Sims delivered again in victory
MORGANTOWN - By winning at TCU on Saturday, West Virginia lifted what seemed like the weight of the world off its shoulders, at least for the time being.
That 30-27 overtime win snapped a three-game losing skid. It was the first road win in almost a calendar year. It stopped a string of late collapses. And, most significantly, it made becoming bowl eligible with two more wins in the last three games go from a good bet that it won't to perhaps an even better bet that it now will.
But it's certainly not the end-all goal. That would be a winning record in addition to bowl eligibility. And that starts with a more immediate task.
"I just told them that now we needed to win two in a row. We haven't done that all year,'' coach Dana Holgorsen said right after the win in Texas. "We got one, now we've got to figure out a way to get the next one. It's not like we've got an easy opponent next week.''
Indeed, that next opponent for the Mountaineers (4-5, 2-4 Big 12) is revitalized Texas (6-2, 5-0), which has gone from a coach-firing 1-2 mess to start the season to the team alone in first place in the Big 12 (a game ahead of 4-0 Baylor). The teams meet at 7 p.m. Saturday at Mountaineer Field, the first night game of the season in Morgantown.
And if WVU does have a chance of putting together back-to-back wins, it is becoming fairly apparent that the best way to do that might be to use running back Charles Sims more.
True, it would be fairly easy to make an argument either way on a couple of diametrically-opposed viewpoints regarding just how much of an impact Sims has had on West Virginia's offense this season.
First, one could argue that the Houston transfer has accomplished and contributed little, given the state of WVU's offense. Like an MVP candidate from a last-place baseball team, can Sims really be all that if the Mountaineers still can't seem to get out of their own way most of the time?
And then there's the flip side, which argues that one man can do only so much, especially if he's not a quarterback who touches the ball on every snap. Perhaps because the cast around him remains largely unaccomplished, Sims' value is being buried.
But no matter the case, this much is certain: On a few occasions this season, Sims has been asked to play a huge role in WVU's offense and, when that happens, he's made good. Saturday's season-rescuing win was a perfect example.
Sims had season highs in rushes (24) and yards (154), had 189 all-purpose yards, scored two touchdowns and had a third nullified by a penalty in overtime. There were plenty of heroes to go around - including a defense that forced four turnovers and Josh Lambert with his three field goals, including the game-winner - but perhaps no one stood out more than Sims.
"He can handle about anything we do with him,'' Holgorsen said of 6-foot, 213-pound fifth-year senior who arrived this summer as a graduate transfer. "And we do a lot with him.''
The intent with Sims is always to use him in a variety of ways and as much as is practical. Sometimes that works out, sometimes not. Sims has had games this season in which he has all but disappeared, but almost never because he simply wasn't playing well. Sometimes the game plan overlooks him or one of his backups, Wendell Smallwood and Dreamius Smith, are on the field.
"I don't keep track of this [during games], but we try to rotate fresh bodies,'' Holgorsen said. "Wendell came in there a couple of times and gave us a spark. Dreamius, for whatever reason, hasn't been getting loose lately. He just has to keep plugging away.''
But the reality is that those two are second fiddles to Sims in the offense. Neither has his kind of versatility to be able to run, catch and line up anywhere in the backfield or at inside or outside receiver. Truth is, few players in the country have that kind of versatility, which is still what will make Sims a fairly valuable commodity in next spring's NFL draft.
When Sims is at his best - or perhaps when WVU asks him to play a big role - West Virginia's offense is likely to be at its best. It is probably no coincidence that in what rank by far as the Mountaineers' two best wins this season - Saturday's first road win in almost a year and an earlier win over Oklahoma State - Sims has come up huge. In the OSU game he had 18 carries for 60 yards, five receptions for 82 yards and scored a touchdown.
Stat of the day: In WVU's four wins this season, Sims is averaging 112.5 yards rushing, while in the five losses he's averaging 60.8 yards.
The soft-spoken, almost reticent Sims doesn't like to talk about anything, least of all himself. But others are quick to sing his praises, especially Holgorsen, who recruited and coached Sims originally at Houston in 2009.
"Charles is a special player. We all know that and we've been saying it since the day he arrived here,'' Holgorsen said. "He's a special player in the run game and he's a special player in the pass game. There are no other backs in the country that do as much as he does.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1