.

"Trust the climb."

The natives, however, became restless in the third year. The offensive line did make strides forward, but was no match when up against defenses like Oklahoma State or Minnesota.

This was a proud program that lived off being the underdog, but which had some fine coaching and big-time talent. Of all the teams that had not won a national championship, WVU had won more games than any of them.

Oddly, and I still disagree with the move that was made, WVU became so full of itself that three nine-win seasons under Bill Stewart weren't good enough.

The fact was that in the 39 years between Don Nehlen's hiring and Neal Brown's hiring, WVU had only 6 sub-.500 seasons.

So, with two sub-.500 seasons in three years, one understands how the fan base could become disenchanted and started watching their step as they climbing.

West Virginia was used to good coaches, winning coaches. It was in their DNA, so much so that when it wasn't really surprising when friend Mike Brumage pointed out via a Tuesday morning tweet that the state had produced within 10 miles coaches who won 16 national championships.

Count them up ... Fielding "Hurry Up" Yost, four at Michigan around the turn of the 20th century; John McKay, four at USC; Nick Saban, four at Alabama and LSU, and Jimbo Fisher, one at Florida State.

Sadly, none did it at their own state university, but you get the picture.

Football was important to the people of a state that at times felt it had little to be proud over.

And now things weren't going well and that upset them.

Well, if you think it upset them, rest assured it upset Neal Brown, too.

He felt he had to make changes in his staff, and as he did, he also did what may be hardest of all for anyone to do in such circumstances.

He stood up and took responsibility.

That comes with the job. It comes with the paycheck.

Statistics — and anyone's eyes who could bare to watch — saw that the offense was dismal and he had been insistent from the beginning that the offense was his responsibility.

Even as he hired Graham Harrell, who seems to be a budding star in the coaching business, having put together one of the nation's top passing games at USC over the last three years, he would not point fingers at anyone.

True, Gerad Parker, who had the title of offensive coordinator, was getting a lot of blame on social media, but Brown exonerated him as he demoted him.

"He's been No. 2 in room," he noted on MetroNews Sportsline Monday night. "I think he's the best receiver coach in the country. Our lack of production really doesn't have anything to do with him. He wasn't meant to lead. I was."

He wasn't quite as generous to Sean Reagan, the quarterbacks coach, under whom neither Jarret Doege nor Garrett Greene made noticeable strides, replacing him with Harrell and not yet landing a spot for him, although to date he has kept him on the staff.

"Sean is a fine coach. We just haven't played well enough in that room. That's not on him. That's on me and the quarterbacks," Brown said.

What wasn't addressed was the mass exodus off the team via the transfer portal, especially out of Parker's receiver room. That may have had less to do with Parker's coaching than with the general inability of the offense and the quarterbacks to make plays.

So now Harrell enters and he does so with play calling responsibilities and with young, unproven quarterbacks, unless he can convince redshirt sophomore QB Jaxon Dart, who went into the transfer portal almost simultaneously as Harrell's move to WVU was being announced, to come join him at WVU.

That he is new to the QBs will be important for they start out competing on a level field and will be able to be molded by Harrell into what he wants.

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WV News) — "Gods Timing Is Always Perfect", read the tweet from former West Virginia and Fairmont Senior defensive lineman Darius Stills.

It certainly looks that way for Stills, who signed a 'future' contract with the Kansas City Chiefs on Tuesday, ahead of the two-time defending AFC champions' playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night at 8:15 p.m.

He qualified to sign a future contact after the last day of the regular season, which kicks in during March, because he was an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Stills was West Virginia’s 12th consensus All-American and first since 2006, earning first-team honors from the Associated Press, Sporting News, ESPN, Bleacher Report and USA Today.

He was named the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year after recording 25 tackles, 3.5 sacks and an interception during the 2020 season.

He was a two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection.

Stills wasn't selected in the NFL Draft after last season, but signed as a free agent with the Las Vegas Raiders last May 7.

He went through training camp with the Raiders but was released on Aug. 26.

Ever since then, he's been waiting for an opportunity.

His father, Gary, was drafted by KC and played for the Chiefs from 1999-2005.

Stills' brother, Dante, was eligible to be drafted this year, but decided to return to school at WVU, for whom he was an All-American defensive tackle, taking advantage of a fifth year of eligibility granted due to the Covid-19 season of 2020

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WV News) — “Gods Timing Is Always Perfect,” read the tweet from former West Virginia University and Fairmont Senior defensive lineman Darius Stills.

It certainly looks that way for Stills, who signed a “future” contract with the Kansas City Chiefs on Tuesday, ahead of the two-time defending AFC champions’ playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at 8:15 p.m.

Stills qualified to sign a future contact, which kicks in during March, after the last day of the regular season because he was an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Stills was West Virginia University’s 12th consensus All-American and first since 2006, earning first-team honors from The Associated Press, Sporting News, ESPN, Bleacher Report and USA Today.

He was named the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year after recording 25 tackles, 3.5 sacks and an interception during the 2020 season.

He was a two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection.

Stills wasn’t selected in the NFL Draft after last season, but signed as a free agent with the Las Vegas Raiders last May 7.

He went through training camp with the Raiders but was released on Aug. 26.

Ever since then, he’s been waiting for an opportunity.

His father, Gary, was drafted by KC and played for the Chiefs from 1999-2005.

Stills’ brother, Dante, was eligible to be drafted this year, but decided to return to school at WVU, for whom he was an All-American defensive tackle, taking advantage of a fifth year of eligibility granted due to the Covid-19 season of 2020

Monday, January 10, 2022

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — No matter if it’s been good, bad or somewhere in the middle, Oklahoma State has often been a thorn in West Virginia’s side on the basketball court, especially in Morgantown.

The Cowboys own more wins in the WVU Coliseum than any other Big 12 foe, as they are 6-3 all-time in Morgantown and have come away with victories in four of their last five trips to the Coliseum, including an 85-80 triumph last year.

OSU is currently 8-5 overall on the 2021-22 season and 1-1 against Big 12 competition, but they return many of the same Pokes who led the way to two triumphs in three meetings against West Virginia last season — a 72-69 win in Kansas City in the Big 12 Tourney, an 85-80 victory in Morgantown and an 87-84 loss in Stillwater.

The biggest missing piece from last season for Oklahoma State, which was 21-9, is Cade Cunningham, who was the NBA’s No. 1 draft pick this past summer.

But 6-foot-3 junior guard Avery Anderson is back after torching the Mountaineers for 31 points in the Coliseum last year. The Justin, Texas, native is averaging a team-high 11.6 points per game this season.

Also 6-foot-5 guard Isaac Likekele returns for what feels like his 12th season with OSU – it’s actually his fourth, and with the eligibility-free year because of covid last season, he actually could be back in 2022-23 as well. Likekele is averaging 7.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per game so far this season. He’s been particularly harmful against the Mountaineers over the years, averaging 12.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in his six previous games against WVU. Twice he eclipsed 20 points against West Virginia.

“They’re good; they’re really, really good,” said WVU head coach Bob Huggins of the Cowboys, who are guided by fifth-year coach Mike Boynton (80-63). “Likekele hurt us a couple of years ago, actually just took over the game (23 points and nine rebounds in an 85-77 OSU win in 2019 in Stillwater). Both the Boone brothers (6-foot-9 Kalib and 6-foot-8 Keylan) have played really well against us.

“They’re as athletic as can be. They’re a really good team,” added Huggins, whose Mountaineers are 12-2 overall this year and 1-1 in league play. “Mike has done a great job with them.”

The Cowboys come into Tuesday night’s affair (9 p.m. on ESPNU) with momentum, having dispatched 14th-rank Texas, 64-51, Saturday, but OK State had lost four of five prior to that win over the Longhorns in Gallagher-Iba Arena.

If there is a bright spot for the Mountaineers in future games against Oklahoma State, it’s that WVU, while 3-6 against the Pokes in the Coliseum, is 6-3 against them in Stillwater. West Virginia returns the trip to Gallagher-Iba on Saturday, Feb. 12.

* * * * * *

A number of West Virginia’s upcoming basketball games tipoff at unusual times.

Tuesday’s clash with Oklahoma State at the WVU Coliseum begins at 9 p.m. (Eastern), a time that happens occasionally each season for the Mountaineers in order to fill ESPN slots. Saturday’s contest at Kansas starts 2 p.m. for CBS; also a bit unique but not unheard of.

The strangest start times come later in the season when WVU tips off at the Coliseum against Baylor at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 18, and then it has a pair of 8 p.m. home starts against Oklahoma on Wednesday, Jan. 26 and Kansas on Saturday, Feb. 19. It has just one remaining home game with a traditional 7 p.m. tip — Iowa State on Tuesday, Feb. 8.

The 5 p.m. weekday start against the No. 1 Bears next Tuesday is the oddest of them all, and you can blame the NFL for that one.

The back story behind that late-afternoon Tuesday tip is that the game was originally slated by ESPN for a Big Monday showdown. But when the NFL expanded its playoffs by two games and moved one of them to a Monday night, ESPN jumped all over the opportunity to broadcast a wildcard round pro football game on Monday night. Thus the basketball games ESPN had planned for that Monday had to be pushed back a day, and in order to get what had been two days worth of college basketball games all televised on the same day, some unusual time slots had to be assigned.

Thus you get Baylor/West Virginia at 5 p.m.

So if you’re rushing to see BU/WVU after work next Tuesday, blame the NFL.

MORGANTOWN — It's January.

That means snow and ice, frigid temperatures ... and Big 12 basketball.

At least that's what West Virginia thought it had in store when the season began but one look at the schedule and you wonder if it's a Big 12 schedule or an NBA one.

Beginning at 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Coliseum in a game deemed worthy of CBS coverage by the Big 12 and the network, WVU plays Oklahoma State to begin its way down a gauntlet of big-time challenges that could define the season.

After Oklahoma State, WVU gets the pleasure of flying to Lawrence, Kansas, to play KU and Allen Fieldhouse; then they welcome No. 1 Baylor to the Coliseum, followed by a trip to Texas Tech and then coming home to play Oklahoma.

It may not the Warriors or the Suns, but it's a rocky road to February.

OK, the Cowboys are only 8-5, but they have played a tough schedule and know this about them.

In their last game they pulled out a 64-51 win over Texas. You might remember Texas, the team that beat WVU on New Year's Day and was ranked No. 17 in the nation at the time.

And what's more, Oklahoma State always gives WVU trouble, having split 20 games with the Mountaineers in the series and going 6-3 in Morgantown, which doesn't make it exactly a home court advantage.

"It hasn't been one team dominating another," WVU Coach Bob Huggins said on Monday. "It's been all great games."

Last year they played three times. WVU wiped out a 17-point deficit (sound familiar?) to win in Stillwater, then the Cowpokes came to Morgantown without Cade Cunningham, who would be the No. 1 pick in last year's draft, and beat WVU.

Avery Anderson III did his best Cunningham imitation with 31 points on 11 of 14 shooting.

"You have days where, for whatever reason, they don't go in," Huggins said, trying to explain how a guy like Anderson goes off unexpectedly. "Other days, seemingly everything goes in. I don't know how to predict that."

Anderson is back and it might be expected that WVU's best defender, Kedrian Johnson, would be assigned him but Huggins isn't sure that's the approach he wants to take.

"Kedrian is a very good on the ball defender. I don't know that will be the matchup. We like having him on whoever has the ball the most," he said. "They're so versatile they can play a lot of people at a lot of different spots."

That was the final game of the regular season and they were matched up again in the first game of the Big 12 Tournament and OSU survived.

"The tournament game was a great game," Huggins said. "If we get a call at the end, who knows what happens."

But the call went the other way, and so did WVU, heading to prepare for the NCAA Tournament that ended with Syracuse outlasting the Mountaineers.

Oklahoma State returns most of its team from last year, unlike so many schools that has players scurrying into the transfer portal or the NBA draft.

"Mike (Boynton) has a great rapport with those guys .. and they've been there for a while," Huggins said. "I think they're proud to be there.. Those guys probably have helped Mike convert some of those other guys if they weren't 100% to get them to be 100%."

As for the Mountaineers, they don't know if Malik Curry will back from an ankle injury he suffered against Kansas State.

"He didn't practice yesterday," Huggins allowed. "It's the same ankle he's hurt a bunch of times. That's the good thing. The more you sprain them, the faster you can come back from it. That's my medical report for the day."

WVU will also have Taz Sherman back for the second game after battling Covid. In the K-State game he wasn't at his sharpest, although he did can two key 3s.

"He wasn't very good. He gutted his way through it," Huggins aid. "He was better yesterday, but he has to get his weight back. I thought he looked really thin."

Sean McNeil comes into the game off matching his career high with 26 points against Kansas State and sophomore Noah Cottrell had one of his better outings of the season in the last game, offering hope that he's finally figuring it all out.

MORGANTOWN — It's January.

That means snow and ice, frigid temperatures ... and Big 12 basketball.

At least that's what West Virginia thought it had in store when the season began but one look at the schedule and you wonder if it's a Big 12 schedule or an NBA one.

Beginning at 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Coliseum in a game deemed worthy of CBS coverage by the Big 12 and the network, WVU plays Oklahoma State to begin its way down a gauntlet of big-time challenges that could define the season.

After Oklahoma State, WVU gets the pleasure of flying to Lawrence, Kansas, to play KU and Allen Fieldhouse; then they welcome No. 1 Baylor to the Coliseum, followed by a trip to Texas Tech and then coming home to play Oklahoma.

It may not the Warriors or the Suns, but it's a rocky road to February.

OK, the Cowboys are only 8-5, but they have played a tough schedule and know this about them.

In their last game they pulled out a 64-51 win over Texas. You might remember Texas, the team that beat WVU on New Year's Day and was ranked No. 17 in the nation at the time.

And what's more, Oklahoma State always gives WVU trouble, having split 20 games with the Mountaineers in the series and going 6-3 in Morgantown, which doesn't make it exactly a home court advantage.

"It hasn't been one team dominating another," WVU Coach Bob Huggins said on Monday. "It's been all great games."

Last year they played three times. WVU wiped out a 17-point deficit (sound familiar?) to win in Stillwater, then the Cowpokes came to Morgantown without Cade Cunningham, who would be the No. 1 pick in last year's draft, and beat WVU.

Avery Anderson III did his best Cunningham imitation with 31 points on 11 of 14 shooting.

"You have days where, for whatever reason, they don't go in," Huggins said, trying to explain how a guy like Anderson goes off unexpectedly. "Other days, seemingly everything goes in. I don't know how to predict that."

Anderson is back and it might be expected that WVU's best defender, Kedrian Johnson, would be assigned him but Huggins isn't sure that's the approach he wants to take.

"Kedrian is a very good on the ball defender. I don't know that will be the matchup. We like having him on whoever has the ball the most," he said. "They're so versatile they can play a lot of people at a lot of different spots."

That was the final game of the regular season and they were matched up again in the first game of the Big 12 Tournament and OSU survived.

"The tournament game was a great game," Huggins said. "If we get a call at the end, who knows what happens."

But the call went the other way, and so did WVU, heading to prepare for the NCAA Tournament that ended with Syracuse outlasting the Mountaineers.

Oklahoma State returns most of its team from last year, unlike so many schools that has players scurrying into the transfer portal or the NBA draft.

"Mike (Boynton) has a great rapport with those guys .. and they've been there for a while," Huggins said. "I think they're proud to be there.. Those guys probably have helped Mike convert some of those other guys if they weren't 100% to get them to be 100%."

As for the Mountaineers, they don't know if Malik Curry will back from an ankle injury he suffered against Kansas State.

"He didn't practice yesterday," Huggins allowed. "It's the same ankle he's hurt a bunch of times. That's the good thing. The more you sprain them, the faster you can come back from it. That's my medical report for the day."

WVU will also have Taz Sherman back for the second game after battling Covid. In the K-State game he wasn't at his sharpest, although he did can two key 3s.

"He wasn't very good. He gutted his way through it," Huggins aid. "He was better yesterday, but he has to get his weight back. I thought he looked really thin."

Sean McNeil comes into the game off matching his career high with 26 points against Kansas State and sophomore Noah Cottrell had one of his better outings of the season in the last game, offering hope that he's finally figuring it all out.

MORGANTOWN — Neal Brown, under pressure to get more out of his offense after three seasons of struggling, pulled the trigger midday Monday and hired former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell to take over as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

One of the most prolific quarterbacks in NCAA history under Mike Leach in his Air Raid system, Harrell had spent the past three years as offensive coordinator and quarterback coach at USC.

That staff is currently under reconstruction with former Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley taking over, making Harrell available.

The move might also pay an even bigger dividend as national football writer Pete Thamel tweeted Monday that USC quarterback Jaxson Dart has entered the transfer portal, a move that seems to signal that as expected Riley will get a commitment from his freshman sensation with the Sooners, Caleb Williams.

It also opens up the possibility, strictly speculation at this point, that Harrell might bring Dart along with him. Rivals.com had Dart rated as the No. 5 dual threat quarterback out of high school last year.

Dart was expected to contend for the starting job at USC this season.

Harrell agreed to a three-year with a $600,000 salary the first year, $800,000 the second year and $850,000 the third year.

Brown's offensive staff has undergone changes.

Gerad Parker, who was offensive coordinator, now becomes co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach while Chad Scott becomes run-game coordinator and running backs coach.

There was no announcement as to the status of Sean Reagan, who had been serving as quarterbacks coach, but he remains on the staff.

Monday morning, tight ends coach Travis Trickett tweeted his farewell to WVU fans, players and staff. He is headed to South Florida as offensive coordinator.

Brown admitted the performance of the offense in his third season, which ended with a 6-7 record, had troubled him and responsibility for the performance of the offense.

"Since the end of the season, I have spent time reflecting on the program and take responsibility, knowing we have to be better offensively," Brown said in the school's announcement of Harrell's hiring. "I've been serving in dual role as offensive coordinator and head coach, and we need to bring in another voice for the offense.

"Having Graham as the offensive coordinator and working with Gerad as the No. 2 lead in the offensive room, as he has done, will make us a better, more-efficient offense and move us in the director we need to head. In turn, that will allow me to be a more effective CEO of the Mountaineer football program.

Brown spoke to Harrell's assets, especially as a play caller and quarterback coach.

"I have followed Graham's playing and coaching career for quite some time, and there's no question he is a talented coach with a bright future," he said. "He has a successful track record as a play caller, has done an outstanding job of developing quarterbacks and is proven winner. His character, competitiveness and positive energy is a great fit for our program. He brings Power 5 coaching experience and an extensive knowledge of the Big 12."

Under Harrell last year USC was No. 17 in the nation in passing offense with 298.3 yards a game (WVU was No. 56 at 247.4 yards a game); No. 17 in red zone offense (WVU was tied for 18th at 90.0%); No 20 in third down efficiency (WVU No. 68) and No. 24 in total offense with 443.9 yards per game (WVU was No. 87 at 371.3 yards per game)

Harrell developed true freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis into a Freshman All-American and the PAC-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, completing 71.9% of his passes, an NCAA freshman record. He passed for 3,502 yards and 30 touchdowns and threw for 515 yards against rival UCLA.

Wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. was a Biletnikoff Award finalist and was among the top 20 in the nation ins receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

Under Leach at Texas Tech, Harrell shattered records from 2005 to 2008. He finished his career with an NCAA record 134 touchdown passes, the second-most career years in NCAA history at 15,793. He had an NCAA record 21 games of 400-plus yards passing and three 4,000-yard seasons.

He was an All-American and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2008 after passing for 5,111 yards and throwing 45 TDs with just nine interceptions.

He played for his father, Sam, at Ennis High, throwing for Texas career records of 12,532 yards and 167 touchdowns. He led Ennis to the state Class 4A title as a 2001 sophomore. As a senior in 2003, he set state records for season passing yards, completions and touchdowns (4,825, 334, 67).

Inducted into the Texas Tech Hall of Fame in 2020, Harrell earned his bachelor's degree in history from Texas Tech in 2007.

Harrell, and his wife, Brittney, have a 6-year-old son, Hawk and a daughter, Mia. Harrell’s brother, Clark, played quarterback at Tulsa (2007) and Abilene Christian (2008-10); Clark and his other brother, Zac, are now high school football coaches in Texas.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Graham Harrell, who was the offensive coordinator at USC the past three years, is West Virginia University's new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach,

WVU football coach Neal Brown made the announcement of Harrell's hiring on Monday afternoon.

Brown also announced additional changes to the offensive staff that will include Gerad Parker as the co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach, and Chad Scott, the run game coordinator and running backs coach.

"I have followed Graham's playing and coaching career for quite some time, and there's no question he is a talented coach with a bright future," Brown said. "He has a successful track record as a play caller, has done an outstanding job of developing quarterbacks and is a proven winner. His character, competitiveness and positive energy is a great fit for our program. He brings Power 5 coaching experience and an extensive knowledge of the Big 12. I know he is looking forward to getting started, meeting our staff and players.

"Since the end of the season, I have spent time reflecting on the program, and take responsibility, knowing we have to be better offensively," Brown said. "I've been serving in a dual role as the offensive coordinator and head coach, and we need to bring in another voice for the offense. Having Graham as the offensive coordinator and working with Gerad as the No. 2 lead in the offensive room, as he has done, will make us a better, more-efficient offense and move us in the direction we need to head. In turn, that will allow me to be a more effective CEO of the Mountaineer football program."

Harrell comes to WVU after serving as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at USC for the past three years (2019-21).

"I am excited to join Neal Brown's staff at West Virginia and become a part of the Mountaineer football program," Harrell said. "This program has a long and successful history with a lot of tradition, and I have so much respect for the state of West Virginia, its people and their values. I believe this is a great fit for me and my family as Neal and I know or have worked with a lot of the same people. I grew up in the Big 12, played in it, and I look forward to getting back to competing in it. I can't wait to get to know our players and help this program make its mark."

In 2021, USC led the Pac-12 and was No. 17 nationally in passing offense (298.3) and red zone offense (.902), No. 20 in third-down conversion percentage and No. 24 in total offense (443.9). Receiver Drake London was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and earned a spot on several All-America teams.

In 2020, USC's passing offense ranked No. 11 nationally (first in Pac-12) at 319.3. Quarterback Kedon Slovis made All-Pac-12 first team while ranking in the top-20 in completions (first at 29.5), passing yards (sixth at 320.2), total offense (No. 13 at 310.7) and completion percentage (No. 18 at .670), all tops in the Pac-12. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown also was an All-Pac-12 first teamer.

In Harrell's first year at USC in 2019, the Trojan offense averaged 455.4 total yards (335.8 passing) and 32.5 points—significant improvements from 2018, when the figures were 382.6, 249.1 and 26.1—while ranking in the top-25 in completion percentage, passing offense, passing efficiency, total offense, third down conversions and first downs. The 2019 Trojans also set school season pass marks for total passing yards (4,365), completion percentage (71.0%), completions (365) and attempts (514).

