Rest, recovery week for Mountaineers
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The bye week that West Virginia's football team owns this week couldn't have come at a better time.
Well, perhaps that's not exactly true.
In truth, it might have been better a week early. Maybe a little bit of extra time would have been beneficial before the Mountaineers went to Waco, Texas and were ambushed by Baylor.
Then again, given the complete domination by the Bears in that 73-42 mugging, chances are no amount of extra rest or preparation would have mattered much.
Still, it couldn't have hurt.
"Heading into Baylor we tried to convince them that we had enough in our tank to go play a good football team,'' coach Dana Holgorsen said this week. "Looking back on it, I don't know if we did. They were obviously a lot more energized, fresh, excited and ready to play. It showed out there.''
Indeed, the fact that Baylor was playing its first game in 14 days and only its second in nearly a month - between Sept. 7 and Oct. 5 the Bears played only Louisiana-Monroe, on Sept. 21 - did not help the Mountaineers, who were playing their sixth game in six weeks. It's unlikely that any amount of rest would have significantly changed the way the game unfolded, but after facing Oklahoma, Maryland, Oklahoma State and Baylor in a five-week window there is little question West Virginia needs to take a step back.
This was the week for that.
"It's rest and recovery this week. We have a beat up football team,'' Holgorsen said. "We've been playing a lot of snaps defensively and those guys are worn down. It had something to do with what happened on Saturday. Baylor also was efficient. Offensively, we're playing more bodies because we're trying to figure out what our dynamic is and what our makeup is going to be.
"We're really just trying to get healthy. We got away from it a little bit last weekend and this week and we'll get out there and just try to keep improving. We're a football team that's very inexperienced and needs to get out there and keep improving.''
Therein rests the conundrum of sorts. There is no question that West Virginia needs practice, particularly on offense. But any kind of worthwhile practice brings yet another round of beatings to bodies that need rest, so Holgorsen had to balance the two.
He did so by giving his team time off after the Baylor game, practicing three days this week, and now will give the team a few more days off. They will resume work Monday, which is normally a day off from practice but isn't next week because classes are out of session both Monday and Tuesday.
"We need to prepare ourselves to play a good Texas Tech team,'' Holgorsen said of the unbeaten Red Raiders, who come to Mountaineer Field a week from Saturday. "We don't have school Monday and Tuesday so those will be good days to work some things out at the beginning of the week and then move forward.
"The coaches - the assistants and I - all have to keep improving. The players need to keep improving. And what we're seeing on the field offensively, defensively and special-teams-wise needs to keep improving.''
As does West Virginia's health. Obviously, that includes the quarterbacks. Clint Trickett, who started the last two games, has a sore shoulder. Ford Childress, the starter in the third and fourth games of the season, is still trying to come back from a pectoral muscle injury. Only Paul Millard, who was the starter the first two games, is healthy.
But the training-room list is long. Holgorsen said running back Dustin Garrison and linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, who haven't played much or at all in at least the last two games (Garrison in the last three) should be healthy after the bye week. Offensive tackle Quinton Spain and receiver Ivan McCartney both have concussions.
This week is important to get guys back. Junior running back Dustin Garrison and redshirt sophomore Kwiatkoski are going to get strong enough this week to be able to practice next week. Sophomore cornerback Ricky Rumph left the game with a foot that he couldn't play on, but he will take this week and get healthy and will be ready next week. Redshirt junior Spain left the game with a concussion. He will be cleared this week and ready for practice next week. Senior wide receiver Ivan McCartney had a concussion and will do the same.
Rumph (foot) and Wes Tonkery (broken thumb) will be evaluated and receiver Mario Alford has a shoulder that could keep him out against Texas Tech.
"It's college football. Everyone is dealing with what we're dealing with,'' Holgorsen said. "We have to regroup and get healthier, which is what I expect to do. We need to prepare for Texas Tech.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.