Yes, last week I unplugged.
Miss Joni and I escaped the cold for a week of R&R (how about THAT for timing?), but, of course, we kept up with the sports world. We took a taxi to watch the WVU men lose to Iowa State and watched the ticker in the airport for the Mountaineer win over Texas. We arrived home in time for the Super (?) Bowl. (MVP: the NFL’s own commercial, featuring Franco Harris and the “Immaculate Reception.” Very nice.)
Guess I’ll never truly unplug. I’ll always have my eyes and ears trained to the sports world. And, since that’s the case, here are some thoughts gleaned from near and far:
- New WVU coach Neal Brown and staff are making quite an early impression. The word from the inner circle is in three weeks they’ve already proven to be more organized than the prior staff.
It’s tough to argue. Brown has already landed a highly sought quarterback transfer in Austin Kendall, formerly of Oklahoma. (Kendall was a former 4-star recruit, according to ESPN, Rivals and Scout, who had offers from Auburn, Clemson, Miami, N.C. State, Tennessee and, yes, WVU coming out of high school. He is immediately eligible and has two years remaining.)
Brown has made it abundantly clear in-state recruiting is a high priority by not only contacting Mountain State recruits for this year, but as far out as 2022.
Too, word is the new coach has also created a new, improved family atmosphere. We saw that this past Sunday via a team Super Bowl watch party. Those within the Mountaineer circle, however, say that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Last, Brown appears much more open and comfortable meeting with the Mountaineer Nation. That’s a very welcome change.
- While on the topic of WVU football, it will be interesting to see how well Kendall fares. Remember, the Mountaineers had a Miami transfer, Jack Allison, in place before a less-than-inspiring debut in the Camping World Bowl against Syracuse. (I’m still not completely giving up on him though.)
Kendall, though, has to be considered the front-runner. He’s Brown’s guy. Yet look around the Big 12 next season. Texas has Sam Ehlinger back. Remember Iowa State’s Brock Purdy? Pretty impressive dude. He’s back. Ditto Texas Tech’s Alan Bowman and Baylor’s Charlie Brewer.
Oh, and that Jalen Hurts, who was recruited to Oklahoma while Kendall was in place, moves from Alabama to the Sooners.
So there will be much QB competition just within West Virginia’s league.
- Why, hello.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, the WVU women’s basketball team has been making waves of late.
In fact, the Mountaineers have jumped 31 spots to No. 62 in the latest RPI. Some are even wondering if West Virginia is now No. 2 within the Big 12 to national power Baylor.
That’s a bit tough to argue, although the team is now 7-3 in league play and now tied with Iowa State in third place. (Texas is second at 8-2.)
Whatever the case, West Virginia is on a roll. After getting crushed 79-47 by the aforementioned Baylor back on Jan. 20, the Mountaineers have won four straight. They beat Texas in Austin and whipped Kansas 71-50 this past weekend. WVU is now 16-5.
- And finally…
Of course. Of course I’ll comment on the WVU men’s basketball team.
It was good to see the Mountaineers win a solid 79-71 contest over Oklahoma his past Saturday. Also, it was good to see state native Brandon Knapper come alive with 25 points on 7 of 10 shooting.
“I think we’ve all been waiting on it,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins afterward. “His problem has been ball security. He’s thrown the ball everywhere. He did a good job today under some tough circumstances.”
Ball security. That’s been the No. 1 arch enemy of this Mountaineer team and against OU there were but 12 turnovers – but one from Knapper in 26 minutes of action.
“He doesn’t seem to have a confidence problem shooting the ball,” Huggins said. “I think it’s handling the ball.”
As of Monday morning, the Mountaineers had turned the ball over 344 times to their opponents’ 291.
And as Sheryl Crow would say, a change would do them good.
We shall see…