Under Harrell's tutelage, true freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis was a Freshman All-American first teamer and the Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, completing a school-record and NCAA freshman record 71.9% of his passes for a USC frosh record 3,502 yards with 30 TDs, including a school-record 515 passing yards against UCLA (one of a USC record four games with 400-plus passing yards), to rank in the top-20 in completion percentage, passing yards, completions, passing efficiency, passing TD and total offense (his 167.9 passing efficiency rating was a USC record).

Wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., who won the 2019 Pop Warner College Football Award and was a finalist for the Biletnikoff and Witten Awards, was in the top-20 in receptions, receiving yards and receiving TDs.

Prior to his three-year stint at USC, Harrell produced back-to-back top-25 offenses, while the offensive coordinator at North Texas.

After inheriting an offense that ranked in the nation's bottom 25 in scoring, passing and total offense in 2015, he helped the Mean Green improve statistically in each category in 2016, including by 9.6 points per game. Then in 2017, North Texas was No. 19 nationally in scoring (35.5), No. 21 in passing (291.9) and No. 24 in total offense (455.1), and quarterback Mason Fine set school season records for passing yards (4,052) and TDs (31).

In 2018, UNT ranked No. 12 in passing (306.8), No. 20 in total offense (460.5) and No. 26 in scoring (34.6), with Fine throwing for 3,793 yards and 27 touchdowns with just 5 interceptions, wide receiver Rico Bussey Jr. catching 68 passes for 1,017 yards with 12 TDs and running back DeAndre Torrey scoring 15 TDs on the ground. Fine was the 2017 and 2018 Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year, while Bussey Jr. was an All-Conference USA first teamer in 2018. Tight end Kelvin Smith, who played as an attached tight end and in the slot, completed 27 and 29 catch seasons in 2017 and 2018 to rank among the top receivers on the team.

North Texas also rushed for more than 150 yards a game in 2017 and 2018. UNT won 9 games each in Harrell's last two seasons and qualified for bowl games all three years that he was on staff (2016 Heart of Dallas, 2017 New Orleans, 2018 New Mexico) after UNT only played in one bowl the previous 11 seasons.

Harrell came to UNT from Washington State, where he worked for head coach Mike Leach as the outside receivers coach in 2015 after serving as an offensive analyst in 2014. The 2015 Cougars led the nation in passing offense (389.2), won eight games and won the Sun Bowl.

Harrell was a record-setting quarterback for Leach at Texas Tech from 2005-08, finishing his career with an NCAA-record 134 touchdown passes, the second-most career yards in NCAA history (15,793) and the third-highest career passing average (351.0). He also set NCAA career marks for pass completions average (31.2), as well as most games gaining 400-plus passing yards (20), games gaining 400-plus total yards (21) and seasons gaining 4,000-plus total yards (3). His career average of 486.3 passing yards against Texas was an NCAA record against one opponent. In each of his three seasons as a starter, his passing yardage figures placed in the top-25 all-time at the FBS level (21st in 2006 with 4,555 yards, second in 2007 with 5,705 and sixth in 2008 with 5,111) and he was the first player with a pair of 5,000-yard passing seasons.

In 2008, he was an All-American first teamer, finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting, won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, was a finalist for the Walter Camp and Davey O'Brien Awards and was a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete. His 5,111 passing yards led the nation and he threw 45 touchdowns with only nine interceptions while completing 70.6% of his aerials. Texas Tech went 11-2, including a victory over No. 1 Texas, and played in the Cotton Bowl in 2008.

Harrell played for the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2009, served as a quality control assistant at Oklahoma State for several months in 2010, before heading back to continue his NFL career. He played three years with the Green Bay Packers (2010-12), including on the 2010 Super Bowl XLV championship team and had a brief stint with the New York Jets in 2013.

He played for his father, Sam, at Ennis High, throwing for Texas career records of 12,532 yards and 167 touchdowns. He led Ennis to the state Class 4A title as a 2001 sophomore. As a senior in 2003, he set state records for season passing yards, completions and touchdowns (4,825, 334, 67).

Inducted into the Texas Tech Hall of Fame in 2020, Harrell earned his bachelor's degree in history from Texas Tech in 2007.

Harrell, and his wife, Brittney, have a 6-year-old son, Hawk and a daughter, Mia. Harrell's brother, Clark, played quarterback at Tulsa (2007) and Abilene Christian (2008-10); Clark and his other brother, Zac, are now high school football coaches in Texas.

Saturday, January 08, 2022

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia women’s basketball team fell to Kansas State, 71-61, in its Big 12 Conference home opener on Saturday evening at the WVU Coliseum in Morgantown.

West Virginia scoring efforts were led by junior guard KK Deans, who tallied a team-best 17 points. Senior guard Madisen Smith netted 13 points to also finish in double figures. Fifth-year senior center Blessing Ejiofor tallied a team-high eight rebounds to pace WVU on the glass.

“(It was a) tale of two halves,” WVU coach Mike Carey said. “We did exactly what we wanted to do defensively and offensively in the first half. The second half, we did the opposite. I don’t know why. We didn’t change anything. It’s just the effort in the first half versus the effort in the second half.”

West Virginia fell behind early in the contest as K-State hit a pair of 3s to open the game on an 8-2 run. With 6:21 to go in the quarter, Smith converted an and-1 try, which was followed up by a Deans triple to tie the game. The Wildcats would score before the first media timeout to retake the lead.

Following a three-minute scoreless stretch, fifth-year senior forward Ari Gray was the first to score after the break, but KSU followed up with a 3-pointer to hold the lead. WVU went on to sink four free throws in the final minute of the first quarter to take a 14-13 lead over Kansas State heading into the second.

WVU and K-State traded scores for the first three minutes of the second quarter and jockeyed for the lead. With 6:44 remaining in the quarter, West Virginia scored seven unanswered points to jump ahead in the contest. The Wildcats added a bucket before the media timeout, but the Mountaineers scored as well to take a 9-2 run and a 29-23 lead into the break.

West Virginia sank a pair of free throws after the timeout, but Kansas State followed up with a 3-pointer. WVU netted a pair of scores, and K-State scored once more before the half, but the Mountaineers held a 35-28 lead over the Wildcats after two quarters of play.

Kansas State scored a pair of baskets to begin the third to chip into WVU’s lead, but three points from the Mountaineers helped to keep the advantage intact to begin the second half. West Virginia ended up stretching its lead to eight points with under six minutes to play in the quarter, but a pair of K-State 3s made it a four-point game at the third-quarter media break.

Three Wildcat free throws cut WVU’s lead to one point following the timeout. Back-to-back scores by WVU helped stretch the lead, but K-State’s Jaelyn Glenn kept the game within one point with a score from downtown. Kansas State went on to tie the game with 1:19 to go in the quarter before Jaelyn Glenn sank another 3. West Virginia trailed the Wildcats 49-46 heading into the fourth quarter.

West Virginia hit back-to-back 3s to open the final quarter, but Kansas State netted 10 in response, forcing the Mountaineers to call a pair of timeouts to begin the fourth.

Down by seven with 5:50 to go in the game, West Virginia sank a pair of scores to cut the deficit to four but would not score again until 56 seconds remained in the game. Meanwhile, K-State netted seven points on the other end to increase its lead to 11 points, which ultimately sealed the game.

WVU did score three more points before it was all said and done, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the visiting Wildcats.

West Virginia continues its two-game homestand on Wednesday as the Mountaineers play host to Texas Tech at the WVU Coliseum in Morgantown. Tip-off against the Lady Raiders is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia fell behind by as many as 17 points in the early going of Saturday’s clash with Kansas State at the WVU Coliseum, but the Mountaineers fought their way back and pulled out a 71-68 victory.

The early deficit shouldn’t have been a huge surprise.

West Virginia, which is now 12-2 overall on the season and 1-1 in Big 12 play, has made a habit in recent years of rallying for a win after trailing by a substantial margin.

In half of its 14 games this season, WVU has trailed by eight or more points at some juncture in the contest.

Yet it has come back to snatch victory in five of those. Saturday’s 17-point deficit was the biggest hole West Virginia has climbed out of this year, though.

“Since we’ve been here, we’ve come back from 19, 17, 15, whatever, so we knew at halftime it wasn’t nothing,” said WVU senior guard Taz Sherman, as West Virginia’s trailed 40-27 at the midway point. “We just had to calm ourselves down, get into our offense and play better defense.”

WVU’s first-half struggles also could have been attributed to the fact that three Mountaineers — Sherman, senior forward Gabe Osabuohien and freshman guard Kobe Johnson — were coming back from bouts with COVID.

The three had all missed WVU’s previous game, a 74-59 loss at Texas on Jan. 1, and were only able to practice once prior to Saturday’s showdown with the Wildcats (8-6/0-3), who themselves were dealing with coronavirus issues, as seven of their players and their head coach, Bruce Weber, were unable to make the trip to Morgantown.

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins wasn’t accepting any excuses for his team’s first-half struggles.

“We had no bounce in our step,” said Huggins, who recorded his 912th career win, bringing him within eight of No. 3 on the all-time victory list for Division I men’s basketball coaches (Jim Calhoun with 920). “I didn’t feel very good about the start of the game just from looking at them. They were not the way they normally are before a game.”

Some of that lack of bounce could have been attributed to the fact that those coming back from covid had only a single day of practice in the last week and a half.

Again, they weren’t using that as an excuse, though. Sherman said he hadn’t been able to get up any shots during his time off, but he had been able to do some running on his own to stay in condition.

“I really wasn’t that tired,” said Sherman. “I knew the one thing I could keep up with was my wind.”

The senior guard played nearly 31 minutes and scored 14 points. For a player who is averaging a Big 12-best 20.4 points per game, that was his second-lowest output this season. Only a 12-point performance against Clemson brought less.

Sherman may not have been quite as productive as he normally is, but he did drill a pair of huge threes at the 7:18 and 6:17 marks of the second half to lift the Mountaineers into a lead they would not relinquish.

Much of WVU’s comeback was powered by senior guard Sean McNeil. He equaled his career-high with 26 points, 19 of those coming in the second half. He was nine of 15 from the floor, four of six from three and four of four from the foul line.

“I knew this was their first game back,” said McNeil of Sherman, Osabuohien and Johnson. “They had only about 24 hours prior to this to prepare, so I knew they would be sucking air a little bit.

“I tried not to force anything, though. I let the game come to me,” the Union, Kentucky, shooting guard said. “This was a huge comeback win for us.”

Sherman got more in the flow in the second half, helping spark West Virginia’s comeback.

The Mountaineers’ energizer bunny, Osabuohien, also became a bigger and bigger factor as the game went along.

His only two points came in the second half, but more importantly, it was his work on the boards (a game-high 12 rebounds, seven of those in the final 20 minutes) and defensively (five charges taken) that spurred WVU’s rally.

“I was tired, but I just had to push through,” acknowledged the 6-foot-7 forward from Ontario, Canada. “The second half I started to get my wind back. I did get pretty tired, though; I’m not going to lie.

“It was a rough week, not being able to do anything for seven to 10 days,” he admitted. “When you have just one day of practice, you can’t go to hard and then play a game.”

Huggins noted that he let Sherman and Osabuohien dictate their own playing time Saturday, as they knew to ask out when they were tired.

“They’ve played enough. They know. They know better than I do,” said Huggins of managing the minutes for those returning from covid. “I didn’t think Gabe really looked winded. He has looked more winded than today.”

Indeed, Osabuohien recorded a season-high 28 minutes on the court Saturday. Sherman was in the starting lineup, as usual, but he took a couple more breaks than he typically does.

His 31 minutes of action were the fewest he’s played this season in a non-blowout.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia faced a 17-point first-half deficit but fought back to score a 71-68 victory over Kansas State at the WVU Coliseum on Saturday.

With the win, WVU improved to 12-2 on the season and 1-1 in Big 12 play.

The Mountaineers are back in action Tuesday when they host Oklahoma at 9 p.m. The game will be televised by ESPNU.

Friday, January 07, 2022

The coronavirus and the safety protocols that go with it were the topics of the day during Friday’s Zoom press conference with West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins.

The subject was understandable, because the Mountaineers are coming off a week in which COVID had a significant impact. They played at Texas last Saturday (a 74-59 loss) without Taz Sherman, Gabe Osabuohien and Kobe Johnson, who didn’t travel with the team because of safety protocols. Then WVU had Monday’s contest at TCU postponed because of COVID issues within the Horned Frog program.

For this Saturday’s contest against Kansas State at the WVU Coliseum (2 p.m., ESPN+), Huggins said “I believe so,” when asked if Sherman, Osabuohien and Johnson would be available.

West Virginia’s coach added that none of the other Mountaineers are expected to miss the matchup with the Wildcats either.

“We don’t have any other issues at all. Our guys have been really good,” noted Huggins, whose team is currently 11-2 overall and 0-1 in Big 12 play.

Getting Sherman, Osabuohien and Johnson all back in the lineup will certainly help the Mountaineers, especially Sherman who leads not only West Virginia but the entire Big 12 Conference in scoring with an average of 20.9 points per game.

The three have practiced very little over the eight or nine days since they had to isolate, though.

“I think that’s kind of up to them,” said Huggins in regards to whether the minutes for any of the trio would have to be limited Saturday. “Those guys have played enough and have been around enough that they’ll tell me when they need a break.”

West Virginia is hosting a Kansas State club that has had COVID issues of its own recently.

The Wildcats (8-5/0-2) lost to Texas Tuesday, 70-57, in a game they played in Manhattan without seven of their players – Davion Bradford, Jordan Brooks, Maximus Edwards, Kaosi Ezeagu, Trey Harris, Logan Landers and Markquis Nowell – and also their head coach, Bruce Weber, because of coronavirus issues.

Nowell, a 5-foot-8 transfer from Arkansas-Little Rock – was the most difficult replacement of those seven missing players, as he’s second on the team in scoring with an average of 12.8 points per game. Nijel Pack, a 6-foot sophomore who averages a team-best 15.6 points per game, and Mark Smith, a 6-foot-4 senior transfer from Missouri who averages 10.3 points per game, were available against Texas.

Pack scored 21 points in the loss to UT, though the Longhorns limited Smith to just six points to go along with seven rebounds. The game before, a 71-66 loss at Oklahoma on Saturday, Smith had 25 points and 16 rebounds, a performance that helped him earn the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week award.

It’s still unclear what ‘Cats will be able to make the trip to Morgantown. When the full complement is available, Huggins thinks K-State is a very good ballclub.

“(Weber) has more shot-makers than I can remember,” said WVU’s coach of a Kansas State club that has usually relied on defense. “He has guys who can make hard shots. I really like his team. He’s done a terrific job of putting that team together.”

Weber, who is in his 10th season at KSU, has used transfers this year to help improve a club that was just 9-20 in 2020-21.

Besides transfers in Nowell and Smith, the Wildcats also rely on Ismael Massoud (8.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per game), a 6-foot-9 transfer from Wake Forest, and Kaosi Ezeagu (6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game), a 6-foot-10 transfer from UTEP.

Pack and Shelton Miguel, a 6-foot-4 sophomore guard who averages 8.9 points per game, are the only non-transfers among the Wildcats’ top six scorers.

“I think, first of all, Bruce doesn’t get enough credit for how good a coach he is. He’s really a great coach,” stated Huggins of Weber, who holds a 491-175 record in his 24 years as a college head coach with previous stops at Southern Illinois and Illinois. “He runs great stuff. They’re terrific defensively.

“I think he’s done a great job with roster management; I guess that’s what it’s called now – roster management,” continued Huggins. “He’s brought in guys who really fit into his system. He’s brought in guys who make them better.

“His kids are very competitive, and I think he’s really put a good squad together.”

Now for both clubs, it’s a matter of trying to stay healthy and keeping their best players on the floor.

* * * * * *

With over six inches of snow falling in the Morgantown area Thursday night into Friday morning, travel is tricky in the University City, as it is throughout much of the state. Huggins said he had no problems making the short commute from his home to WVU’s practice facility, though – “None, absolutely none” was his answer when asked if he had any issues with his drive – and he doesn’t expect it to impact his players’ ability to get to practice later that day either. “They’re pretty resourceful.

“I did see Gabe on skis over by McDonald’s,” he joked.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia University women’s basketball team returns to Morgantown for the first time in a month on Saturday, Jan. 8, as the Mountaineers welcome Kansas State to the WVU Coliseum for the Big 12 Conference home opener at 7 p.m.

West Virginia (7-4, 0-1 Big 12) and Kansas State (12-2, 2-0 Big 12) meet for the 22nd time on Saturday. WVU is 15-6 all-time against KSU, including 7-2 in Morgantown.

Additionally, the Mountaineers have taken four of the last five matchups against the Wildcats, including three straight games.

Last season, West Virginia went 3-0 against K-State, including 2-0 in the regular season.

In the 2021 Big 12 Championship vs. Kansas State on March 12, 2021, junior guard KK Deans came up with the highlight moment of the year for WVU, as she hit a last-second, full-court layup to advance the Mountaineers to the semifinals of the tournament.

At home against K-State on Jan. 20, 2021, the Mountaineers trailed the Wildcats by 12 points with 4:36 remaining in the game but finished the contest on a 21-0 run that helped WVU win the game, 65-56.

Kansas State comes into Saturday’s contest riding a five-game win streak, dating back to Dec. 8 at Omaha (87-56).

During that stretch, K-State also has picked up wins over South Dakota State, 79-73; Oregon, 68-56; then-No. 10 Baylor, 68-59, and Oklahoma State, 60-49.

The Wildcats are 12-2 on the year, including 2-0 in the Big 12, which is the second-best mark in the league.

Of note, KSU’s two losses this season have come at the hand of then-No. 5/4 NC State, 90-69, on Nov. 19; and No. 1 South Carolina, 65-44, on Dec. 3.

Kansas State is led by junior center Ayoka Lee, who is coming off a week in which she was named the Big 12 and USBWA National Player of the Week honors, after a 32-point, 10-rebound performance against then-No. 10 Baylor. Lee currently ranks inside the top three in the Big 12 in points (23.9), rebounds (10.6), field-goal percentage (58.5) and blocks (3.6).

West Virginia returns home after suffering an 88-72 loss to No. 14 Iowa State on Jan. 2, at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.

WVU is led by junior guard KK Deans, who has 166 points this season and a scoring average of 15.1 points per game. She has led the team in scoring six times this year.

The Mountaineers have scored at least 70 points in three of their last four games, including back-to-back games.

With 72 points at Iowa State, WVU has now scored 70-plus in six games in 2021-22.

Saturday’s contest will be broadcast on Big 12 Now on ESPN+, with Andrew Caridi, Warren Baker and Amanda Mazey on the call.

Additionally, fans can listen to the game on the WVU Gameday App, WVUsports.com or on the Mountaineer Sports Network, including 100.9 WZST-FM, with Dan Zangrilli on the call.

Live stats will be available on WVUsports.com.

Saturday’s game is Family Night at the Coliseum. Fans can purchase a women’s basketball weekend Family Day package, which includes four tickets and a $15 concession voucher for only $25 per package.

Kids of all ages can enjoy interactive games at the Kids Zone inside the Gold Gate concourse every weekend Family Day this season.

The first 500 fans in attendance to Saturday’s game will receive a WVU Varsity Pennant. Mutts Gone Nuts will highlight the halftime entertainment.

Additionally, a post-game Teddy Bear Toss will occur after the contest against the Wildcats. Fans are encouraged to bring new or gently-used teddy bears to toss onto the Coliseum court post-game, benefitting WVU Medicine Children’s.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — West Virginia's men's basketball team should be at full strength on Saturday when Kansas State comes into the Coliseum for a noon game.

At least that's how it looked to Bob Huggins on Friday, but in this Year 2 of the plague that is COVID-19, omicron variety, you just don't know any more how things are going to turn out.

The last time WVU won a game was on Dec. 22, beating Youngstown State.

That was 16 days ago.

The last time they played a game they were without leading scorer Taz Sherman, top defender Gabe Osabuohien and freshman point guard Kobe Johnson due to COVID protocols.

Trying to overcome that and a strong Texas team on the Longhorns' home floor was too much to ask and WVU fell, 74-59.

With the Christmas/New Year's break and a game cancelled at TCU due to COVID it means WVU has played just once in 16 days.

They've been practicing, sure, but that just isn't the same as playing a game.

Think they aren't ready to play?

Bob Huggins thinks they are like kids at Christmas waiting to tear open their presents ... and unlike at Christmas this year, he has snow to go along with the feeling.

"The best analogy I can give is when you have kids and they're young, come Christmas they can't wait to tear into those presents and you are doing everything you possibly can do to take their minds off tearing into the presents," Huggins began.

"They want to cross the finish line right now. That's what you've got now. We've got a whole bunch of guys who are just at the point where they can't wait until we start playing again, but not knowing when they will play.

"Think about it. We don't know until maybe the day before we are supposed to play. When do you do that? We have a schedule, you look at it and it's 'Oh, well, we play Thursday.' But you don't know that now."

This is now nearing halfway through the season and COVID-19 is still working on everyone's minds as well as their bodies.

"It's harder on the younger guys who now see a time where they may be able to get valuable minutes, where they can go out and show what they can do. Then it gets postponed, then it's next week," Huggins said.

"That's really rough on those guys. I think the veteran guys who have been through it before have a tendency to handle it better."

That's why Huggins isn't necessarily fretting over how much he will be able to play Sherman and Osabuohien against Kansas State, assuming they pass all the necessary protocol requirements.

"I think that's kind of up to them." Huggins said. "Those guys have played enough and been around enough, they'll tell me when they need a break."

While Huggins has been through just about everything you can imagine in 40 years as head coach, this COVID-19 pandemic is something unlike any other problems he's had to deal with.

"We've been through the flu and all that kind of stuff, but I've never been through anything like these last couple of years," he said. "We've had guys who had colds, but the remedy for having a cold was put a sweatshirt on and sweat it out.

"So they go through practice, sweat it out, take what the doctor recommended, drink a lot of water and show up and play the next day. Nobody ever worried are you going to get the whole team sick; are you going to get the opponents sick?"

Right now, at least, it doesn't seem to be approaching the horrors it created last season when no one knew what they were doing.

"We had a year to go through it once," Huggins explained. "It's not near as bad as it was a year ago. A year ago it was are they going to show up or not show up. It was kind of like an AAU game. Which guys are they going to pick up from another team ... AAU stuff.

"With this, it's which guy is going to be allowed to play. I think it was a lot more dramatic than it is today. You know what's going on more now. Last year you had no idea what was going to happen."

And what's going to happen is WVU is going to face a good K-State team coached by Bruce Weber, a team that has won eight games this year after winning only nine all of last season.

"He's got more shot makers than I can remember with them in a while. They have guys who can make hard shots. I really like his team. He's done a terrific job putting that team together, " Huggins said. "I think Bruce doesn't get the credit he deserves for being as good a coach as he is. They run great stuff. They're terrific defensively. I think he's done a great job with the roster management. He's brought in guys who really fit into his system, guys who really make them better."

Thursday, January 06, 2022

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Our final look-ahead at some of the improvement goals for West Virginia’s football program in 2022 includes special teams and the coaching staff.

Kickoffs: This is a two-parter. On the front end, WVU must improve its start of the play, eliminate the out-of-bounds kicks that popped up at troubling times and produce more touchbacks. Only eight teams of the 130 in Division I had fewer touchbacks than West Virginia’s 12 in 2021, and there’s no better defense against kickoff returns than not allowing one to occur. WVU’s coaching staff did all it could to prevent returns, from pooch kicks to bouncers to different placements, but foes still managed to manufacture 41 returns against West Virginia’s kickoffs.

There will, however, inevitably be some kicks that are returned, and that’s a second area where the Mountaineers need to tighten the strings. While WVU’s average of 21.7 yards per return allowed wasn’t awful, there were a few big runbacks in key situations that boosted the opposition. The Mountaineers were 79th nationally in kickoff return yardage allowed, yielding 891 yards and a touchdown in 2021.

Punt Protection: WVU changed up its punt protection this year, often employing a two-man shield rather than the three-man version of previous seasons. With roll punter Tyler Sumpter behind center, the thinking was to get one more player in downfield coverage more quickly from the line of scrimmage, and allow Sumpter, in effect, to work around any added pressure.

The results there were a mixed bag at best, as on the far negative side Kansas State smothered a Sumpter punt and scooped it up for a score to help power it to an early 14-0 lead last November. WVU simply isn’t good enough to overcome such big plays, and it didn’t on that day in a 34-17 loss. It’s West Virginia that needs to generate such momentum-turning plays in order to move up in the league’s pecking order.

Whether it’s another look at the punt scheme as a whole, quicker getaway on the punt operation or different qualities in the protectors, this has to improve quickly. Coach Neal Brown continually points out the importance of special teams, but that has to be more than lip service. Winning the special teams battle is even more critical for teams that don’t have big advantages and talent, and West Virginia has to commit to playing its best available players if it is going to do so.

Roster Bleed: It’s easy to say that West Virginia needs to address the exodus of players it has suffered over the past 12 months, and in truth it’s not something that is going to be stopped by any actions the coaching staff takes. Freedom of movement is going to be part and parcel of the college landscape for the foreseeable future — at least until the hordes of players entering the portal see, and demonstrate to those behind them, that a new landing spot with more playing time is going to be the exception and not the rule.

For now, though, the Mountaineer coaching staff has to try to figure out why so many departures are occurring in their program and see if there is anything they can do about them. Lack of playing time is always one factor, but are the evaluations being made as to who plays and who sits on target? From the players’ side, is there a lack of confidence in what is being taught at a current position? A lack of trust and confidence that teammates can produce and forge team success? Or, as Neal Brown hinted recently, is this the fallout of some less than ideal recruiting and decisions in his first class at WVU?

One thing for sure is that all of these decisions don’t hinge on one item or aspect of the program. Personality clashes, rushed choices to “test the waters” of the portal and a loss of faith in the improvement plan laid out by the coaching staff could, and likely are, involved for many of the players who have chosen to look elsewhere. It’s probably the most difficult assignment the coaches face this offseason, but it’s one that has to be met successfully if more wins and more success in the program are to be reached.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The exodus from West Virginia’s wide receiver room continued on Wednesday evening when Sean Ryan made the second transfer of his collegiate career after earning a degree from WVU.

The 6-foot-3 wideout, who played one year at Temple in 2018 before moving on to WVU for three seasons of play from 2019-2021, will have one year of eligibility remaining at his new home.

He was one of three WVU players to be added to the portal Wednesday.

Ryan had 69 catches for 882 yards and three scores for the Mountaineers over his three seasons, in which he played 29 games. At Temple, he had 12 catches for 162 yards and one score.

Ryan is the fourth scholarship receiver to depart the Mountaineer program in the past two months. Little-used backup Sam Brown departed in November, Isaiah Esdale left following the conclusion of the regular season and Winston Wright left after the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. Tight end T.J. Banks also left prior to the bowl game, leaving WVU without game experience at that position for the contest against Minnesota.

During the spring of 2021, backups Randy Fields (UT-Martin) and Ali Jennings (Old Dominion) also transferred, making a total of six scholarship receivers to exit over the past 11 months.

West Virginia currently has five scholarship wide receivers — Bryce Ford-Wheaton, Sam James, Graeson Malashevich, Kaden Prather and Reese Smith — on its roster, along with walk-ons C.J Cole and Preston Fox. The Mountaineers are expected to add two early enrollees at the position this month for the spring semester and another in the fall, and will certainly be looking for additions from the transfer portal.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — Sometimes you don’t appreciate what you have until you don’t have it any more, and so it was last weekend when West Virginia men’s basketball went to Texas and didn’t have Taz Sherman.

Slow down, now. I know you appreciated Sherman and the 21 points a game he was scoring for the Mountaineers.

But seeing them flail around out on the court while losing to Texas without him — to say nothing of Gabe Osabuohien, the team’s Mr. Energy, and backup point guard Kobe Johnson — drove the point home of just how good he is and how bad the Mountaineers can look without him.

Bob Huggins believes Sherman is the best player in the league. And that was the unequivocal statement he made in the wake of that defeat.

“Obviously when you play without the best player in the league it’s going to affect you,” Huggins said. “He’s been the best player in the league so far. That hurt us.”

And as of Thursday afternoon, there was no word whether any of the three who missed the Texas game would be back for Saturday’s meeting with Kansas State ... or if any other teammates would join them in the COVID-19 protocol.

The only thing WVU would say is that the protocol is a fluid situation and it could change from day to day, hour to hour.

But without Sherman, WVU did not have a go-to scorer, for his absence allowed Texas to bear down on Sean McNeil, who you would figure would step into that role.

It doesn’t work that way.

“They gang up on him,” Huggins said. “That makes it more difficult, much more difficult. What are they fond of saying in the NBA is Robin’s no good without Batman. He gets so much more attention, particularly when you are playing on a team with so many guys struggling to make shots.”

Some of that was a stingy Texas defense, but more likely what took WVU apart without Sherman’s ability to score was a game filled with 20 turnovers.

At times the Mountaineers seemed lost, both offensively and defensively, and Jalen Bridges understands why.

“Taz and Gabe, those are our two senior leaders. They are our veterans. It’s definitely going to be a struggled without them.

Kobe brings a lot to the table as well.

Huggins sees more than that though.

“That being said, we can’t turn it over 20 times, particularly since they’ve been told since we began official practice that what’s going to beat us is ourselves,” Huggins stressed. “We are not going to win turning it over 20 times, particularly against a team like that.”

The veteran coach was hesitant to even give a lot of credit to the defense Texas threw at them.

“We threw it to them. They didn’t take it from us much. We threw it to them. We have been very careless with the ball since the beginning,” Huggins said. “We talked about it, worked on it, got them on the “Pass-back. We did all that before we started official practice and it hasn’t helped any, so we are going to have come up with something else. We’re going to have to sit those guys who turn it over.”

But being shorthanded makes life tough. Practices are disrupted, game plans adjusted, and confidence eroded when you can’t put your complete team on the floor and when it is two or three key players in basketball it becomes a major hurdle to overcome.

Huggins isn’t one to give in and he remains hopeful that he can be closer to having a full roster to work with.

“We’re going to continue to do our job, just like you would continue to do your job. There’s nothing we can do about it. We can’t change it,” he said.

And play will continue right to the end.

“There’s going to be an NCAA Tournament. They can’t not make any money again. They were broke last year. They need this in the worst way, so they will find a way to have an NCAA Tournament. In terms of us, we’ll do the best we can possibly do.”

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s rifle team is ranked second in the latest Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association (CRCA) poll, but there’s a big gap between the Mountaineers and top-ranked University of Alaska Fairbanks in terms of their performance on the range during the completed fall schedule.

West Virginia has been quite good, putting up top three scores of 4733, 4730 and 4725 during the first semester, but the Nanooks have been otherworldly, recording top aggregates of 4749, 4737 and 4736. The Nanooks also have two other matches in which they shot 4734, giving them five of the top six scores in the country so far this season.

Kentucky, which was likely the favorite for the national title coming into the season, has top scores of 4736, 4733 and 4724 to date, putting it neck and neck with the Mountaineers in terms of on-range performance but just fifth in the current CRCA rankings. Their lower ranking is due to the fact that the rankings take into account the differing venues in which each score is shot.

Currently, Alaska Fairbanks holds an aggregate average of 4733, followed by WVU (4723), TCU (4717), Mississippi (4711) and Kentucky (4710).

The Mountaineers will be back on the range against Navy on Jan. 22 in Annapolis, Maryland, followed by home matches against Morehead State, Akron, Kentucky and the NCAA Qualifier over the next month.

Four Guaranteed Rate Bowl records were set in West Virginia’s 18-6 loss to Minnesota, but all of them were of the least/fewest variety. The Gophers’ ground-based attack and WVU’s anemic offensive showing combined to produce new bowl lows in passes attempted (44), total offensive plays (122) and fewest PATs made (1). The game also produced a grand total of minus-two yards on punt returns, setting another low-water mark.

Game postponement and cancellation policies are in flux across the nation in response to the spread of Omicron Covid-19 infections, and some confusion on the rules around college players who have tested positive and are in isolation or other protocols is apparent.

While the Big 12 Conference, which is setting the policies for all league teams, has switched its procedure from a forfeit to a no contest if a league game is unable to be played or rescheduled, there is still apparently some confusion over how long a player must sit out after testing positive, at least for WVU head coach Bob Huggins.

It is known that the isolation period of 10 days is still in effect for anyone determined to be showing symptoms of Covid-19, beginning no more than two days before a positive test. There is no difference in isolation time for vaccinated or unvaccinated players, and a subsequent negative test cannot shorten that isolation period.

All of that comes into play when trying to determine the availability of Taz Sherman, Gabe Osabuohien or Kobe Johnson for West Virginia’s home game against Kansas State on Saturday.

Huggins shared on Dec. 31 that some players would be unavailable, and that date was just eight days prior to the K-State game. However, it’s possible that symptoms or positive tests appeared prior to that, so some or all of the trio could clear the isolation protocols and be available for the game.

There is, of course, the caveat that clearing isolation simply allows the players to return to practice and play — the effects of the illness, if any, along with the lack of practice during the isolation time, could well affect them as they try to get back into shape.

The Big 12 also noted that in rescheduling games, it will attempt to avoid scheduling three games per week for any one school, but there are few gaps available to allow such fittings. WVU does not have any weeks left in which it has just one game scheduled, and while it does have a gap of five days between contests at Baylor (Jan. 31) and at home against Texas Tech (Feb. 5), that comes on the heels of a two-game Mountaineer road swing.

Another Monday-Saturday gap shows up later in the year between WVU’s games at Kansas State (Feb. 14) and at home vs. Kansas (Feb. 19), but it appears that to get the TCU game rescheduled, or to fit other postponements in, West Virginia and other schools will be playing three games in at least one, and perhaps more, weeks.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — There are few things more angst-ridden for a college sports fan right now than trying to keep up with football’s transfer portal rollercoaster.

It’s likely that there will be in the neighborhood of 3,000 Division I football players entering the portal in the 2021-22 athletic year (July 1 to June 30). There were 2,600 transfers in the 2020-21 academic year, and there will probably be an average of 15 portal entrants for each D-I program in the current campaign. Walk-ons and some others enrolled, but who never played, are included in that number, but still, it appears that scholarship athletes make up about two-thirds of all of those transfers.

Most everyone looks at their particular team and thinks the sky is falling. Some schools are already dealing with more thant 20 transfers, and those numbers are only going to go up as winter turns to spring, spring turns to summer and summer brings football season very near.

Already the Guaranteed Rate Bowl offensive MVP, Minnesota running back Ky Thomas, has jumped in the portal, and Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams is exploring the portal as well, even though the Sooner QB he beat out for the starting job, Spencer Rattler, had previously taken the transfer train to South Carolina.

West Virginia has not had the most scholarship portal entrants since Aug. 1 (14 and counting), but it has also not had the least. The latest Mountaineers who are seeking new homes include three starters in quarterback Jarret Doege, slot receiver Winston Wright and defensive back Jackie Matthews.

Having started 26 straight games for WVU since late in the 2019 season, Doege completed 590 of 911 passes (64.8%) during his time at West Virginia for 6,453 yards with 40 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He is third in WVU history in career completions, fourth in attempts and fifth in yards. The Lubbock, Texas, native ultimately had to look for a new home for his final college season, though, because, as is often the case with quarterbacks, he was saddled with way too much of the blame from those outside the program when things didn’t go well. A return to WVU would have been untenable. For a student-athlete who was as friendly and classy as any with whom I’ve dealt, he endured social media criticism from an ignorant minority that in some instances bordered on criminal. There is a special section of Hell reserved for those who treat other good, reasonable human beings in such a manner.

His departure leaves the Mountaineers with an extremely young quarterback corps with sophomore-to-be Garrett Greene, redshirt freshman Goose Crowder and incoming true freshman Nicco Marchiol being the only scholarship QBs who are expected to be on the roster when the spring semester at WVU begins on Jan. 10.

Doege isn’t the only loss for West Virginia via the transfer portal. Wright led the Mountaineers in receptions in each of the past two seasons (60 for 686 yards in 2021 and 47 for 553 yards in 2020) and departs WVU with 129 career catches (the 14th most in school history) for 1,336 yards. Meanwhile, Matthews, a former juco transfer, played in all 23 games for West Virginia over the past two seasons, starting nine of those, as he split time between safety and cornerback.

Just like Doege, neither Wright nor Matthews will be easy replacements, though all the roster management news for the Mountaineers hasn’t been bad.

The best news came when linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo and defensive tackle Dante Stills each reversed course on their earlier indications that they were going to give the NFL a try after the 2021 campaign. Instead, each announced recently that they would return for a fifth season at WVU. Chandler-Semedo has started 30 games and played in a total of 45 since arriving at West Virginia as a true freshman in 2019. Stills has played in all 47 games in that same span, starting 25 of them.

Their return is extremely good news for the Mountaineers, who also are making additions of their own through the transfer portal, gaining running back Lyn-J Dixon from Clemson, defensive lineman Zeiqui Lawton from Cincinnati, tight end Brian Polendey from Colorado State and defensive back Marcis Floyd from Murray State. More transfers are sure to join WVU before the 2022 football season.

The portal teleports both ways, and while each departure brings consternation from the fans and media, in today’s world everyone had better get used to the rollercoaster because, like it or not, each year — heck, each day — is going to be a crazy ride.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (Wv News) — It was back on signing day, a time when West Virginia was introducing its new football recruits.

That day has changed quite a bit of late, as the turn in the conversation would show, for it is no longer simply about who was coming through the door from the outside in, but for those going in the opposite direction. Transfers were heading elsewhere, creating gaps that had to be filled, and at West Virginia the flow would prove to be not a drip, drip, drip but instead a gusher.

On that day, Neal Brown addressed the situation as best he could at the moment.

“I know our fans think we’re the only ones who lose them, and we’ve lost a little bit more than some, but that’s just the world we live in now,” he said. “I used to take it really, really personal. There’s some when they leave, I think, 'Man, that’s a lot of time and a lot of relationships.' But I think that’s just the era of college football we’re in right now.”

And so it is.

The power has flowed into the hands of the athletes, just as in professional sports it went to the players as free agency changed their game.

As Brown said, "that's just the era of college football we're in right now."

The fact of the matter is that the NCAA has lost all control over the structure of its game and that may not be as bad as it sounds.

In many ways all that has gone wrong with college football has found an epicenter in Norman, Oklahoma, where the earth has shaken far beyond you could imagine any earthquake hitting Los Angeles.

It came suddenly, yet hit hard enough to shake the entire structure of college sports.

Oklahoma and Texas got together, conspired with the SEC, and dropped the hammer right upon the head of the Big 12 with the announcement that they were jumping to the SEC. These were the two richest, historically most successful, programs in the Big 12.

The pieces began unraveling from there, the Big 12 changing its entire structure by bringing in four schools to replace the two they lost. That set off another round of conference expansion ... all this in the midst of a pandemic.

The Sooners didn't have long to celebrate, however, for they underwent an unexpected implosion.

First, head coach Lincoln Riley jumped ship, heading off to USC rather than to try and figure out how to beat the likes of Alabama and Georgia and Auburn every week.

Then Spencer Rattler, one of their two 5-star quarterbacks (the one who had been benched during the year after having been the preseason favorite to win the Heisman Trophy), left for South Carolina.

So what? They still had Caleb Williams, the 5-star freshman who came on and led them the rest of the way and to victory over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, entered his name into the transfer portal, everyone expecting him to join Riley at USC, where they had already gathered a talented group of QBs.

Williams has not yet made a decision on where he will wind up and while one would consider it a longshot, he certainly could wind up staying at Oklahoma.

The Sooners' new coach, Brent Venables, and athletic director, Pete Castiglione, released a curious statement this week.

“Caleb Williams enjoyed an exciting and impactful first season at the University of Oklahoma and we will continue to be engaged with him and his family on a comprehensive plan for his development as a student and a quarterback, including a path to graduation and strategic leveraging of NIL opportunities,” the statement read.

“While we believe OU provides Caleb the best opportunity to develop as a player and realize his goals for college and beyond, we respect his right to explore his options following key staffing changes here.”

Say what you like, they were still recruiting Williams. Venables admitted as much.

“Whether it’s Caleb or anybody else, everybody talks about recruiting,” Venables said. “Go get the next class, the next class after that even.

“There’s nobody that’s more important to recruit than your players every day. You do that with relationships, you do that connectivity. Again, you gotta reach them the right way and always be whatever, on guard, if you will, with the ability that we as adults, that we’ve laid out there, there’s no reason for pause...

“I’ve always believed in continuing to nurture in the relationships, don’t get so caught up in the recruiting that you lose sight of what’s most important, what’s in your locker room, because it’s the lifeblood of your program.”

And so it goes now in college football. Neal Brown referred to that recently, noting that as important as recruiting incoming recruits is recruiting the players you have on your roster in an effort to keep them from leaving.

It's a change that has to be made in the coaching manuals across the country.

Considering the surprising news that both Dante Stills and Josh Chandler-Semedo, the leaders of the defense at WVU, were going to bypass the NFL draft and return for a final year of eligibility indicates the new manual is in place at WVU.

The decisions by those two players have certainly slowed the talk about there being an internal problem driving players to transfer, even starting players, and can only elevate the level of recruiting and the feeling within the locker room.

Nothing like seeing your leading tackler and leader in sacks back for enough year to improve the brotherhood on a team.

But it's a hard battle to fight, not just in football. Bob Huggins has had to fight to keep his players from transferring or turning professional and addressed that last April.

"You don’t know who is coming and who is staying," Huggins said. "It is hard right now to be able to say what your definite roster is because you don’t know," he said. "We’ve got four guys that are looking at the draft. You don’t know where that ends up. You don’t know how many slimy creatures that are called agents are slithering around and promising the world and not being able to deliver anything.”

It is all part of the new world in which college coaches exist. It needs regulation. It needs to be redefined. It needs, perhaps, to move past an antiquated NCAA, with a new group that is smaller and tailored just to the power conferences.

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — In the moments of despair that followed West Virginia's uninspired and uninspiring loss to Minnesota to the Guaranteed Rate Bowl game in Glendale, Arizona, coach Neal Brown gathered his team around him for a post-game, post-season speech.

This, he knew, would be a tricky one.

He understood that gap between his team and the Big Ten's Golden Gophers was wider than the 18-6 score would indicate.

He knew, too, that he was coaching in an era when players could line up at the entrance to the transfer portal, so while he knew he had to be honest with them, he could not paint a picture that might scare some key players away.

He had to tiptoe through the tulips with the diplomacy of Henry Kissinger, touching on the realities that he was facing but stressing as much that he believed — and they should too — that just over the next hill the sun was shining and that they not as bad as the next day's newspapers and social media would say they were.

It was a talk that he felt he had to share with the media, for they were his conduit at the moment toward his fan base and right now, coming off a 6-7 season, he could not afford to lose them any more than he could afford to lose his best players.

Oh, he knew some were teetering on the edge of transferring, but he also had to know or at least sense that there were players like the leaders of defense, tackle Dante Stills and middle linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo, who were at least considering returning for an extra year of eligibility provided by the NCAA due to the complications caused by the 2020 COVID-19 situation.

The speech to his players, let's say, will not go down in Mountaineer lore with Bill Stewart's "Leave No Doubt" pre-game speech before the Fiesta Bowl in which the program was saved by a convincing victory over Oklahoma when there was nothing but doom and gloom surrounding the program in the wake of Rich Rodriguez's exit for Michigan after the stunning upset loss to Pitt cost a chance to play for the national championship.

Brown put it this way to the media:

"We've got most of our football team coming back and I think that's a big deal. I would say we have as much coming back on our football team as anybody."

That, of course, would be far more promising if they coming back from an 8-5 or 9-4 team than a 6-7 one that had beaten only one team with a winning record all season, but there were indications as WVU won four of its last seven games of improvements in many areas.

Now it's true there are elements that offset that, not the least of which is the only really experienced quarterback. Jarret Doege, has said he is entering the portal but there are many who see that as a potential plus.

Certainly, it is not like Oklahoma, who lost two five-star quarterbacks — Spencer Rattler, who was a Heisman Trophy candidate when the season started, and Caleb Williams, who was being touted as the same for next year — when the season ended, to say nothing of losing its coach, Lincoln Riley, as well.

When you think of matters compared to the magnitude of what happened in Norman, what Brown had to say actually made sense.

"We're not all doom and gloom," he said.

It was hardly boastful, but it was a message he was delivering to his followers.

And there was another message he had to get across, and that was that losing the bowl game at the end of the season was not the hoped-for outcome.

"Are we disappointed we didn't win?" he said. "You bet we are. There's certain areas of the program that we've got to get better."

There has been much second-guessing of Brown's game management, much disappointment of the fact that Doege did not improve over three seasons and that Garrett Greene behind him didn't make strides, either. The quarterback coach, Sean Reagan, and the offensive coordinator, Gerad Parker, are in the critics' crosshairs over that.

But Brown maintains that looks can deceiving.

"This is what I told our team in the locker, we are close in a lot of ways. We are really, really close but we've got to do things to get better to get back to where we want to be."

And what are those things that have to be done:

First, they need to find a quarterback to run the offense. Doege wasn't the answer. Greene didn't look like the answer. They were pleased with freshman Goose Crowder in his first year and they have a true four-star freshman named Nicco Marchiol coming in from Arizona who they are banking on as their QB of the future.

But the problem may be the future is now and if they have to play him it will be without an experienced, proven running back behind him and without wide receivers on hand like Winston Wright Jr. and Isaiah Esdale, who both announced they were leaving after the season.

If the offensive line, which returns intact, can continue to show the improvement it showed through the second half of the season and take on the physical edge it lacked, that would be a major stride forward.

That should be the No. 1 objective over the off-season and through the summer.

As for the defense, the announced returns of Stills and Chandler-Semedo take that to a new level, allowing Brown to set things up on the assumption that he doesn't need a 30-point-a-game offense to win games.

Are they close? Not sure you can go that far yet, but they are close to being ready to have their presence felt in the Big 12.

If they make strides in that direction this year, win more than they lose, find a way to pull out close games, it would be considered a successful season.

But it has to be done quickly because they open with the Backyard Brawl in Pittsburgh.

Win that game, win back the hearts of the fans.

Monday, January 03, 2022

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Perhaps influenced by his brother, Darius, being passed over in last year’s NFL draft; perhaps influenced by feeling he had more improvement to make before entering the draft; perhaps influenced by feeling West Virginia may be closer to putting together a winner than anyone thinks, as coach Neal Brown proclaimed following a loss to Minnesota in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, defensive tackle Dante Stills announced on Sunday that he will return to West Virginia University for a fifth season.

This, added to the decision to also return announced by leading tackler Josh Chandler-Semedo, puts a bandage on the wound that had had been bleeding players through the transfer portal for the last year and guarantees that WVU will return one of the strongest defensive units in the Big 12.

While for most of the season it was thought to be a given that Stills, who already has his degree, would leave school following this season and not take advantage of the extra year granted by the NCAA due to the COVID-19 virus’ effect on the 2020 season, Stills hinted before the bowl game that he was considering returning.

“I’ve still got to figure that out,” he said. “I’m still thinking. It’s going to be personal because I know in my four years I’ve done some damage. But if it wasn’t good enough then I got to step it up. It’s going to be very personal if I have to come back.

“I wouldn’t care (to come back). That’s just an extra offseason to be in the weight room to get stronger, faster. I’m taking it day by day and I’ll weigh it all out after this game.”

Make no doubt that Chandler Semedo’s decision to return influenced Stills.

Stills’ announcement was a terser “I’m Back!” after posting three hours earlier that he had made a decision and it would be upcoming.

Those decisions came after the surprising announcement that leading receiver and kick returner Winston Wright Jr. was entering the transfer portal, as was quarterback Jarret Doege, whose decision was not surprising as he had been a lightning rod for criticism of the offense for two years.

The recent doings have completely altered the outlook for the Mountaineers next year. There will be a new quarterback and the competition figures to be intense between Garrett Greene, Goose Crowder and 4-star freshman Nicco Marchiol from Arizona.

The Mountaineers are still awaiting to see if Sean Ryan, who made great improvement last year, will return and are expecting a big jump from Kaden Prather into a key role, along with Bryce Ford-Wheaton and Sam James. Prather did not play in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl despite being dressed for the contest.

Chandler-Semedo became a force in the middle last year, leading WVU with 110 tackles. Sixty-eight of them were solo stops and he also intercepted two passes in the regular season finale at Kansas.

Chandler-Semedo has now played in 44 games at WVU and accrued 260 career tackles.

Stills, an All-Big 12 choice, allows WVU to do a lot of different things with Akheem Mesidor and gives them two candidates for Defensive Player of the Year in the Big 12 for next season.

A powerful pass rusher, Stills this year recorded 29 tackles, 15 for a loss, including seven7 sacks.

* * * * * *

Prior to that, defensive back Jackie Matthews announced on Twitter that he is leaving West Virginia to enter the transfer portal.

Matthews played in all 13 games for West Virginia this season, recording 35 tackles and one interception.

A few days ago, we looked at some of West Virginia’s major needed areas of improvement on offense if the 2022 season is to be appreciably better than the results of the 2021 campaign.

Today, it’s the defense’s turn in the spotlight, and although the jumps don’t need to be as big as those required on offense, there are still some areas that have to see upgrades.

Playmaking Bandits: At Troy, Neal Brown had defenses built around the bandit position.

Playing either on the line of scrimmage at one end of the defensive front, or as a second inside linebacker off the ball to give the defense an entirely different look, the bandit is a hybrid defender that does a bit of everything from rushing the passer to run fitting in the middle of the defense to dropping out into short zone pass defense.

At Troy, Hunter Reese became Brown’s quintessential bandit, following in the footsteps of Sam Lebbie. At West Virginia, such a player has yet to be identified.

VanDarius Cowan, brought in as a transfer, had the most natural athletic skill to fit the needs of the position but continued assignment busts made him a hit or miss proposition at the spot.

Jared Bartlett, backing up and sometimes starting in front of the erratic Cowan, has progressed respectably, recording 32 tackles this year, but with just one tackle for loss and no sacks this year, didn’t produce the number of impact plays the spot demands.

West Virginia has recruited multiple prospects for the position last year and this, but to date has not found the one player who can stay on the field, no matter the assignment, and be a difference-maker in all phases.

Whether Bartlett or one of the holdovers or new recruits can fill the bill remains to be seen, but for West Virginia’s defense to function the way Troy’s did in wins over LSU and Nebraska, a dominant, multi-tasking bandit has to be found.

Safety Dance: Perhaps “replacement” rather than “improvement” is the key word here, but WVU must replace Alonzo Addae, Sean Mahone and Scottie Young at its free, cat and spear safety positions.

Add in outgoing transfer Jackie Matthews, who sometimes slotted in at the spear, and the Mountaineers face a huge rebuild at the position.

Also needed is more consistent play from the group, especially in defending deep balls and reading and reacting.

Mahone was the best of the three overall, but at times there were concerning breakdowns in coverage and run support.

WVU also didn’t get the best synergy it hoped for in using the cat and free interchangeably at times, or as the pair of high safeties in two-deep zone looks.

If nothing else, West Virginia must be flexible in its positioning and pass coverage options, with the same personnel able to execute at different spots, in order to be successful, and that wasn’t always the case.

Generating big plays and turnovers is the other area in which WVU’s safeties must improve in 2022.

Sean Mahone had the group’s only two picks in 2021, with Addae collecting its only fumble recovery, leaving WVU 79th nationally in the former category and 87th in the latter.

Like the bandit spot, these are playmaking positions in the West Virginia defensive scheme, and it needs dynamic, game-changing plays from them in order to have success.

Depth at Cornerback: While versatility is clearly one of the cornerstones of West Virginia’s defense, the flip side is that all of the shuffling between the secondary positions on defense might have contributed to some of the group’s inconsistency in 2021.

Again, play was good overall, but with transfers and first-time starters manning the positions after Nicktroy Fortune was lost for the season, those players probably could have benefited from minimal switching.

Injuries contributed heavily to the need to shuffle players from week to week, and that’s obviously something that can’t be controlled, but a key priority this spring — and in the search of the transfer portal — will be the identification of at least four players who can stick at the corner spots and be counted on no matter the assignment.

It’s not an easy one, but it’s needed to help West Virginia limit big plays and get off the field earlier in drives.

West Virginia reserve forward Taj Thweatt entered the NCAA transfer portal on Monday, Jan. 3.

Thweatt, who has already been removed from WVU’s online roster and will come off scholarship for this semester, played in just 12 games over one and a half seasons for WVU, totaling 33 minutes while scoring seven points and collecting seven rebounds.

The move could help WVU ease a player crunch, as the Mountaineers had 15 scholarship players on their roster this year.

Thweatt had less time than any Mountaineer other than true freshman James Okonkwo, and apparently was not going to be a part of the Mountaineers’ plans moving forward.

Jalen Bridges, Isaiah Cottrell, Gabe Osabuohien, Pauly Paulicap and Dimon Carrigan have gotten almost all of the minutes at the two forward spots for WVU this year.

Without question, the top storyline from West Virginia’s 74-59 loss to Texas on New Year’s Day was the absence of Mountaineer mainstays Taz Sherman and Gabe Osbuohien from the Mountaineer lineup.

That put WVU in a hole from the start, and their normal contributions were missed from the outset, as the Longhorns jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first half and cruised to the win.

However, a more pressing factor, and one that must be solved if West Virginia is to be competitive in the Big 12, was also in view – that of the Mountaineers’ ball-handling and point guard creation.

WVU treated the ball as if it were a throwaway free sample from Wal-Mart, giving it up 20 times in the loss to Texas, which affected its offense just as much as the absence of two of its stalwarts.

For example, West Virginia totaled 67 possessions in the game, but with 20 of those ending without a shot, saw almost 30% of its scoring chances ending without the ball being sent toward the rim.

The Mountaineers scored points on just 40% of their possessions and .881 points per trip, neither of which is anywhere close to a rate needed to be competitive.

Individually, the numbers and result highlight a continuing issue for Bob Huggins’ team — shaky ballhandling and creation at point guard.

Kedrian Johnson and Malik Curry combined for five turnovers, but that was only part of the issue that the duo continues to battle.

Both are trying to create from the point off the dribble to help the offense, but neither is as skilled in that area as a number of recent West Virginia guards and the resulting loose balls, discontinued dribbles and breakdowns serve to stymie WVU’s offense.

Big men tend to suffer more turnovers due to lesser ball security and passing skills, and WVU’s had eight in the game, largely due to ill-advised offensive moves or off-target passes.

Only Dimon Carrigan avoided a giveaway, playing 23 error-free minutes in the turnover department, but that was not nearly enough to make up for the poor execution in both the dribbling and passing phases.

That was, however, an exception to what has played out for most of the year, though, as WVU’s primary inside players — Carrigan, Osabuohien and Pauly Paulicap — have combined for just 30 on the year. Their lesser offensive usage rate certainly contributes to that lower number, but for the most part, they haven’t been giving it directly to the other team.

“We start every practice with passing drills. We set up toss-backs. We’ve talked about it every day,” coach Bob Huggins said. “They’ve been told over and over what is going to beat us is ourselves turning the ball over.”

When WVU has avoided turnovers this year, it has often worked around it by getting the ball to Sherman and letting him work off the dribble.

He has had his own giveaway issues, as he leads the team with 34, but he has also been able to draw defenders and get the ball to others on at least an acceptable level, dishing out a team-best 33 assists.

That option, of course, was missing against the Longhorns, leaving the Mountaineer attack disjointed over certain stretches.

During Texas’ run in the latter stages of the first half, WVU had seven turnovers in 6:35 of game action, allowing the Horns to stretch a five-point lead to 19 at the break.

Over that same period, West Virginia managed to get just five shots away.

The concerning issue here is that like blocking, catching the ball or throwing it accurately in football, ballhandling and turnover avoidance in basketball usually isn’t usually a quick fix.

Learning better ball control on the bounce is a process of months of work. Understanding angles and making good decisions on when and where to throw the ball are also abilities that take extended periods to hone.

Now embarked on the Big 12 season, WVU has little time to correct these problems, and if it can’t, it is going to have a very rough journey through the league.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — You owe Leddie Brown an apology.

Yes, you. And you ... and you ... and you.

You know who you are, the West Virginia fans who jumped him when the team's leading rusher announced he was opting out of the Mountaineers Guaranteed Rate Bowl meeting with Minnesota to ready himself for the NFL.

How dare he, you said, turn his back on his teammates. Where had loyalty gone? What was happening to the team concept?

Well, now you know why he opted out.

Two incidents this bowl season drove home the point that we live in different times than we did way back in, say, 2017, to say nothing of 2000 or the 1990s, '80s or '70s.

We live in a world where you have to look out for No. 1 ... and we're talking a wide receiver wearing No. 1. We're talking about ourselves ... in the real world or the world of college football.

There's too much at stake not to.

Think about what happened this bowl season.

Kenny Pickett became a Heisman Trophy candidate at Pitt. He was in line to be probably the first quarterback taken this year, if not the first player picked in the NFL draft.

He opted out of Pitt's bowl game to prepare for the draft and to protect it from injury.

Was it the right move?

Well, second series of Pitt's loss to Michigan State in the Peach Bowl, his backup Nick Patti left the game with a broken collarbone.

No one can doubt that college football is undergoing a complete renovation, moving away from the sham of amateurism that it clung to from the days of Knute Rockne and Red Grange until it reached a point the players would go along with it no further.

While coaches were making $3 million or $4 million a year, playes were getting room and board and pocket money, unable to cash in the work they put forth both as athletes and students.

Kenny Pickett knows that could have been him.

Item 2 ... a different tale out of Ole Miss's loss to Baylor in the Sugar Bowl.

The Rebels' quarterback Nick Corral announced he would enter the NFL draft next season, projected by most as a first-round selection.

But he opted in for the bowl game rather than out. He decided to play, using the same logic fans use ... loyalty, team.

Injury? Man, you're immune to it when you are 20, 21, aren't you?

"If I was them, and in their shoes, and they had a quarterback that was in the same position, like, I just couldn't live with what they would think of me, like, just leaving," he said. "No one really understands how close we really are. And it would have just been the wrong thing to do, just not playing."

In the first quarter, Corral went down with an ankle injury, one that looked to be ugly, possibly a broken ankle.

He walked unsteadily from the field, was driven to the locker room, underwent x-rays which were said to be negative and, apparently, will recover.

But in a situation where you are so close to achieving your greatest dream, do you dare dare the football gods?

Not in this era.

Think a football coach would stick around for an important bowl game if he had been given a chance to move up the coaching ladder by leaving immediately?

Ask Rich Rodriguez. Ask Brian Kelly.

If coaches are walking out on their players, is it fair to say that players' shouldn't do the same, especially since they are just starting out on their career path while a coach has attained a good part of his lifelong dream.

This, of course, puts a new twist upon bowls ... bowls who have become antiquated and out-of-touch with reality anyway. They are a cash cow for ESPN, which has nothing but the Disney Board of Directors to answer to.

Forty bowl games? Does anyone realize the absurdity of that. all to fill television time?

The playoffs are a different animal.They matter and should be expanded to 16 teams.

Eight post-season games to decide a national championship with maybe four more bowl games are enough. They will reward teams and players for success. They will mean something.

Now you are going to argue that so many teams are going to lose the extra practice that comes with bowl games.

That's an easy fix. Everybody should be allowed two weeks of work post-season. In fact, that is even better than the way it is now with the worst teams — the ones who need the practice the most — barred from practicing while only the bowl eligible teams get the edge toward next season.

But understand this, the idea of going to college — be it athletic or academic-driven — is to prepare for the future. I doubt a promising economics or engineering major would pass up a promising job interview to attend a bowl game to make sure his team was well-supported.

Sunday, January 02, 2022

MORGANTOWN — Perhaps influenced by his brother, Darius, being passed over in last year's NFL draft; perhaps influenced by feeling he had more improvement to make before entering the draft; perhaps influenced by feeling West Virginia may be closer to putting together a wiInner than anyone thinks, as Coach Neal Brown proclaimed following a loss to Minnesota in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, defensive tackle Dante Stills announced on Sunday that he will return to West Virginia University for a fifth season.

This, added to the decision to also return announced by leading tackler Josh Chandler-Semedo, puts a bandage on the wound that had had been bleeding players through the transfer portal for the last year and guarantees that WVU will return one of the strongest defensive units in the Big 12.

While for most of the season it was thought to be a given that Stills, who already has his degree, would leave school following this season and not take advantage of the extra year granted by the NCAA due to the COVID-19 virus' effect on the 2020 season, Stills hinted before the bowl game that he was considering returning.

"I've still got to figure that out," he said. "I'm still thinking. It's going to be personal because I know in my four years I've done some damage. But if it wasn't good enough then I got to step it up. It's going to be very personal if I have to come back.

"I wouldn't care [to come back]. That's just an extra offseason to be in the weight room to get stronger, faster. I'm taking it day by day and I'll weigh it all out after this game."

Make no doubt that Chandler Semedo's decision to return influenced Stills.

"These last few years in Morgantown have been a memorable experience. The fans, the culture and the tradition at West Virginia is like no other," Chandler-Semedo said on social media in his surprising New Year's Day announcement..

"Since I was a kid, I have dreamed of playing at the next level and having the opportunity to provide for my family and set the foundation for the youth to follow.

"I have been blessed to have a great career at West Virginia which has allowed me to be in position to have an opportunity to play at the next level and pursue my dreams. I am extremely grateful for that.

"However, there is still unfinished business, with that being said I am returning to play my Senior year. In pursuit of closing this chapter with one more Country Road!"

Stills' announcement was a terser "I'm Back!" after posting three hours earlier that he had made a decision and it would be upcoming.

Those decisions came after the surprising announcement that leading receiver and kick returner Winston Wright Jr. was entering the transfer portal, as was quarterback Jarret Doege, whose decision was not surprising as he had been a lightning rod for criticism of the offense for two years.

The recent doings have completely altered the outlook for the Mountaineers next year. There will be a new quarterback and the competition figures to be intense between Garrett Greene, Goose Crowder and 4-star freshman Nicco Marchiol from Arizona.

Whoever wins it will be working behind an experienced offensive line and with a strong receiving corps despite Wright's and Isaiah Esdale's departures into the portal. The Mountaineers are still awaiting to see if Sean Ryan, who made great improvement last year, will return and are expecting a big jump from Kaden Prather into a key role, along with Bryce Ford-Wheaton and Sam James.

Chandler-Semedo became a force in the middle last year, leading WVU with 110 tackles. Sixty-eight of them were solo stops and he also intercepted two passes in the regular season finale at Kansas.

Chandler-Semedo has now played in 44 games at WVU and accrued 260 career tackles.

Stills, an All-Big 12 choice, allows WVU to do a lot of different things with Akheem Mesidor and gives them two candidates for Defensive Player of the Year in the Big 12 for next season.

A powerful pass rusher, Stills this year recorded 29 tackles, 15 or a loss with 7 sacks.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — Defensive back Jackie Matthews announced on Twitter that he is leaving West Virginia to enter the transfer portal.

He is the fourth player to announce he was leaving in the past three days. Matthews played in all 13 games for West Virginia this season, recording 35 tackles and one interception.

"I would like to begin with thanking God because without him this wouldn't be possible. I want to thank West Virginia University for giving me an opportunity to compete at a high level while earning my degree.

"To my brothers, thank you for always supporting me and pushing me to be the best version of myself daily. I will forever be grateful for the bonds I've built.

"To Mountaineer nation thank you for always being there for me throughout my ups and downs. I will cherish those moments for a lifetime.

"This has been the hardest decision of my life but I made a choice that was best for me and my future. With that being said I'll be entering my name into the portal and use my final year as a grad transfer."

Saturday, January 01, 2022

A day-by-day look at WVU athletics from July through September.

JULY

July 1 — WVU announced that former linebacker Darryl Talley, who played in four Super Bowls with the Buffalo Bills and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, will have his No. 90 retired during the Texas Tech game, on Oct. 2. During his four years in Morgantown, Talley amassed 484 career tackles, which were the most by any WVU player when his playing career ended in 1982. The four-year starter led West Virginia to the 1981 Peach Bowl and the 1982 Gator Bowl.

July 2 — WVU announced it will retire former quarterback and College Football Hall of Famer Major Harris' No. 9 during the Oklahoma State game on Nov. 6. Harris led WVU to an unbeaten regular season in 1988 before losing to Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl with the national championship at stake.

July 7 — WVU senior defensive tackle Dante Stills was named to the Big 12's Preseason All-Conference football team.

July 8 — Patrick Gray was named senior associated athletics director/executive director of the Mountaineer Athletic Club and is responsible for the management and leadership of all development activities within WVU’s Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, as well as serving as its lead fundraiser.

July 8 — WVU football was selected to finish 6th in the Big 12's Preseason Poll by its coaches while Oklahoma topped the poll.

July 9 — David Faulkner was added to football coach Neal Brown's staff as the special assistant to the head coach.

July 12 — Senior left-handed pitcher Jackson Wolf was selected in the fourth round with the 129th overall pick of the major league baseball draft and right-hander Ryan Bergert was picked in the sixth round with the 190th pick, both by the San Diego Padres.

July 26 — Texas and Oklahoma officially inform the Big 12 they do not intend to renew their media rights after they run out in 2025 and it's speculated they plan to join the SEC, putting the future of the conference in peril.

July 26 — Forward Janes Okonkwo, who had committed to WVU for 2123, reclassified as a 2021 recruit and signed a letter of intent. The 6-9, 230-pounder from England is expected to redshirt his first season.

July 28 — Deuce McBride was taken in the second round of the NBA draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder and quickly traded to the New York Knicks. Derek Culver went undrafted.

July 31 — Keri Bland (cross country/track), Nicco Campriani (rifle), Noel Devine (football), Dale Farley (football), Mike Fox (football), Lajuanda Moody (gymnastics) and Olayinka Sanni (women’s basketball) were announced as the members of the 31st class of the West Virginia University Sports Hall of Fame.

AUGUST

August 3 — Senior defender Jordan Brewster and goalkeeper Kayza Massey of the WVU women's soccer team were named to the 2021 All-Big 12 Preseason Women's Soccer Team. Brewster, the 2020 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, earned her third consecutive honor.

August 4 — Former WVU soccer stars Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence help Canada to two stunning upsets of the United States and then Sweden to win Gold in the Tokyo Olympics.

August 7 — Former WVU football coach Bobby Bowden, who went on to a Hall of Fame career at Florida State, dies from pancreatic cancer at 91.

August 11 — West Virginia University fifth-year senior golfer Mark Goetz shot 8-under-par after 36 holes to capture stroke-play medalist honors and No. 1 seed in the of 64 for match play at the 121st U.S. Amateur at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pennsylvania.

August 12 — A day after earning medalist for the U.S. Amateur, WVU senior golfer Mark Goetz loses four of the last five holes and is eliminated in the first round by No. 64 seed No. 64 seed of Sweden, who dropped a 35-birdie putt on No. 18 to advance, 1-up.

August 19 — WVU women's soccer team wins the first game of the new school year, 4-0, over Buffalo and Oklahoma transfer Mackenzie Aunkst gets a goal in her first game as a Mountaineer.

August 21 — WVU women's soccer team takes first loss of the new season, falling to No. 4 Virginia, 1-0, on an early goal.

August 23 — West Virginia defensive tackle Dante Stills follows in brother Darius footsteps, being named to the Associated Press second team Preseason All-American team. Darius was a first team defensive tackle in last year's post-season AP All-American Team.

August 24 — The Las Vegas Raiders waive former WVU All-American defensive Darius Stills with an injury designation.

August 26 — West Virginia's men's soccer team opens its second season under coach Dan Stratford with a 2-0 victory over Robert Morris.

August 27 — WVU basketball coach Bob Huggins agrees to a new contract to coach at least the next three years with options for two years beyond that where he can coach or move into an emeritus position. His salary as coach is set at $4.15 million per year plus incentives.

August 30 — West Virginia stuns No. 3 Pitt, 2-1, in men's soccer at Dick Dlesk Stadium, announcing its arrival among the nation's top teams. Adam Burchell’s 76th-minute tally proved to be the game-winner in the victory. The win marked the highest-ranked opponent West Virginia has defeated since No. 1 Connecticut on Oct. 18, 2011.

August 30 — West Virginia University graduates and supporters Rick and Jay Wagener have contributed a major gift of $1 million to the WVU baseball program. The donation will help with the maintenance and upkeep at Monongalia County Ballpark, as well as assist in the team’s greatest needs. For their generosity, the Wageners’ namesake will be recognized on the field beginning in 2022, and known as Wagener Field at Monongalia County Ballpark.

SEPTEMBER

September 4 — WVU opens its football season on a sour note, losing, 30-24, at Maryland as the regional rivals meet for the first time after a five-year gap in games. Winston Wright Jr. sets a Mountaineer record becoming the first player ever to return kickoffs for more than 200 yards in a game, including a 98-yard return, the longest in school history without scoring.

September 10 — Before the second largest crowd in men's soccer history at Dick Dlesk Stadium, 2,440 fans, No. 5 WVU used a goal by fifth-year senior defender Kevin Morris off a corner kick to beat Ohio State, 1-0.

September 11 — As football returned to tailgating and full-capacity for fans, 50,911 turned out to watch WVU overwhelm an overmatched LIU team 66-0, as backup quarterback Garrett Greene run for 98 yards and two touchdowns in his first extended action and starting quarterback Jarret Doege threw for 254 yards and three TDs.

September 17 — No. 4-ranked West Virginia University men’s soccer team played to a 2-2, double-overtime draw at No. 6 Marshall in Huntington, West Virginia. In a battle of two top-10 squads, the Mountaineers held a pair of leads in the match, before the Thundering Herd answered twice to secure the tie. Senior forward Yoran Popovic and sophomore forward Ciro Bourlot Jaeggi scored for WVU in the hard-fought road effort.

September 18 — It was a year late due to the Covid-19 outbreak, but the 30th annual Sports Hall of Fame class finally was inducted prior to the Virginia Tech football game. The 2020 class includes Janáe (Cox) Asbury (gymnastics), Da’Sean Butler (men’s basketball), Janis Denise “JD” Drummonds (women’s basketball), Jedd Gyorko (baseball), Richard “Dick” Leftridge (football), John McGrath (men’s soccer), Tony Robertson (men’s basketball), John Rost (rifle), Clara (Grandt) Santucci (women’s cross country & track), Tom Shafer (baseball) and Ron Wolfley (football).

September 18 — WVU built a 27-7 lead over Virginia Tech then needed a goal line stand to make it stand up for a 27-24 victory to win back the Black Diamond Trophy. Leddie Brown had an 80-yard TD run and the defense had 13 tackles for losses and six sacks.

September 20 — WVU linebacker Jared Bartlett was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week after registering three sacks, five tackles, forcing and recovering a fumble and creating in a quarterback hurry in the win over Virginia Tech.

September 24 — Redshirt senior forward Lauren Segalla tallied the first brace of her career to lift the No. 13-ranked West Virginia University women’s soccer team to a 4-0 win over Iowa State and begin the 2021 Big 12 Conference campaign at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium.

September 24 — The WVU volleyball team opened Big 12 play with a win over Oklahoma in four sets at the WVU Coliseum, 25-23, 25-14, 21-25 and 25-22. It put their record at 11-1,

September 25 - West Virginia suffered its annual football loss to Oklahoma, 16-13, in Norman. It was the Sooners' ninth straight win over WVU since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12.

September 25 — Rhett Rodriguez, the quarterback at Louisiana-Monroe and son of former WVU coach Rich Rodriguez, was put in the intensive care unit of a Monroe hospital Sunday after suffering a “severe trauma injury to the upper chest” during a game Saturday. He would be released a couple of days later.

September 30 — WVU's men's soccer team, ranked No. 3 in the country, remained unbeaten as it opened its MAC season by playing a scoreless tie with Akron.

Our look back at 2021 concludes.

OCTOBER

October 2 — WVU officially retires linebacker Darryl Talley's No. 90 on Homecoming but for the second week in a row the Mountaineers lose on a late drive and field goal, falling to Texas Tech, 23-20, for the third year in a row.

October 2 — In the first ever pitching matchup of former WVU pitchers, Toronto's Alek Manoah outdueled John Means of the Baltimore Orioles to finish a spectacular rookie season with an 9-2 record and 3.22 earned run average while striking out 127 batters in 111,2 innings pitched.

October 2 — The No. 3-ranked West Virginia University rifle team opened its 2021-22 season by defeating No. 2 Ole Miss, 4733-4683, on Saturday evening in Oxford, Mississippi. WVU swept Ole Miss in both disciplines, winning smallbore, 2348-2319, and air rifle, 2385-2364.

October 2 — Junior Celli McCabe recoded a personal best of 16:23 in winning the Louisville Classic cross-country meet. The Mountaineers finished third in the field of 44 schools.

October 5 — The West Virginia University rifle team moved up two spots to No. 1 in the Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association (CRCA) poll. The Mountaineers were last ranked No. 1 in the weekly poll on Jan. 13, 2021.

October 9 — West Virginia lost its third straight Big 12 football game at Baylor, 45-20.

October 13 — Taz Sherman was named honorable mention on the Big 12's Preseason Basketball team, WVU' only player to receive any mention.

October 19 — WVU Junior Ceili McCabe has been named the NCAA DI Women’s National Athlete of the week. The Vancouver, British Columbia, native led the Mountaineers with a first-place finish at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Cross Country Invitational, on Oct. 15, in Madison, Wisconsin. Along with her first career national honor, McCabe also was tabbed Big 12 Runner of the Week.

October 19 — For the first time since 2009, when they finished sixth in the NCAA Championships, the West Virginia University cross country team ranked No. 1 in the Mid-Atlantic Region United States Track and Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) weekly rankings.

October 23 — Leddie Brown rushed for 111 yards and three TDs as WVU broke a seven-game road losing streak and won its first Big 12 game of the year, beating TCU, 27-19.

October 25 — WVU CB Charles Woods was named Big 12 co-Defensive Player of the week after coming off the bench to grab an interception and recover a fumble while PK Casey Legg was named Special Team Player of the Week after kicking two field goals, one from 49 yards, and for stifling TCU kickoff return unit with pooch kicks.

October 27 — WVU DB Sean Mahone was named one of 13 finalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy given annually to college football's top scholar-athlete.

October 27 — After a pair of career-best performances last week, WVU junior goalkeeper Kayza Massey was named the United Soccer Coaches Division I National Player of the Week. The Ottawa, Ontario, native recorded a career-high seven saves against Texas on Oct. 21, before matching the career-best mark at Baylor on Oct. 24, to help the Mountaineers earn a pair of scoreless draws in double overtime.

October 28 — Redshirt junior Dyon Dromers scored the tying goal after a long absence and sophomore Ciro Bourlot Jaeggi the winning goal as WVU's men's soccer team notched the program's 500th all-time win, 2-1, over Georgia State.

October 29 — WVU's women's soccer team finished off a 9-5-4 regular season with a 2-1 overtime loss to Oklahoma State, honoring seniors Jordan Brewster, Isabella Sibley, Lauren Segalla and Grace Smith after the game on Senior Night.

October 29 — WVU DL Taj Alston was nominated for the 2021 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award. Alston, a fifth-year junior, has overcome three serious injuries to become one of the Big 12's best pass-rushers.

October 30 — Bryce Ford-Wheaton made maybe the best catch of the year at the back of the end zone, Jarret Doege threw for 370 yards and Leddie Brown rushed for 107 yards and two TDs as WVU upset No. 22 Iowa State, 38-31, in a classic seesaw battle at Mountaineer Field to reach 4-4 for the season.

October 31 — Sixth-seeded West Virginia scored a 1-0 victory over No. 3 Baylor on freshman Dilary Heredia-Beltran's goal in the 79th minute to advance to the semifinals of the Big 12 Women's Soccer Championships in Round Rock, Texas. It gave WVU its 22nd consecutive 10-victory season.

NOVEMBER

November 1 — WVU sophomore forward Ciro Bourlot Jaeggi was named the Mid-American Soccer Conference Player of the Week. He recorded a pair of game-winning goals for the Mountaineers in wins over Georgia State and Georgia Southern. First, his diving header in the 89th minute gave WVU a late lead against Georgia State in a 2-1 win on Oct. 28, at home, before a two-goal performance at Georgia Southern three days later.

November 2 — Senior defender Jordan Brewster led the way for four WVU players on the All-Big 12 -Women's Soccer First Team, earning her second consecutive honor on the all-conference first team. Junior goalkeeper Kayza Massey and junior defender Nicole Payne were recognized on the second team, while freshman forward Dilary Heredia-Beltran was named to the All-Freshman team.

November 3 — The West Virginia University women's basketball team was ranked No. 23 in the USA TODAY/Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Preseason Poll. The Mountaineers received 165 points to rank 23rd after being ranked 24th in the final poll last year.

November 4 — WVU redshirt junior Casey Legg was named a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, signifying the top kicker in college football, Legg had connected on 14-of-15 field goal attempts at the time, including 13 straight makes this season.

November 4 — WVU's women’s soccer team played to a 0-0, double overtime draw with Texas but had its Big 12 Championship run cut short after the Longhorns advanced in a 4-3 penalty kick shootout during semifinal action at Round Rock Multipurpose Complex in Round Rock, Texas.

November 6 — No. 11 Oklahoma State's defense overwhelmed WVU at Milan Puskar Stadium, holding the Mountaineers to just 133 total yards, its lowest total since opening the 1994 season with a 31-0 loss to eventual national champion Nebraska. The Cowboys also recorded eight sacks in what turned out to be a 24-3 defeat, dropping WVU's record to 4-5.

November 6 — Sophomore Molly McGhin tied the school record in air rifle with a score of 600, the sixth WVU shooter to accomplish the feat, and led the way to a tight 4724-4723 victory over TCU.

November 8 — Forward Dilary Heredi-Beltran was WVU's only player to make the All-Tournament team in the Big 12 Women's Soccer Championships.

November 8 — After 21 consecutive trips to the NCAA's women's soccer championships West Virginia missed being selected as it ended its season with a 10-5-5 record.

November 9 — WVU's men's basketball team was crushed on the boards but pulled out a 60-53 victory over Oakland, Mich., in the opening game of the season at the Coliseum. Taz Sherman led the way with 18 points while Gabe Osabuohien grabbed off nine rebounds and took four charges.

November 10 — WVU women’s basketball coach Mike Carey signed three players for the 2022-23 season, Imarianah “Mari” Russell (Reynoldsburg, Ohio/Reynoldsburg High School), Avery “Ace” Strickland (Knoxville, Tenn./Farragut High School) and Yonta Vaughn (District Heights, Md./Bishop McNamara High School).

November 10 — West Virginia's women's soccer team signed Reagan Mallia (Severna Park, Maryland), Iman Mustafa (El Dorado Hills, California), Ruby Teixeira (Franklin, Tennessee), Emily Thompson (Broward County, Florida), Taylor White (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Natalie Zibinskas (Duxbury, Massachusetts) for next season.

November 10 — Four players from the No. 21-ranked West Virginia University men’s soccer team were named to the All-MAC Team. Junior midfielder Luke McCormick was placed on the All-MAC First Team, while fifth-year senior defender Kevin Morris, fifth-year senior goalkeeper Steven Tekesky and sophomore forward Ciro Bourlot Jaeggi all earned second-team honors.

November 10 — West Virginia University men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins announced the signings of Josiah Davis and Josiah Harris to national letters-of-intent for the 2022-23 academic year, Davis is a 6-foot-3, 190-pound guard from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. He attends high school at Teays Valley Christian School in Scott Depot, West Virginia. Harris is a 6-foot-7, 210-pound forward from Canton, Ohio, and attends Richmond Heights High School in Cleveland,

November 11 — Ceili McCabe won the Mid-Atlantic cross country regional while leading five top 25 finishers to qualify the team for the NCAA's cross-country championships.

November 12 — The Coliseum was sold out as West Virginia turned to its defense to secure its 100th victory in the Backyard Brawl, forcing 32 turnovers in beating Pitt, 74-59, The victory was also the 902nd of Bob Huggins career, tying him for sixth all-time with the legendary Bob Knight.

November 13 — Former WVU and NFL great Sam Huff died at age 87.

November 13 — Kansas State took advantage of numerous WVU mistakes to win its fourth straight game, 34-17, leaving the Mountaineers in need of sweeping its final two games against Texas and Kansas to become bowl eligible.

November 17 — Four-star running back Justin Williams of Dallas, Ga., decommits.

November 19 — WVU men's basketball blows a 12-point halftime lead and suffers its first loss of the season, losing to Marquette, 82-71, in the second round of the Charleston (S.C.) Shriners Classic. Taz Sherman led the Mountaineers with 21 points.

November 19 — The West Virginia University wrestling team won nine of its ten matches to gain its first dual match victory of the season, 34-3, over Davidson,

November 19 — Fifth-year senior Ana Zortea broke a program record and led the WVU men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams on day two of the WVU Invitational at the Aquatic Center at Mylan Park. Zortea’s record-breaking performance came in the 100-yard backstroke, as she bested the previous school record of 53.50 – set by Amelie Currat in 2018 – with a time of 53.41.

November 20 — West Virginia keeps its bowl hopes alive with a 31-28 victory over Texas on what may be the Longhorns' final visit to Morgantown. QB Jarret Doege throws three TD passes and Leddie Brown rushes for 155 yards in his final home game.

November 21 — The No. 11-seeded WVU men’s soccer team earned a 1-1 draw against Virginia Tech and advanced on penalty kicks in the NCAA Tournament Second Round at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium. The Mountaineers move on to the third round for the first time since 2007, and just the third time in program history, following a 4-3 advantage in the penalty shootout. Fifth-year senior goalkeeper Steven Tekesky made a pair of PK saves, before fifth-year senior midfielder Pau Jimenez Albelda scored the deciding goal to help WVU advance.

November 22 — Quarterback Jarrett Doege was named the Big 12's Offensive Player of the Week and basketball guard Taz Sherman was named the conference's Basketball Player of the Week.

November 23 — WVU junior Ceili McCabe was named the Big 12 Women’s Runner of the Year in cross country. She is the first-ever Mountaineer to win the honor. Previously, McCabe was named Big 12 Women’s Newcomer of the Year in 2019. The honor was awarded to McCabe after a remarkable 2021 cross country season, where she went undefeated throughout the regular season and was named the Mid-Atlantic District Runner of the Year.

November 23 — WVU cross country coach Sean Cleary, was named the Mid-Atlantic Regional Coach of the Year,

November 26 — Taz Sherman scores a career high 28 points and Malik Curry scores the final three baskets for WVU as they beat Eastern Kentucky, 80-77.

November 27 — West Virginia made itself bowl eligible after a 2-4 start on the season, beating Kansas, 34-28, on the road. Leddie Brown surpassed 1,000 yards to become the 8th back in WVU history to do so in consecutive seasons; Tony Mathis had his first 100-yard rushing game and Josh Chandler-Semedo had two interceptions in the end zone during the fourth quarter.

November 27 — The No. 22/23-ranked WVU women's basketball team suffered its first loss of the season, 58-57, to BYU in the finals of the St. Pete Showcase Championship game at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla.

November 27 — No. 11 WVU defeated No. 6 Tulsa. 1-0, on freshman midfielder Otto Olliinen's gold goal in the 101st minute off assists by Ryan Crooks and Kevin Morris to reach the Elite Eight of the NCAA Men's Soccer Championship for the first time since 1981.

November 28 — For the first time in program history, WVU's women's volleyball team earned an at-large bid to the 2021 NCAA Division 1 Championships, matched against Illinois in Lexington, Ky.'s Memorial Coliseum. Coach Reed Sunahara's team finished the season at 19-9 and was third in the Big 12 at 8-8.

November 30 — WVU bandit VanDarius Cowan and offensive tackle Parker Moorer entered the NCAA's transfer portal, the seventh and eighth players to do so since the start of the season.

November 30 — Senior middle blocker Briana Lynch earned her second straight All-Big 12 Volleyball first team honor, outside hitter Adrian Ell earned her first and senior Lacey Zerwas was selected to the second team.

DECEMBER

December 1 — Former WVU football coach Rich Rodriguez starts over as head coach at Jacksonville State as it jumps to FBS and Conference USA.

December 1 — Former WVU cornerback Rasul Douglas named NFL Defensive Player of the Week after helping the Green Bay Packers beat the LA Rams with six tackles, four pass breakups and an interception of Matthew Stafford pass whiich he returned for a TD.

December 2 — Senior defensive tackle Dante Stills was named to the All-Big 12 Defensive team and teammate Zach Frazier was named to the second all-conference offensive team.

December 2 — WVU's combined varsity athletic teams had graduation Success Rate of 86 percent for the classes from 2011-14, up two points from last year.

December 2 — WVU senior defender Jordan Brewster was named third team All-American b the United Soccer Coaches of America. She is the 25th WVU player to earn an All-American honor.

December 2 — After winning the first set they ever played in the NCAA Tournament, West Virginia was eliminated by Illinois, 23-25, 25-2, 25-22, 25-20. Senior outside hitter Adrian Eli led WVU with her 12th double-double of the season with 19 kills and 12 digs. WVU finished the year with a 19-10 record, third in the Big 12 at 8-8.

December 4 — WVU's men's 11th-seeded soccer team's run in the NCAA Tournament ended just short of their first Final Four appearance asthey fought to a double-overtime 1-1 draw with No. 3 Georgetown before losing in penalty kicks, 4-1. WVU ended the season with a 12-3-6 record.

December 4 — Ceili McCabe broke another WVU program record in the women's 3,000-meter run at Boston University's Sharon Colyera-Danville Season Opener, completing the run in 8:52.52 to win the race. She broke Megan Metcalfe's record of 8:58.17, which had stood since 2005.

December 5 — West Virginia accepted an invitation to face Minnesota of the Big Ten in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona, on December 28.

December 8 — WVU guts out a 56-53 victory over No. 15 Connecticut in the Big 12-Big East Challenge at the Coliseum as Taz Sherman scores 23 points and Gabe Osabuohien grabs off a key offensive rebound.

December 9 — Redshirt sophomore defender Bjme Thiesen of the WVU men's soccer team was named to the United Soccer Coaches All-America third team. He started all 21 games, had two goal, one a game-winner and played 1,980 minutes.

December 9 —WVU's center Zach Frazier earns Walter Camp second-team All-America honors. It's the sixth straight year and seventh of the past eight a WVU player has earned a spot on the team. Frazier is the 47th WVU selection since 2002 and WVU football's 110th All-American overall.

December 10 — Senior defender Kevin Morris was named to the Academic All-America Soccer Team for the second consecutive season and his fellow senior defender Aaron Denk Gracia was named to third team.

December 15 — QB Nicco Marchiol highlights a 22-player class of recruits and transfers on the first day of the early signing period. Neal Brown expects to have a full 32 signed by the fall camp.

December 15 — Center Zach Frazier adds his second All-American citation as he is named to the AFCA FBS Coaches All-American second team.

December 16 — Senior defender Jordan Brewster of WVU's soccer team was named to the 2021 United Soccer Coaches Scholar All-America First Team.

December 16 — Running back Leddie Brown announces he will opt out of the Guaranteed Rate Bowl game against Minnesota to prepare for the NFL draft.

December 28 — West Virginia finishes its football season with a 6-7 record as Minnesota overpowers the Mountaineers, 18-6, in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl Game.

December 31 — West Virginia loses three more key players to the NCAA's Transfer Portal -- oft-maligned quarterback Jarret Doege, leading WR Winston Wright Jr. and long-snapper J.P. Hadley.

December 31 — WVU's men's basketball game of Jan. 3 at TCU is postponed due to COVID-19 protocol.

A look back upon April through June in WVU athletics.

APRIL

April 2 — Deuce McBride declares for the NBA draft but can return to college if he chooses.

April 2 — WVU's gymnastics team scored 195.650 and finished third in the second of two second-round meets at the NCAA Morgantown Regional Championships, inside the WVU Coliseum. No. 4-ranked Michigan finished first with a 197.650 mark, and No. 13 UCLA placed second with a 197.050 total. WVU finished second on floor exercise (49.450) and third on vault (48.725), uneven bars (49.100) and balance beam (48.375). Junior Rachel Hornung was the lone Mountaineer to earn a spot on the podium, as she posted a matching season-high score of 9.85 on beam to tie for third overall.

April 8 — Senior middle blocker Briana Lynch was named first team all-Big 12 Volleyball while junior setter Lacey Zerwas was placed on the second team all-league.

April 10 — Dimon Carrigan, who played the last two years at Florida International, transferred to WVU to give Bob Huggins the shot blocker he lacked a year ago. He is a graduate transfer with one year remaining who blocked 2.5 shots a game last year while averaging 6.8 points and 6.1 rebounds a game.

April 11 — Coach Randy Mazey won his 250th game as WVU baseball coach as the Mountaineers came from behind to beat Baylor, 8-4, behind freshman left-hander Ben Hampton.

April 19 — WVU's women's soccer team earned an at-large bid to its 21st NCAA Tournament, the fifth longest streak in the nation, and was given the No. 5 overall seed and a first-round bye.

April 20 — Charlie Huggins, Bob Huggins' father, playing and coaching mentor, dies at 87.

April 21 — Pauly Paulicap, a shot-blocking inside presence, transfers from DePaul to WVU.

April 21 — Darris Nichols, former WVU point guard under both John Beilein and Bob Huggins, earns his first head coaching job as he returns to his hometown to coach Radford in Virginia after six years as a Florida assistant.

April 22 — Five members of WVU's men's soccer team earned All-Mid-America Conference honors. Senior goalkeeper Steven Tekesky, junior midfielder Ike Swiger and sophomore midfielder Luke McCormick were named to the first team while senior midfield Pau Jaminez Albelda and defender Kevin Morris, also a senior, earned second team distinction.

April 22 — Neal Brown agrees to a two-year contract extension to coach West Virginia football through 2026. The contract is worth $23.95 million, averaging just less than $4 million a year.

April 24 — Football returns with the Gold-Blue Spring Game and Neal Brown changes the format to make it a funfest for football fans, including competitions between scrimmages and a guest appearance by former high school quarterback Deuce McBride from the football team that steals the show.

April 24 — West Virginia University wide receiver Graeson Malashevich, a redshirt sophomore from Ceredo, West Virginia, is the winner of the 2021 Tommy Nickolich Memorial Award, presented by the Blue & Gold News to the team's top walk on.

April 27 — Basketball forward Derek Culver, after first denying a report that he was leaving WVU, announced that he had signed with an agent and would enter the NBA draft with a chance to return to school. Culver had scored 1,105 points and had 799 rebounds in an All-Big 12 career.

April 28 — Starting defensive end Jeffrey Pooler, a graduate student, announced he was entering the transfer portal and planned to find a new school for next season.

MAY

May 1 — Linebacker Tony Fields II was drafted in the fifth round of the NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns. He was the only Mountaineer drafted. Defensive tackle Darius Stills, a consensus All-American, went undrafted and signed with the Las Vegas Raiders as a free agent after the draft. Offensive tackle Michael Brown signed with the New Orleans Saints as a free agent.

May 1 — Despite leading in shots, 20-1, West Virginia's women's soccer team was eliminated in the second round of the NCAA Women's Soccer Championships by Rice, 1-0, on a penalty kick in the 74th minute. The No. 5 Mountaineers finished the year 10-3-1 and went 7-2-0 in Big 12 play.

May 5 — Former WVU pitcher John Means pitches a no-hitter, facing just 27 batters and missing a perfect game only by throwing a wild pitch on a third strike, the runner later being erased trying to steal, as his Baltimore Orioles beat Seattle, 6-0. It was the Orioles first individual no-hitter since 1976, ending the longest streak in major league baseball.

May 13 — Junior defender Jordan Brewster was named a 2020-21 United Soccer Coaches Women's All-American. Brewster earned a spot on the second team and became the Mountaineers’ 25th player to earn an All-America accolade. The honor was the first of her career.

May 15 — Redshirt freshman Ceili McCabe became West Virginia's first winner of the Big 12 championship in the 3,000-meter Steeplechase event at the Big 12 Track and Field championship, taking the event with time of 10:08.69. Junior Katherine Dowie finished the same event in 10:32:23 to earn All-Big 12 honors with a fifth-place finish.

May 20 — WVU opens its final series of the regular season and defeats No. 2 Texas, 5-4, while hitting three home runs and the bullpen threw 3.2 scoreless innings to save Jackson Wolf's fifth win. The victory is the school's first ever against team ranked as high as No. 2.

May 26 — After overcoming a 5-0 deficit to beat Kansas on a walk-off walk in the bottom of the 9th inning in a play-in game to open the Big 12 Tournament, Wolf comes back to hurl a gem of a complete game to beat the No. 2 Longhorns for the second time in a week, 5-1, sending the favorites into the loser's bracket.

May 26 — Former WVU pitcher Alek Manoah makes his major league debut in Yankee Stadium and earns the victory, 2-0, in which he went six innings, giving up two hits while striking out six and walking two.

May 28 — WVU ends its baseball season being eliminated from the Big 12 Tournament as it loses a 10-2 decision to No. 22 Oklahoma State and then comes back to suffer a difficult, 3-2, to No. 2 Texas, which it had beaten twice in the previous 10 days. The Mountaineers ended the year with a 25-27 record.

May 29 — WVU redshirt freshman Ceili McCabe finished in third place in the 3,000-meter steeplechase of the NCAA East Preliminary Regional with a school record time of 9:51.81, qualifying to compete in the 2021 NCAA Outdoor Championships.

May 31 — WVU senior golfer Mark Goetz became the second player in school history to be named a PING All-Midwest Region player by the Golf Coaches Association of America.

JUNE

June 1 — WVU shooting guard Taz Sherman announced he would return for a fifth year of eligibility at WVU, withdrawing from the NBA draft.

June 2 — Former WVU coach Jim Carlen and former defensive back Darryl Worley were put back on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot, Carlen for the fifth year, Worley for the third.

June 3 — Former WVU basketball coach John Beilein was named the Detroit Pistons' senior advisor of player development.

June 10 — NCAA's College Football Playoff working group proposes the playoffs be expanded from four to 12 teams.

June 12 — Redshirt freshman Ceili McCabe set another school record while earning her first All-American honors, finishing sixth in the NCAA 3000-meter steeplechase in Eugene, Oregon. The native Canadian ran 9:37.39, which is the 12th fastest time in NCAA history. Seven of those times were recorded in this race.

June 14 — Senior Mark Goetz became the first golfer in WVU history to earn All-American honors as he was named honorable mention by Golfweek. He was the school's first NCAA Regional qualifier this season, finishing second in that event and just missing a spot in the NCAA Golf Championships.

June 14 — After missing out on a bid to the NCAA Tournament that it felt it should have gotten, WVU announced its men's soccer program was leaving the Mid-America Conference to join Conference USA, which has 10 members and which has gotten multiple NCAA bids in each of the last 11 seasons.

June 15 — WVU announces that football and all other sports will operate under 100 percent stadium capacity in the fall.

June 23 — West Virginia University women’s soccer alums Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence were nominated to represent Canada in women’s soccer at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games.

June 28 — Jamel King, who originally signed with New Mexico, has signed a grant-in-aid to attend and play basketball for West Virginia University during the 2021-22 academic year.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: The year 2021 was a year unlike any other, a year troubled by Covid-19, year of transformation for college sports and the Big 12 in particular as Oklahoma and Texas announced they were jumping to the SEC, setting off another round of conference expansion.

It was a year where the transfer portal exploded, where WVU's football and basketball teams disappointed but where the sports such as men's soccer and volleyball reached new heights.

We start as December turned to January and goes on through March.

Dec. 31 — West Virginia ends Neal Brown's second season as Austin Kendall comes off the bench and bails out the Mountaineers in the Liberty Bowl, topping Army, 24-21.

JANUARY

Jan. 5 — Oscar Tshiebwe enters the transfer portal, eventually transferring to Kentucky. The move forced Bob Huggins to change the Mountaineers entire offensive and defensive approaches.

Jan. 6 — WVU announces that no fans will be allowed at athletic events through Jan. 24 due to Covid-19 outbreak.

Jan. 6 — Derek Culver named to the midseason John Wooden Award watch list.

Jan. 7 — WVU senior nose guard Darius Stills named to the Walter Camp All-America team.

Jan. 12 — WVU football coach Neal Brown named to AFCA Board of Trustees as his respect grows among his peers.

Jan. 18 — WVU baseball selected No. 14 in D1 Baseball.com's preseason poll, believed to be the highest it has ever been ranked in a national poll

Jan. 22 — WVU football names Freddie E. Little III, a former player, head of player relations.

Jan. 23 — WVU announces it will allow limited fans back into the Coliseum beginning with the SEC-Big 12 Showdown game against Florida.

Jan. 25 — Neal Brown announces that Paige Diggs will head the WVU Football 5th Quarter program, which readies players for off field success after football.

Jan. 27 — Junior infielder Tyler Doanes, junior catcher/designated hitter Paul McIntosh and junior left-handed pitcher Jackson Wolf were named to the All-Big 12 Preseason Baseball team.

Jan. 27 — Defensive co-coordinator and secondary coach Jahmile Addae leaves WVU to join the coaching staff at Georgia.

Jan. 28 — Coaches pick WVU for sixth place in the Big 12 baseball preseason poll.

Jan. 28 — Neal Brown adds Andrew Jackson of Old Dominion to his football coaching staff as defensive line coach.

Jan. 30 — Senior guard Kysre Gondrezick led the Mountaineers with 30 points and Esmery Martinez had a career high 23 points in a 79-70 victory over TCU for their eighth straight win.

Jan. 31 — Junior Jared Eddy matched the school smallbore record, shooting 595, while also tying the standing smallbore standing record of 199 in a rifle victory over Ole Miss.

Jan. 31 — WVU wrestling topped its first ranked opponent since the 2018-19 season, beating No 17 Northern Colorado, 25-11.

FEBRUARY

Feb. 4 — Neal Brown named Haley Bishop head of its sports nutrition program.

Feb. 6 — WVU stuns No. 23 Kansas, 91-79, behind 31 points, seven rebounds and seven assists from Deuce McBride.

Feb. 8 — WVU basketball's two games against No. 2 Baylor were postponed due to Covid-protocol. One of them would not be rescheduled.

Feb. 8 — WVU guard Deuce McBride is named Big 12 Player of the Week after pouring in 31 points to go with seven assists, seven rebounds and three steals in the victory over Kansas. He is the first player to have 31 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in a game since Jerry West in 1960.

Feb. 9 — Neal Brown adds ShaDon Brown to his staff as a secondary coach. From the same hometown as Neal Brown, ShaDon came to WVU from the University of Kentucky.

Feb 17 — Senior left-handed pitcher Jackson Wolf was named a Preseason All-America third team selection by the National College Baseball Writers Association.

Feb. 19 — Junior catcher/outfielder Vince Ippoliti hit a two-run, 10th inning home run to give WVU a 5-4, 10-inning victory over Georgia State in the season opener.

Feb. 20 — Esmery Martinez posted her 11th double-double of the season with 21 points and 12 rebounds as WVU beat TCU, 81-78, in women's basketball's Senior Day at the Coliseum.

Feb. 20 — WVU's golf team shot the eighth-best round in school history with a 10-under-par day in the second round of the Seminole Intercollegiate in Tallahassee, Fla. It was three shots shy of the school record.

Feb. 22 — Deuce McBride shares his second Big 12 Player of the Week Award with Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham.

Feb. 26 — WVU backs left-hander Jackson Wolf with three home runs in a 13-3 victory over Kennesaw State.

Feb. 27 — Led by a distance medley relay championship from Ceili McCabe, Hayley Jackson, Tessa Constantine and Jo-Lauren Keane that coach Sean Cleary called "a high point in our program's history," WVU's track and field team ended the Big 12 Indoor Championships with eight honors. Junior Hayley Jackson finished second in the mile for another highlight while freshman Ceili McCabe was second in the 3,000-meter run.

Feb. 28 — West Virginia won its 14th Great America Rifle Conference championship with a 2,381 score. Kentucky, the only team to beat WVU during the regular season, finished second.

MARCH

March 2 — In their only meeting of the regular season after two games had been postponed, No. 3 Baylor came to Morgantown and edged West Virginia's men's basketball team, 94-89, in overtime to win the Big 12 regular season championship in the Coliseum.

March 3 — West Virginia University women’s basketball coach Mike Carey was named a semifinalist for the Werner Ladder Naismith Women's Coach of the Year award.

March 5 — West Virginia University men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins was named a semifinalist for the Werner Ladder Naismith Men’s Coach of the Year.

March 6 — In his first try for his 900th career victory, Bob Huggins and his WVU basketball team was beaten by an Oklahoma State team playing without Big 12 Player of the Year Cade Cunningham, 85-80. Derek Culver became the 54th player in WVU history to score 1,000 points in the defeat.

March 7 — Six Mountaineers finished on the podium, including two third-place finishes from redshirt juniors Killian Cardinale (125) and Noah Adams (197), as the West Virginia University wrestling team completed the 2021 Big 12 Wrestling Championship.

March 8 — Forward Derek Culver was named to the All-Big 12 first team and guard Deuce McBride was named to the second team as the conference announced its awards for the season. Guards Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil earned honorable mention while forward Gabe Osabuohien was selected to the All-Defensive team and Jalen Bridges was picked to the All-Freshman team.

March 9 — West Virginia's men's basketball team finished its season ranked No 10 in the final AP poll while the women's team finished the regular season at No. 20.

March 10 — WVU athletic director Shane Lyons was named one of four winners of the 2021 Athletics Director of the Year Award.

March 10 —Senior swimmer David Dixon qualified for the 2021 NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championship for the fourth consecutive year, making him the first Mountaineer to compete in the championship in four straight years.

March 10 — Led by senior guard Kysre Gondrezick, a unanimous selection to the All-Big 12 first team, and sophomore forward Esmery Martinez, also picked to the first team, four Mountaineers earned all-conference recognition. Sophomore guard Kirsten Deans and junior forward Kari Niblack were named honorable mention. Junior Jarred Eddy had the second-best combined score of 1,186.

March 11 — WVU junior Verena Zaisberger earns the sport of rifle's top academic honor as she is named the Elite 90 Award winner for Division 1. A native of Austria, Zaisberger, a music and French major, shows a 4.0-grad point average.

March 11 — Redshirt junior Jake Lowe became the fourth individual diver in the men's swimming and diving program history to qualify for the NCAA championships, finishing fifth in the Zone A meet in the 3-meter finals.

March 12 — Redshirt junior Jacob Cardinal Tremblay and junior PJ Lenz advanced to the NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving championships, Lenz off a first-place finish in the Zone A final.

March 12 — A last-second basket by Kirsten Deans completed a furious WVU comeback and gave the women's basketball team a 58-56 victory over Kansas State in the Big 12 Championships. Deans scored seven points in the game's last 35 seconds.

March 13 — West Virginia's women's team advanced to the finals of the Big 12 Championships in Kansas City, beating Oklahoma State as Esmery Martinez put together her 14th double-double of the season with 19 points and 14 rebounds. That set up a meeting between Baylor, the No. 1 seed, and the second-seeded Mountaineers.

March 13 — WVU's rifle team finished a disappointing fourth in the 2021 NCAA Rifle Championships with a two-day total of 4704 points. No. 2 Kentucky took the title.

March 13 — Owen Johns finished fifth in 1-meter diving competition to become WVU's fourth qualifier for the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships, completing the first time WVU had multiple divers compete. He joins Jacob Cardinal Tremblay, Jake Lowe and PG Lenz, along with swimmer David Dixon.

March 14 — West Virginia's women's basketball team could not keep pace with No. 6 Baylor in the Big 12 Championship final and dropped a 76-50 decision. Sophomore guard Kirsten Deans led the Mountaineers with 15 points while Kysre Gondrezick had 13 points and was named to the All-Big 12 Tournament team. Esmery Martinez pulled in 11 rebounds for WVU.

March 14 — WVU men's basketball was given a No. 3 seed in the NCAA championship and drew Morehead State of the Ohio Valley Conference in its first game.

March 15 — WVU women's basketball earned a No. 4 seed in the NCAA championships and drew a first-round game against Lehigh.

March 15 — Linebacker Lance Dixon, a redshirt freshman with four years of eligibility left but with starting experience for the Nittany Lions, transferred to WVU.

March 17 — WVU women's basketball star Kyrse Gondrezick is named honorable mention on the Associated Press' All-America team.

March 17 — Nine shooters from WVU's rifle team earned a combined 22 College Rifle Coaches Assocation All-America honors. Six college three each — senior Sarah Osborn, junior Jared Eddy, junior Verena Zaisberge, sophomore Calista Smoyer, freshmen Molly McGhin and Becca Lamb.

March 19 — Deuce McBride goes off for 30 points in his first NCAA game as WVU beats Morehead State, 84-67, in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, giving Bob Huggins his 900th career victory.

March 19 — Redshirt junior Killian Cardinale earned All-America honors at the NCAA Division 1 Wrestling Championships in St. Louis at 125 pounds.

March 20 — WVU's gymnastics team finished fourth in the Big 12 Championships, which were held in Morgantown. No 9 Denver upset No. 1 Oklahoma to win the event.

March 20 — Former WVU quarterback and long-tIme NFL referee Fred Wyant died at age 86.

March 21 — WVU falls behind by 14 early, puts on a furious second-half rally behind Sean McNeil's 3-point shooting and the unheralded play of Gabe Osabuohien but can't overcome the shooting of Buddy Boeheim and is eliminated from the NCAAs in the second round by Syracuse, 75-72.

March 23 — The fourth-seeded WVU women's team was stifled by No. 5 Georgia Tech's defense and eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Round of 32, 73-58. They have not reached the Sweet 16 since 1992. Tech held high scorer Kyrse Gondrezink to one field goal and three points in her final game as a Mountaineer.

March 23 — WVU men's basketball guard Sean McNeil announced he is entering the NBA draft but keeping open his option to return to school after scoring 25 points to lead WVU against Syracuse while guard Jordan McCabe announced he is entering the NCAA's transfer portal.

March 24 — West Virginia opens its spring football practice but later that evening All-America safety Tykee Smith announces on Twitter that he is entering the transfer portal.

March 24 — An Ike Swiger goal in the 66th minute gave WVU's men's soccer team a 1-0 victory over No. 8 Marshall.

March 25 — WVU basketball forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. announced he's putting his name in the transfer portal.

March 25 — Derek Culver was named to the Lute Olsen All-American team and is a finalist for the Lute Olsen National Player of the Year.

March 26 — West Virginia baseball opened Big 12 Conference play with an 11-0 shut out of Kansas at Mon Country Park, left-hander Jackson Wolf throwing 7.1 innings of four-hit ball while striking out a career-high matching eight batters.

March 27 — No. 7 ranked WVU women's soccer took down No. 5 Duke, 3-2, at Dick Dlesk Stadium with three different players scoring goals and WVU outshooting the Blue Devils, 12-3. Lauren Segalla, Isabella Sibley and Alina Stahl scored for the Mountaineers

March 27 — Senior David Dixon became the 25th West Virginia men's swimmer to earn All-American honorable mention when he finished 12th in the NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1:41.90.

March 29 — West Virginia University women's basketball coach Mike Carey announced that graduate transfer A’riana “Ari” Gray will join the Mountaineers for the 2021-22 season. She comes to Morgantown after spending the last four seasons at Xavier (2017-21).

March 30 — Junior forward Alina Stahl of the No. 4-ranked West Virginia University women’s soccer team has been named the United Soccer Coaches Division I Women’s National Player of the Week.

Even under the best of circumstances, West Virginia’s 2021-22 Big 12 opener at No. 17 Texas was going to be difficult.

The difficulty meter ramped up even further before 11-1 WVU even arrived in Austin, though, as three Mountaineers — senior guard Taz Sherman, senior forward Gabe Osabuohien and freshman guard Kobe Johnson — had to remain in Morgantown because of COVID protocols.

Heck, Mountaineer Sports Network color commentator Jay Jacobs also couldn’t make the trip because of those protocols.

Jacobs hasn’t scored a point in a Mountaineer uniform in 62 years, but the absence of the other three certainly impacted WVU’s on-floor performance. In particular, the loss of Sherman, who is the second-leading scorer in the league with an average of 20.9 points per game, was detrimental to West Virginia’s offense and its upset hopes.

Thus, without Taz and company, the Longhorns were able to stifle WVU’s offense in cruising to a 74-59 victory at the Frank Erwin Center.

“Taz and Gabe are our two senior leaders, our veterans, so it was a struggle without them. Then Kobe brings a lot to the table as well,” stated West Virginia sophomore forward Jalen Bridges. “It was definitely a challenge without them. I felt we battled, but we just weren’t making shots (22 of 52 on field goal attempts for the game). That happens sometimes.

“Without them, our offense got way more stagnant than it usually does,” added Bridges. “We had guys who didn’t know all the sets. With our leaders out there, it’s usually easier, because they are directing traffic, telling people, ‘be here, be there.’”

UT coach Chris Beard has always preached defense, whether in his previous stint at Texas Tech (2016-21 where he was 112-55) or now in his first season at Texas.

The Longhorn D created plenty of headaches Saturday, particularly in the first half when the Mountaineers made just eight of 25 field goal attempts (32%) and had more turnovers (12) than they normally average in an entire game.

WVU had the score knotted at 14-14 10 minutes in, but then Texas took off. The ‘Horns outscored West Virginia 25-4 over the final 9:48 of the first half to take a 39-20 lead into the locker room at the break.

The Mountaineers battled in the second half, but never threatened to overtake UT. Texas pushed its lead as large as 55-27, but West Virginia fought back and trimmed that deficit to 19 at 65-46 with 8:28 remaining and narrowed it to 15 by the end.

“(The Longhorns) did a really good job in their scout, because they had a good sense of what we were doing,” explained Bridges of the UT defense. “That allowed them to take us out of what we wanted to do.”

If there was a positive for WVU in the loss in Austin it was the fact that several players had to step up their roles without the presence of Sherman, Osabuohien and Johnson.

In particular, it was Bridges, who hadn’t scored in double figures in the previous eight games, but on Saturday, he equaled his season-high with 18 points.

The sophomore forward from Fairmont connected on seven of his 11 shots, including four of seven 3-pointers. His 11 field goal attempts are the most he’s had this season and equal his career-high. Also, he contributed six rebounds and a team-high three steals against UT.

“Obviously, Taz puts the ball in the hoop at a high level, and without him, that’s a huge drop off in our scoring,” acknowledged Bridges. “Today I tried to take the initiative and step up and make plays for my team. I tried to be aggressive to the best of my abilities.

“I feel like this (performance) will give me more confidence moving forward, especially in conference play,” he continued. “So when Taz and Gabe and Kobe come back, I feel like we’ll really get things rolling.”

In addition, senior transfer forward Dimon Carrigan had nine rebounds to eclipse his previous WVU best (six vs. Bellarmine), while also blocking three shots and scoring five points. Another transfer, Malik Curry, had his second-highest scoring game as a Mountaineer with 14 points.

Sean McNeal added 12 points for West Virginia Saturday, but the reigning Big 12 Player of the Week, after scoring 23 against Youngstown State, was obviously the focus of Texas’ defense. The Longhorns weren’t going to let McNeil beat them, and they limited the junior sharpshooter to just two 3-point attempts, though he made both of them.

As a team, WVU blocked nine shots Saturday, which is its second most in the last four years, topped only by an 11-block performance in its 74-59 win over Pitt earlier this season.

The Longhorns, who improved to 10-2 overall and 1-0 in the Big 12 with the win, feature eight transfers on their roster this year. One of those, Marcus Carr, who spent one year at Pitt and three others at Minnesota before arriving in Austin this summer, led Texas in scoring with 20 points. Two Longhorn holdovers, Courtney Ramey and Andrew Jones, added 15 and 14 respectively.

Originally West Virginia (11-2 overall and 0-1 in the Big 12) was slated to bus up the road from Austin to Fort Worth for a Monday night contest at TCU, but the Horned Frogs’ own COVID issues caused that game to be postponed.

Thus the Mountaineers will now return home where their next competition is slated for Saturday at 2 p.m. (ESPN+) at the WVU Coliseum against Kansas State (8-3).

The availability of Sherman, Osabuohien and Johnson for that game is unclear at the moment, said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins after the loss to Texas.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — We could talk about the 20 turnovers West Virginia committed against Texas on Saturday afternoon in Austin as they dropped a 74-54 decision to the No. 17 Longhorns, as Bob Huggins chose to do.

But we won't, at least not yet.

We could also talk about the fact that West Virginia went into the conference without its leading scorer in Taz Sherman, who was left behind along with Gabe Osabuohien, the team's instant energy drink and best defender, and backup point guard Kobe Johnson, all of them placed into the league's COVID-19 protocol.

That, of course, had to be the key factor in the defeat, at least in the eyes of Jalen Bridges.

"Taz and Gabe, those are our two senior leaders," he said. "We've all been here the same amount of time but those are our veterans, so obviously going to be a struggle without them ... and Kobe brings a lot to the table as well. It was definitely a challenge."

But we won't even talk about that, other than to say it left them with absolutely zero chance to win a road game against the nation's best defensive team. Tough enough to beat coach Chris Beard's Longhorns with the player that Bob Huggins calls "the best player in the league", but without him it's near impossible.

Again, more of that later.

See, there were two things about this game that offer hope for a bright future to shine through the clouds of defeat.

The first was Bridges, who came out of his shell and suddenly saw just how he could impact games, and the second was Dimon Carrigan, the big guy who splits time down low with Pauly Paulicap.

First, Bridges. He has been a lead actor in a supporting role far too often this year and last, but Huggins obviously let him know against Texas he was needed.

Badly needed.

In his pre-game radio interview, Huggins was asked how he could make up the scoring that he had left at home in Sherman, who averages 21 a game.

"It's got to be J.B.," he said. "We will depend on him to do a whole lot of things for us today."

And he did them, but WVU still feel to 11-2.

He matched his season high with 18 points. He went 7 of 11 from the field, 4 of 7 from 3. He pulled in six rebounds. He had a block and three steals.

He was the Jalen Bridges that Huggins envisions in his good dreams.

"Obviously, Taz puts the ball in the hoop at a very high level. Without him, there's a big drop in our scoring. So, today I tried to take iniative and stand up for teammates and make plays and be aggressive," Bridges said.

Then there was Carrigan, a transfer from Florida International, one of the two men Huggins brought in to make up for the departure of Derek Culver.

Yes, and Oscar Tshiebwe, too, who left a full year ago.

And Carrigan did his thing, sprinting back and forth, up and down the court. He led WVU with nine rebounds against a team that is not only defensive in nature but also physical, allowing WVU to break even on the boards at 33.

Carrigan even made himself a tall presence on the inside, blocking three shots in a performance that has to lend hope that when Huggins has his whole team together they will be able to go eyeball to eyeball with the most physical teams in the Big 12.

But asking Huggins about something that on a day like this one was isn't going to bring forth any gushing declarations.

"Someone had to play," Huggins said. "We've king of playing whoever is doing the best at that position."

And that definitely was Carrigan on this day.

But what got under Huggins' skin the most was the turnovers.

"We had 20 turnovers. That's 20 more times they had to score," Huggins said. "I see it every day in practice. We try to make them run when they don't do it right, which generally works. But we can't run a set.

"They've been told over and over what is going to beat us is ourselves turning the ball over. And we turn it over 20 times. We're not going to win turning it over 20 times, particularly against a team like that."

WVU played solidly early in stayed in contact with the Texans, but midway through the half came a 12-2 run against them when they couldn't shoot and they couldn't pass and that allowed Texas to go into halftime leading, 39-20.

In the second half they managed to up their level of play, outscoring Texas, 39-35, but they never could cut the lead to single digits. Guard Malik Curry came alive and scored all 14 of his points in the second half.

Texas came into the game with the nation's top defense against scoring and won't be hurt by holding the Mountaineers to 59 points, but Huggins says it wasn't the defense responsible but WVU's lack of offense.

"They didn't take it from us. We threw it to them," Huggins said.

The Mountaineers were supposed to stay in Texas for the weekend but the COVID-19 outbreak forced postponement on Monday's game at TCU, giving WVU time to work on some things ... if they can gather up enough players to do so.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — The year 2021 will not go down as a great year in the annals of West Virginia athletics due to the fact that neither the football nor the men’s basketball teams — the flag bearers for any school in athletics — made strong impacts either in the Big 12 or nationally.

But that does not mean that it was a sour year for the school’s athletic department, as the non-revenue sports made huge strides forward both within their conferences and on the national scene.

Over the next two day we will look at the Top 10 stories of the year and the Top 10 performances.

First, the year’s top performances.

No. 10 — Making their mark in Major League Baseball

Over the past few years, since Randy Mazey came on the scene, WVU has been seeing its players drafted on a regular basis and more and more making their way to the major leagues.

But this season two of them made national splashes.

First it was Baltimore Orioles pitcher John Means, who on May 5 went out and threw a 6-0 no-hitter at Seattle, missing a perfect game only by throwing a wild pitch on the third strike of a strikeout. That runner reached base but was quickly erased as he tried to steal second. Means faced the minimum of 27 batters in throwing the first Orioles no-hitter since 1976, which had been the longest streak in Major League Baseball.

No. 9 — Alek Manoah stuns Yankees in debut, never lets up

While he couldn’t match that individual effort, former Mountaineer pitcher Alek Manoah brought his 6-foot-6 frame and 98 mile per hour fastball onto the mound for his major league debut for Toronto on May 26. Pitching in no less a cathedral than Yankee Stadium, Manoah earned the 2-0 victory by pitching six innings, allowed two hits while striking out six and walking two.

He never let up from there, finishing his rookie season on Oct. 2 by outdueling Means in a historic game for WVU, the first time two of its pitchers had ever started against each other. Manoah compiled an 0-2 record with a 3:22 ERA while striking out 127 batters in 111.2 innings.

No. 8 — Bringing home the Black Diamond Trophy

Milan Puskar Stadium was filled to capacity on Sept. 18 when No. 15 Virginia Tech came to town for the first time in 16 years to renew the Battle for the Black Diamond Trophy. The Hokies had won 7 of the last 9 meetings between the two border rivals but a fast start and a goal line stand sent the trophy back to Morgantown, WVU holding on for a 27-24 victory.

Leddie Brown stunned Virginia Tech with an 80-yard touchdown run and the defense spent all day in the Hokies’ backfield, making 13 tackles for a loss to go along with six sacks.

Tech threatened to steal the game away on its last possession, getting to the WVU 3-yard line with a minute left and first and goal. With the outcome on the line, Tech ran twice and lost a year, then tried a pass that went incomplete, bringing up fourth down. Quarterback Braxton Burmeister tried one final pass but Jackie Matthews broke it up to save the day.

No. 7 — KK Dean’s late heroics save WVU women

WVU’s women’s basketball team was looking defeat in the face in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament on March 12, trailing Kansas State by seven points with a minute to go.

But Kirsten Dean came to the rescue, scoring seven points in the final seconds to lift the Mountaineers to a 58-56 victory. The comeback started with a 3-pointer from Kyrse Gondrezick, who finished with 26 points and Dean finished it off by stealing the ball and driving the length of the court under pressure, scoring the winning shot just before the buzzer went off.

The Mountaineers would make the Big 12 Tournament final but lost to No. 1 Baylor.

No. 6 — WVU keeps its bowl hopes alive

The Mountaineers escaped with a 31-28 victory over Texas as quarterback Jarret Doege threw three touchdown passes and Leddie Brown rushed for 155 yards in his final home game. Doege ate Texas alive on third down, completing 8 of 13 for 132 yards and a 20-yard touchdown pass to Sam James on third down.

No. 5 — Ford-Wheaton’s catch of the year stuns Iowa State

The West Virginia football reached the midpoint in its season and its bye week with 2-4 record but vowed to make a run a bowl. It sounded like just talk until Oct. 30 when No 22 Iowa State came to town. The Cyclones had won the last three games against West Virginia decisively, a year ago embarrassing the Mountaineers, 42-6.

WVU vowed revenge and came out roaring. Doege threw for 370 yards, including a touchdown pass to Bryce Ford-Wheaton, who made the catch of the season in the back of the end zone, and Leddie Brown rushed for 197 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-31 victory.

That not only got WVU back to 4-4 and gave them a second victory over a ranked team, but it certainly cleared the way for them to become bowl eligible with a final 6-6 regular-season record.

No. 4 — WVU golfer ‘Goetz’ the medal

There was a time when a West Virginian dominated the U.S. Amateur Golf Championships. That was when William C. Campbell Jr. of Huntington beat Ed Tutwiler 1-up in the 1964 match play Tournament, a nice trophy to go with his 12 West Virginia Amateur titles.

But this year a WVU fifth-year senior, Mark Goetz, brought WVU back into national prominence at the event as he shot 8-under through 36-and holes to capture the medalist honors and the No. 1 spot for the match. It would be the crowning achievement of a great year of golf for the collegiate golfer.

Unfortunately, his bubble was burst the next day when he built a huge lead before losing to the No. 64 seed in the first round of the 121st U.S. Amateur at Oakmont in Pennsylvania.

No. 3 — Winning Olympic Gold

After having to settle for the Bronze medal in consecutive Olympics, the Canadian women’s team finally won the Gold in the Tokyo Olympics on Aug. 8 with former WVU stars Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence starting.

The finals went down to a tense shootout in which there were misses and great saves before Canada’s Julia Grosso managed to slip the final penalty kick of the shootout past goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl of Sweden, who got a glove on the low drive but could not stop it.

To reach the final the two former Mountaineers helped upset the United States twice along the way.

No. 2 — Ceili McCabe wins a Big 12 title, finishes 3rd in NCAA

Redshirt freshman Ceili McCabe, a Canadian, established herself as one of the premier distance runners on the collegiate level as shattered long-standing school records while winning a Big 12 Championship in Cross Country and the 3000-meter Steeplechase and finishing third in the NCAA Cross Country Championships sixth in the NCAA 3000 Steeplechase.

The finish in the 6km Big 12 championship was a thrilling duel as she won by less than a second in 20:44.2 to beat Iowa State’s Cailie Logue, who was looking for her fourth straight title.

In finishing third in the NCAA Cross Country meet she ran even faster, completing the course in 19:25 to finish just two-tenths of a second behind Alabama’s Mercy Chleangat for second. Brigham Young’s Whittni Orton won the race in 19:25.4.

No. 1 — Deuce McBride does in Kansas what has not been seen since Jerry West

Deuce McBride announced his arrival as a special on Feb. 6 when No. 23 Kansas cme into the Coliseum to face a WVU team that had lost by 14 points to Kansas earlier in the season. McBride had scored 19 points in that game but obviously had a whole lot more saved up for the Jayhawks at home.

McBride put together one of the greatest games in Mountaineer history, scoring 31 points with seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals in a 91-76 victory. McBride hit four of five 3s and all nine of his free throw attempts as he became the first WVU player to have 3 points, seven rebounds and seven assists since Jerry West did so in 1960 ... 61 years earlier.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — The year 2021 was a year of as much drama off the athletic fields as there was on them, a year when football and basketball failed to meet expectations, yet a year of historic proportions, nonetheless.

It ended as it started, with West Virginia playing in a minor bowl game, looking to finish with a winning record, but that seeming too small considering the magnitude that COVID-19 cast across America.

Here are the Top 10 stories of the year:

No. 1 — COVID

We end where we picked up last year, 2020 “The Year of the Virus” and 2021 being the sequel, “The Year of the Virus II.’”

The Mountaineers had just beaten Army in the Liberty Bowl, 24-21, but did so with just 8,187 fans in the stands.

As play picked up after the Christmas break the WVU administration was allowing no fans other than family into basketball games. Attendance at the first game at the Coliseum was given as 305, while had it been a normal season this meeting with No. 4 Texas would have sold out all 16,000 seats.

Something had to be done as the rate of infection from the disease began to back off. Attendance restrictions were altered, with some fans allowed in beginning with the Jan. 23 Big 12-SEC showdown with Florida, a game WVU lost, 85-80, before 1,000.

By this time all interviews were being done virtually over Zoom, Bob Huggins’ radio show was being done remotely and the world had undergone a tremendous change with games often postponed or canceled.

WVU’s two games with eventual national champion Baylor were postponed, only one of them being played, the Mountaineers taking the No. 3 team in the nation to the wire before losing, 94-89.

By June 15, however, things had reached the point where the school could operate its games, including football, at full capacity.

Such events as the WVU Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremonies from 2020 and 2021 could be held, and unlike 2020, a complete football schedule was played, as was basketball’s NCAA Tournament, which came to an early end when the Mountaineers were upset by Syracuse.

As the year ended, bowl games were still being cancelled as a new omicron varient was spreading wildly across America.

No. 2 — Texas, Oklahoma jump from the Big 12 to the SEC

On July 26, Texas and Oklahoma shocked the NCAA by announcing they would jump to the SEC for 2025 or before, shaking the foundation of the conference and of the NCAA itself as it set off another round of expansion.

So powerful was the announcement that there were fears for WVU’s future as a Power 5 member, with talk that they would try to get into the SEC, ACC or Big Ten seeming to be unworkable and with rumors circulating they could wind up in the Pac-12.

As it worked out, the Big 12 set up a four-team expansion to make up for the loss of its two featured programs — bringing in Cincinnati, which went undefeated and made it to the College Football Playoffs; Houston, coached by former WVU football coach Dana Holgorsen; BYU and Central Florida.

That will make it a 12-team conference, instead of 10, changed the scheduling philosophies as well the football playoff and basketball philosophies.

No. 3 — The transfer portal

Throughout college sports the NCAA’s transfer portal had become a controversial issue but it went through the roof on Jan. 5 when Oscar Tschiebwe, a sophomore who had been a McDonald’s All-American a year earlier when recruited for WVU by Bob Huggins, announced he would be transferring.

It was shocking news, for Tshiebwe was a key element in the Mountaineers’ scheme, and it became more shocking when less than a week later he committed to play for Huggins’ friend, John Calipari, at Kentucky.

Huggins had to change his entire approach to the game without Tshiebwe while in the middle of the season while Tshiebwe had to wait until this season to enroll at UK and join the Wildcats team.

It was the opening of a revolving door of players coming and going at WVU. As spring football practice opened, All-American safety Tykee Smith announced he would enter the transfer portal as a flurry of personnel changes came forward.

Sean McNeil, who had scored 25 points while losing to Syracuse, announced he was entering the NBA draft but kept open an option to return to school. Teammate Emmitt Matthews announced he was entering the portal and wound up back home at Washington while another basketball player, guard Sean McCabe, went into the portal and transferred to UNLV.

To ease the pain of Tshiebwe’s transfer, Huggins brought in transfers Dimon Carrigan from Florida International and DePaul’s Pauly Paulicap, both big men who could rebound and block shots.

And so it went all year, starting WVU cornerback Drayshun Miller transferring to Auburn, defensive end Jeffrey Pooler exiting via the portal and between the end of the season the bowl game bandit VanDarius Cowen and offensive tackle announcing they would transfer.

No. 4 — Bob Huggins wins 900th game

Bob Huggins’ climb up the career coaching ladder continued as on March 19 WVU beat Morehead State in the NCAA Tournament for his last win of the season the 900th of his coaching career, which now is in its 40th season.

On Nov. 2, when he beat Clemson, Huggins moved past Roy Williams and into fourth place all-time on the NCAA’s victory list. His record at the end of the year stood at 910-383, leaving him 10 victories behind former UConn coach Jim Calhoun for third place all-time behind Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim.

For the fifth straight year, Huggins is on the Naismith Hall of Fame ballot.

No. 5 — Bob Huggins, Neal Brown sign contract extensions

Even though his program had not yet taken hold, WVU football coach Neal Brown agreed to two-year contract extenstion through 2026 on April 22.

Brown, who took a 17-17 record into the Guaranteed Rate Bowl game, will average just less than $4 million a year without incentives.

There was a good bit of criticism of Director of Athletics Shane Lyons’ decision to extend the contract this year, especially when the team got off to a 2-4 start.

On Aug. 27, Huggins agreed to a new contract that would allow him to coach for three more years with options for two years beyond that, where he can continue coaching or move into an emeritus position.

His salary as coach is set at $4.15 million per year plus incentives.

No. 6 — Deuce McBride stars, enters NBA draft and makes his presence felt

WVU sophomore Deuce McBride became a star player, earning second-team All-Big 12 honors while averaging 15.9 points a game with 140 assists to 53 turnovers while becoming the man WVU went to in the clutch.

At the season’s end, McBride entered the NBA draft and was selected in the second round by Oklahoma City, who had already arranged to trade him to the New York Knicks.

He spent some time in the NBA’s developmental league before being brought up to the Knicks, where he burst on the scene with a 15-point, 9-assist, 4-steal game against Houston before going on the COVID-inactive list.

No. 7 — The rise of WVU’s men’s soccer

After missing out on a bid to the NCAA Tournament under Coach Dan Stratford, WVU announced on June 14 that it was leaving the Mid-America Conference to join the 10-team Conference USA, a conference which had gotten multiple NCAA bids in each of the last 11 seasons.

They proved early they were NCAA worthy, on Aug. 30, stunning No. 3 Pitt, 2-1, in the soccer version of the Backyard Brawl. Adam Burchell’s 76th-minute tally proved to be the game-winner in the victory. The win marked the highest-ranked opponent West Virginia has defeated since No. 1 Connecticut on Oct. 18, 2011.

Less than two weeks later, before the second largest crowd in men’s soccer history at Dick Dlesk Stadium, 2,440 fans, No. 5 WVU used a goal by fifth-year senior defender Kevin Morris off a corner kick to beat Ohio State, 1-0.

The wins kept coming in dramatic fashion, as on Oct. 28, redshirt junior Dyon Dromers scored the tying goal after a long absence and sophomore Ciro Bourlot Jaeggi the winning goal as WVU notched the program’s 500th all-time win, 2-1, over Georgia State.

Invited to the NCAA Tournament, the 11th-seeded Mountaineers moved on to the third round for the first time since 2007 and just the third time in program history, after playing Virginia Tech to a 1-1 draw but earning a victory with a 4-3 advantage in the penalty shootout. Fifth-year senior goalkeeper Steven Tekesky made a pair of PK saves, before fifth-year senior midfielder Pau Jimenez Albelda scored the deciding goal to help WVU advance.

WVU followed that by defeating No. 6 Tulsa, 1-0, on freshman midfielder Otto Olliinen’s gold goal in the 101st minute off assists by Ryan Crooks and Kevin Morris to reach the Elite Eight of the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship for the first time since 1981.

The run ended on Dec. 4, just short of their first Final Four appearance, as they fought to a double-overtime 1-1 draw with No. 3 Georgetown before losing in penalty kicks, 4-1. WVU ended the season with a 12-3-6 record.

No. 8 — Numbers retired

The greatest honor a WVU bestows upon an athlete is retiring his number and this year two more football players joined the small, elite list of athletes so honored.

On the first two days of July the school announced that former linebacker Darryl Talley, who was instrumental in Hall of Fame Coach Don Nehlen installing his system at WVU and who went on to play in four Super Bowls with the Buffalo Bills, would have his No. 90 retired during the Oct. 2 Texas Tech game.

During his four years in Morgantown, Talley amassed 484 career tackles, which were the most by any WVU player when his playing career ended in 1982. The four-year starter led West Virginia to the 1981 Peach Bowl and the 1982 Gator Bowl.

The next day the school announced that former quarterback and College Football Hall of Fame member Major Harris would have his No. 9 retired during the Nov. 6 Oklahoma State game.

Harris led WVU to an unbeaten regular season in 1988 before losing to Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl with the national championship at stake. Harris was injured in the first quarter of that game.

No. 9 — Rising stars

The year 2021 saw three players explode into stardom at WVU.

At the top of the list is former Fairmont Senior football star Zach Frazier. Just a true sophomore but a two-year starter in the offensive line, Frazier got to spend the entire season at his true position of center after having spent some time at guard last year.

The result was Frazier, after having been named a Freshman All-American, was named the second team center of both the Walter Camp Football Foundation and AFCA All-America teams.

Two non-revenue sport stars also rose above the crowd — cross-country and track’s Ceili McCabe and golf’s Zach Goetz.

McCabe put together a dominant year in which she won the Big 12 Cross Country title by finishing first, less than a second ahead of Iowa State’s Cailie Loguie, who was seeking her fourth straight championship. She also won the Big 12 3,000-meter Steeplechase title.

She also had a third-place finish in the NCAA 3,000-meter Steeplechase to earn All-American honors and a sixth-place finish in the NCAA to gain yet another All-America honor.

She closed her year out in Boston as she won the women’s 3,000 meter run at the B.U. Sharon Colyera-Danville meet in a WVU program record time of 8:52.52.

Megan Metcalfe had held the record at 8:58.17 since 2005, so she broke the mark by more than six seconds.

McCabe went undefeated in the Big 12 cross-country season.

Goetz was the first WVU golfer to ever earn All-America honors, Golfweek naming him an honorable mention after he became the second WVU golfer ever to be named a PING All-Midwest Region player by the Golf Coaches Association of America.

Goetz capped his year with national as he shot an 8-under-par through 36 holes to become medalist in the U.S. Amateur at the famed Oakmont course outside Pittsburgh. That gave him the No. 1 seed in match but he blew a large lead through the final five holes and lost to the No. 64 seed, 1-down.

No. 10 — Necrology

One of the greatest football players and one of the greatest coaches in history, each in his Hall of Fame, were among the list of West Virginia athletes and coaches who died during 2021.

Sam Huff was to football what Jerry West was to basketball at WVU, a legendary native who would become even bigger in the professional ranks than he was as a Mountaineer.

Huff, who made defense fashionable as the NFL began challenging baseball as the nation’s most popular sport, died at 87 after battling dementia over his final years as hard he battled the great fullback Jim Brown through college and the NFL.

Huff, famous as the first NFL player to grace the cover of Time Magazine and as the subject of the Walter Cronkite documentary “The Violent World of Sam Huff”, stirred the imagination of Giants fans in Yankee Stadium in the 1950s as they chanted “DEE-fense, DEE-fense.”

He went on become longtime broadcaster of Washington Redskins games, an executive with Marriott and a leader of the West Virginia thoroughbred racing industry.

The Hall of Fame coach was Bobby Bowden, who took the handoff from Jim Carlen as the Mountaineers were gaining national prominence, only to be hung in effigy by fans during a difficult season.

Bowden went on to win 377 career games and two national championships, and despite his treatment at WVU, always held his time at the school dear in his heart.

He was 91.

Among those also dying was Fairmont’s Ronnie Retton, a WVU Hall of Famer who starred in both baseball and basketball who was the father of Olympic idol Mary Lou Retton. He was 84.

Martha Thorn, a pioneer in bringing women’s sports to WVU, was 83. She coached the women’s tennis team at WVU for 27 years.

After the federal government enacted Title IX in 1972, Thorn and two other members of West Virginia’s faculty — Dr. Wince Ann Carruth and Kittie Blakemore — went to newly hired Mountaineer athletic director Dr. Leland Byrd and requested that his athletic department begin sponsoring varsity sports programs for females. Byrd took their advice and with very small budgets started women’s teams in gymnastics, basketball and tennis in 1973.

Fred Wyant was the slick quarterback of Pappy Lewis’ great teams from 1952-55, winning 30 games in four years before going to the NFL. He became one of the most respected referees in 27 years of officiating. He was 86.

Levi Phillips, a quiet basketball hero scored not only the final basket at the old West Virginia Fieldhouse but was far better known for scoring the first basket in the Coliseum. He was 69.

Chris Brooks came out of New York City as the first McDonald’s All-America at WVU in the mid-1980s and still holds the school career field goal percentage record of 60.2% on 1,147 attempts. His career high was 37 against Massachusetts and his 12 of 13 shooting night against Marshall also is a school record. Brooks was 54.

Charlie Huggins, the father of WVU basketball coach Bob Huggins and a member of the Ohio High School Basketball Hall of Fame, also passed away this year at 87.

Russell Chapman, a teammate of Huggins’ and a starter on the 1977 team, averaged 13 points and 6.9 rebounds a game. He was 67.

Paul Bischoff, 90, was a three-year letterman under Pappy Lewis from 1950 to 1952, catching what was then a school record of 96 passes for 1,349 yards. In his senior year as WVU upset No. 18 Pitt he caught four passes for 53 yards and a 16-yard score.

Farmington’s Nate Stephens, the second-leading pass catcher as a tight end on Bobby Bowen’s 1971 and 1972 teams, was 69.

Renee Riccio McCutchan, an outstanding swimmer from New Jersey who lived in Morgantown after graduating, was 50.

Gene Diaz, who coached WVU’s men’s gymnastics team one year, in 1981 and who coached Olympic champion Kurt Thomas when he was in high school, died at 69. He remained in Morgantown and ran the West Virginia Gymnastics Training Center.

Fred Blueford, a productive defensive lineman out of Arkansas’s Jones Community College who played on Rich Rodriguez’s 2002 and 2003 teams, died just before Christmas. He was 41.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — The timing was exquisite.

It was Dec. 31. New Year's Eve and the finality it represents.

The end of the old, bring on the new.

Doubtful that was on West Virginia quarterback Jarret Doege's mind when he announced via Twitter that he had come to the end of the line as West Virginia's quarterback.

Give me a verse of Auld Lang Syne, which translates literally into "days gone by."

Never a man of many words, Doege's three years at WVU were years of frustration. His term of running the team was fraught with controversy, which was unfortunate because he possesses anything but a controversial personality.

His social media announcement of his pending trip into the transfer portal was what you would expect ... polite, politically correct and terse:

I will forever be grateful for the friendships and memories I made at WVU over the past three years. Thank you to the coaching staff for letting me live out a lifelong dream of mine. West Virginia will always have a special place in my heart. I'm looking forward to the future and am looking for a new home for 2022.

Please note, not thank you to the fans, nor should there have been, for his treatment at WVU by its fans was more hostile than hospitable.

He wasn't a bad quarterback, but he wasn't a good one and in the dog-eat-dog world of college football, that doesn't cut it. You don't beat Oklahoma with average quarterbacks. He beat the teams you would expect WVU to beat, lost to the teams they figured to lose to.

In truth, Doege never really had a chance.

He was quarterbacking a team in transition; came in as the best option coach Neal Brown had, but certainly not with the credentials to save the program from the situation it was left in when Dana Holgorsen left for Houston.

He had ties with Brown in a previous time and place, the younger brother of one-time Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege, whose offensive coordinator then was Neal Brown.

But this wasn't some strange form of nepotism at work, his transferring from Bowling Green. It was Brown bringing in an experienced quarterback with football blood lines to compete for the job with Austin Kendall.

Doege won the job. It was that simple.

But he wasn't a miracle man. That was proven at Bowling Green where they would go 2-10 and 3-9 in two seasons.

He came in and was what he was, which the fans of WVU found unacceptable. His statistics at WVU mirrored those at Bowling Green.

Bowling Green, 62.7 completion percentage; 64.8 at WVU. Bowling Green, touchdowns to interceptions 39-15, at WVU 40-9. Bowling Green QB rating 138.7, WVU 134.6.

He did not take the step up that Brown had hoped but was that all his fault?

Hardly.

He redshirted through a transition period, then dealt with COVID-19, all that going through a year when his receivers were more deceivers in that role, dropping far too many passes.

At the same time he was being chased all over — and goodness knows he was hardly Patrick White when it came to running the ball — behind an offensive line that couldn't pass block and couldn't run block.

It became an untenable situation because he wasn't capable of putting the team on his shoulders and carrying it while that was being demanded by an impatient fan base that was starved to see the climb Neal Brown had asked them to trust prove to be far steeper than they had imagined.

When he had to be relieved last year in the Liberty Bowl in order for WVU to pull out a victory over Army, the fans spent the off-season figuring that a change would come at quarterback but Garrett Greene failed to take advantage of the opportunity and Goose Crowder wasn't ready to take advantage.

It was an impossible situation, a 2-4 start against a top-heavy schedule only sharpening the barbs that would be hurled at Doege — and Brown.

To make matters worse, the transfer portal began filling up. It was not really different than elsewhere, but the appearance was that there were internal problems within a program where a strong family culture would be developed.

Since the end of last season 29 players have transferred out, 13 since the start of this season.

The last two were the starting quarterback, Doege, and the leading receiver, Winston Wright Jr.

Why would the leading receiver leave? Why did starters and potential All-American Tykee Smith and starting cornerback Drayshun Miller leave last year?

This wasn't a matter of guys leaving for playing time. These were big time players and they were gone.

There was panic among the fan base and they were rough, make no doubt about it. The players, who always have returned the love of a strong fan backing, noticed.

J.P. Hadley, the accomplished long-snapper who announced his entering into the portal after the bowl game, went on social media after the reaction to Doege hit the Internet to say:

"You ask him to leave, he leaves, and you continue to s--t on him. Unreal."

His teammates did not feel the way the fans did, as exemplified by receiver Bruce Ford-Wheaton, who Tweeted:

"Best of luck dawg. The mentally toughest person I ever met. Stg I'll be rooting for you."

Meanwhile, Brown has to do some soul searching and fix whatever is broken. He has a quarterback competition on his hands between Greene and Crowder and now a 4-star recruit out of Arizona in Nicco Marchiol.

He has to look at his coaching staff and their methods. He has to develop a way to keep the likes of Wright and Isaiah Esdale, both of whom have recently announced their exits, believing that playing at WVU is what it always has been ... a life experience that will forever cherish.

And he has to find a way to reconvince his fans to again "Trust the Climb" or there is nothing but trouble lying ahead.

Friday, December 31, 2021

MORGANTOWN — Here's one for you.

West Virginia opens its Big 12 schedule at noon (televised on ESPNU) on Saturday against Texas on the Longhorns home floor, so we thought we'd lay it out for you right away.

Over/under: 110 points.

Going to take the over, right?

As Lee Corso used to say on NCAA football broadcasts, "Not so fast my friend.".

Once upon a time in college basketball, points were cheap. No more, especially in the Big 12, where the Big D is not Dallas but Defense.

And, no two teams better demonstrate it than those who open the season in the Erwin Events Center.

Texas leads the nation, holding opponents to 51.3 points a game and WVU is No. 28 in scoring defense, giving 59.8 points. Add that up and you have 111.1 points a game allowed, so that 110 doesn't look like a lock any longer, does it?

Add to that the fact that WVU goes into the game with a couple of players out due to Covid protocol -- Bob Huggins admitted the absences but would not name who, as is the law -- and you could see even less scoring if they are offensive minded players.

What, though, has happened in the Big 12 over the past few years.

"It probably happened when there were coaching changes," Huggins said.

Such as him coming to WVU and finding Press Virginia and more recently Chris Beard going to Texas Tech and bringing Bobby Knight's defensive philosophies with him.

Beard now is at Texas, having done what he could have with the Red Raiders, getting them to the NCAA championship game one year on the strength of their defense.

"Beard is a defensive guy. When Bruce (Weber) went to Kansas State, he's a really good defensive guy," Huggins continued.

"If you look at the changes over the years, the conference has brought in some really good defensive guys.

Not to be missed, thought, is that Huggins and Beard are at the forefront of switch in directions.

There is no Trae Young this year as there was when he was stunning the world with scoring at Oklahoma.

True, Kansas does get the 5-star recruits and last year Oklahoma State turned out the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, Cade Cunningham. But mostly the conference isn't over run with superstars out of high school

"Let's face it, we're all in places where we're not going to get the No. 1-through-No. 25 (high school) kid very often, so you have to figure it out," Huggins said.

Beard did when he went to Texas Tech and built his program around transfers, something Huggins is just now getting into. Beard this year brought in six transfers to join Andrew Jones, Courtney Ramey and Jase Febres.

You might recall Jones from last season when his 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds to play beat WVU in Morgantown, 72-70, and how he missed duplicating the feat from 3 in the closing seconds of an 84-82 WVU win in Austin.

"They got a lot of guys who score. They have great size. A lot of depth. Chris did a great job in the portal," Huggins said, knowing that he went deeply into the portal this year to replace the size he lost from last year with Oscar Tshiebwe, Derek Culver and Emmitt Matthews Jr. leaving..

"It was new to us. Chris has been doing it for a while. We probably were a little late getting into it but the guys were brought in did a great job for us," Huggins said.

It would seem to be difficult to work new players from different systems into your own culture and system, but Huggins doesn't really see it that way.

"Honestly, it's not a whole lot different than most years. Most years if you don't bring in transfers, you bring in freshmen. I think that's a lot harder than with guys with experience."

Beard will be trying to figure out a new-look WVU team led by Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil on the offensive end and a team that will offer some pressure and relies on its guys to provide it while their two top transfers — Pauly Paulicap and Dimon Carrigan — have stepped in to provide rebounding shot blocking.

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Follow @bhertzel on Twitter

Thursday, December 30, 2021

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — Without question, West Virginia’s football program has to improve in several ways if it is to be anything but just another member of the Big 12 that competes for lower-tier bowl spots and finishes above .500.

Head coach Neal Brown acknowledges this, saying again that there are “aspects of the program that have to get better,” if it is to win games like Tuesday’s Guaranteed Rate Bowl, in which it was dominated in all aspects but the final scoring margin by Minnesota.

Brown isn’t going to call those out specifically in the immediate aftermath of what was a very disappointing, but not entirely unexpected game, but there are a couple of obvious, and some not so obvious, places that have to be improved.

Offensive Line: This is an all-encompassing catch-all, so a bit deeper dive is warranted. WVU was OK at center with Zach Frazier, but outside of that performance in power run blocking or inside zones was below average at best. Pass blocking, especially on blitz pickups and against defenders with good quickness, rarely reached even that level, as the Mountaineers yielded 33 sacks for 264 yards in losses this year, and probably 2-3 times that more in hurries and disrupted attempts.

Penetration into the backfield was also evident in the run game. WVU’s backs faced way too many defenders behind or at the line of scrimmage, leading to far too many 1-2 yard gains. Some of those were excellent runs, involving broken tackles or jump cuts to avoid losses, but again, that’s not a way an offense can function efficiently over the course of a game.

West Virginia has to be able to improve its offensive line play in at least one major area. Can it get better at pass protection to allow deeper pass routes to become a bigger part of the offense? Can it develop better technique, or synergy among its members, to find a running game style it can hang its hat on? Without it, nothing else matters.

It’s a cliche’, but that doesn’t make it any less true: Teams with a good offensive line can mask weaknesses or talent deficits in other areas. West Virginia just saw one in Minnesota. The Golden Gophers had decent players at skill positions, but their offensive line made their attack consistent and repeatable. That’s a high bar, but WVU has to figure out a way to at least take a few steps down that improvement road.

Catching the Ball: Drops by receivers were a theme in 2020, so everyone with a keyboard was all over the obvious story angle of improvement here in 2021, and when the stories of Mountaineer receivers catching 80,000 balls in the offseason were told, and then followed up by some early season success, that faded from attention.

However, it wasn’t fixed. Not even close. Drops continued to plague the Mountaineers in critical situations in 2021, ending drives and preventing big plays. With an offense that isn’t overpowering, consistency becomes even more important, and that simply wasn’t part of West Virginia’s play at the position. Of course, drops are going to happen, but they were simply far too much of WVU’s offensive makeup this year.

A second factor, success on 50-50 balls, also was evident, and not discussed nearly enough. WVU was abysmal in coming up such passes this year, and really, over the past several years. Call it “making a play”, “winning a throw” or whatever term you wish, Mountaineer opponents were far more successful in converting one-on-one or even chance completions that West Virginia.

Take, for example, the play illustrated here. WVU got a seeming great match-up of 6-3 Bryce Ford-Wheaton against Minnesota’s 5-10 Coney Durr, yet it’s Durr that’s higher off the ground and attacking the ball at the peak of his jump. This isn’t to single out Ford-Wheaton — this problem exists for every WVU receiver — but it is indicative of West Virginia’s failure to make more than a handful of plays other than routine ones.

Granted, developing the ability to do so is not easy. It goes past just catching the ball — timing, aggressiveness, attacking nature — and it’s a difficult thing to practice. Whatever the hoped-for solution, though, it has to be a part of next year’s receiving corps if the passing game is going to improve.

Quarterback Accuracy: Jarret Doege and his play have been beaten to death this year. Some of the discussion has been fair and warranted, and much has not. This isn’t about defending his play, though. It’s about what has to happen next year at the position, no matter who is manning it, and there’s one thing that stands out — accuracy and completion percentage.

West Virginia’s quarterbacks completed 65% of their passes this year, which might be workable if more explosive plays were part of the offense, but in an attack that is limited to shorter, less dangerous throws and stringing them together, it’s simply not enough. Given the type of throws WVU made most often, that number needs to be near 70%. Granted, that would put the Mountaineers near the top of NCAA statistics, but that’s not unrealistic if short and medium-range throws were more on target. Eliminate the number of badly-placed balls, and many things improve. Fewer interceptions. Better yardage after catch numbers. Better continuation of drives. A couple of downfield big plays per game.

There are, of course, a number of other issues with quarterback play that can be improved, and which would help, including mobility and decision-making. In narrowing the target range, though, it’s accuracy that stands above everything else on the needs list.

Clock Management: West Virginia drew a delay of game penalty on the opening kickoff of the second half in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, a capper on a long year of frustration in clock management. While a couple of these situations may have been the fault of poor clock operation or game management by officials, the fact is that teams have to be ready to deal with them when they happen.

West Virginia, like every Power 5 program, has numerous staffers and managers on hand to cover issues that crop up during a game. Data covering everything from when to go for two points to down and distance options are laid out, and Brown, a noted believer in preparation, simply has to be better in getting personnel assembled, plays called and the ball snapped. Continued shortcomings in this play phase are unacceptable, and raise questions as to what other operational aspects of the program are in need of repair.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — It was nearly 30 years ago, a lifetime for many, a forgotten story from a previous life of mine, as forgotten as the newspaper for which it was written — the now lamented Pittsburgh Press, which had only one more year of life left in it before it was sold to the Post-Gazette.

It was one of maybe 15,000 or more articles I wrote during a decade of covering the Pirates there, a decade interrupted by an adventure of starting the ill-fated St. Louis Sun, a revolutionary but ill-fated tabloid where I covered the Cardinals and wrote columns.

It was recovered from some dust-covered morgue for dead newspapers, this retelling of it in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch back then and put online Wednesday to show just how wide reaching the former coach, broadcaster and game maven John Madden's reach was at the height of his popularity

Word of his death Tuesday morning was spread across or land and everyone had their own Madden memory or tribute.

We will use this for that purpose.

Covering the Pirates at the time, I felt it might be fun to put together an All-Madden baseball team of the moment. So it was that I sought the help of such Pirate characters as Mike "Spanky" LaValliere, the catcher; Manager Jim Leyland and a number of other players and coaches who made up one of the most interesting teams in baseball history.

This was how the Post-Dispatch's Curtis Peck presented it when it came across his desk.

With the help of Pittsburgh Pirates catch Mike "Spanky" Lavalliere, Pirates Manager Jim Leyland a few other Pirates players, former St. Louisian Bob Hertzel (he was here during the Sun rise an left at Sun set) put together an All-Madden baseball team.

The idea for the team emanated from speaky Spanky's appearance n the radio sho for which John Madden, the former Oakland Raiders coach-turned-television-analyst plays host. Madden is known for his love of blood-and-guts, salt-of-the earth, dirty uniform type players.

So here, far from the Madden-ing crowd, are the Madd(en) Men:

C- Lavalliere, Pirates; 1B John Kruk, Philadelphia Phillies; 2B - Robby Thmpson, San Francisco Giants SS — Cal Ripken Jr., Balimore Orioles; 3B — Chris Sabo, Cincinnati Reds; LF (was this automatic or what?) — Rex Hudler, Cardinals; CF — Kirby Puckett, Minnesota Twins; RF — Lenny Dykstra, Phillies; P — Bob Walk, Pirates; P —Darryl Kile, Houston Astros; P — Mitch Williams, Phillies; P — Juan Berenger, Alanta Braves; Rob Dibble, Reds; Randy Meyers, Padres; Manager — Tom Kelly, Twins.

That should have been the end of it, but Spanky and I were both known to take it one step too far both in the buffet line or at the bar, so this under Add Scream Team:

Why doesn't the team include Andy Van Slyke, who's uniform always is dirty and who always has one carpet burn healing?

"Too pretty," LaValliere said.

OK, sometimes I would go two steps too far, adding these comments:

Hudler — In the outfield you have the Cardinals' perpetual-motion machine, who once dived into an outfield wall and received a cut that required 10 stitches. As the doctors were putting them in, Hudler looked at them and said, "See if you guys can't put some brains in there."

Walk — Once went to the plate without a bat in his hand and pulls a groin muscle more often than he completes a game.

Kyle — Made the team the other night after losing to the Pirates. He spent a half-hour after the game, still in uniform, throwing a ball against the wall.

"It's something I did when I was in the minor leagues and lost," he said. "I try to throw it through the wall."

I think Madden would have loved this team.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — If nothing else, Neal Brown has always been honest when looking defeat in the face and it was no different on Tuesday night after his West Virginia football team got beat up by a large, physical Minnesota team that dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage while winning the Guaranteed Rate Bowl game, 18-6, in Arizona.

"We just weren't good enough today," he said.

Its words he's used before, almost every time he's played a team destined to finish over .500 in his three years as head coach at West Virginia.

He came in promising to change the culture of the football program and he has ... but he has yet to make it a winning culture.

His record is 17-18 for the three years.

Only five of the 17 victories came against teams that finished the year with winning records. Of those five, only Iowa State this year, TCU in 2020 and Kansas State in 2019 were conference opponents.

The combined record of those 17 teams WVU defeated under Brown was 85-109 ... 23 of those 85 victories coming against JMU, who went 14-2 as a FBS team in 2019, and a nine-win Army team in last year's Liberty Bowl.

Now it's true that Brown's first season was a gift year, playing with Dana Holgorsen's players and just beginning to set his program in motion. At the time it seemed fair to allow three years to get established, but that time frame was thrown all out of whack by the 2020 season that disrupted and shortened by Covid-19.

One could, however, expect to see progress in 2021 — this year — but there were glaring weaknesses during a 2-4 start and one suspects the 4-2 finish to the regular season was more a comment on the weight of the schedule WVU faced in the second half than on any real improvement the team had made.

But now the clock is ticking.

Winning games against winning teams is to be expected in 2022.

See, people are watching.

To the north, the Pitt Panthers reign as ACC champions and do so because they had a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback in Kenny Pickett.

That was an insufferable situation to WVU fans who suffered through a 6-7 year.

To the West, and getting ready to move into the Big 12, is another rival that is cut from the same cloth as WVU in Cincinnati.

They are playing Alabama in a day in the College Football Playoff while WVU struggled to gain a spot in something called the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.

So, it's fair to say that the clock is now ticking on Brown and his program.

"We just weren't good enough today," won't cut it next year and Brown knows it.

He can no longer use youth as an explanation for failure.

Next year he must show a jump forward.

"I would say we have as much coming back on our football team as anybody in the country," Brown said after the Minnesota defeat.

True, there was not much joy to be spread around in the way of the defeat, one in which WVU showed no offense and one in which the defense played hard and well, but still gave up 247 rushing yards.

"We have a really small room of guys who played their last game and it really hurts," Brown admitted. "It's really the first time in my career I've experienced losing the last game and that's a sad locker room, especially those guys who gave a lot to this program and it didn't end the way they wanted it to."

But he must move on from there and make sure those players returning do, too.

"We are not all doom and gloom," he said. "Are we disappointed we didn't win? You bet we are. Every time we line up and play, the expectation is to win. Is Minnesota really good? Yes. They are a really good football team. Did our guys compete? Yes, it is not an effort issue. But there's certain aspects in our program where we have to get better."

That begins at the quarterback position, where Jarret Doege is trying to decide whether he wants to come back. Certainly, with the beating he took from the blitzing Minnesota defense, there might be safer, more rewarding options awaiting him.

He's expected to make a decision, and should he decide to pass up a sixth year of eligibility, it will throw the quarterback position wide open with Goose Crowder, a freshman who redshirted this year but impressed in practice; Garrett Greene, who was Doege's backup this year but never showed the passing skills he'll need to complement his running ability; and four-star recruit Nicco Marchiol all even going into the off-season.

No one would be surprised if one of them — most likely Crowder or Marchiol — won the job even if Doege returned.

Judging Doege, however, is difficult to do because he has never really had a chance, playing behind an offensive line that often put him peril and with a running game that did not take the heat off of him.

When they played a solid defense, and one can say that they faced more than their fair share of them with No. 3 Oklahoma State, No. 4 Minnesota, No. 10 Iowa State and No. 36 Baylor, they had problems.

Only against Iowa State did they win and show a strong offense while against Oklahoma State they gained only 133 yards and scored three points and gained only 206 against Minnesota with six points.

You might even think against Minnesota they had a chance to win allowing only 18 points, having two takeaways, but they could have played another 60 minutes and not found a way to add to their six points.

There was a missed field goal by the Gophers, another red zone miss and Minnesota did WVU a favor by taking a knee to end its last offensive possession deep in the red zone rather than to try to score.

Had they turned those three possessions into points it could have been a 35-3 embarrassment.

So, there's work to do but no one is yet sure where, for the eligibility situation is uncertain with Doege and Dante Stills and the transfer portal offers an easy way out for those who want to leave and a way in for those from other programs who are dissatisfied with their station in life.