Time to start taking West Virginia seriously in the Big 12

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West Virginia has an awful defense and its special teams, while not under the same degree of verbal scrutiny, is almost as bad. But, the Mountaineer offense is so good that for the second straight week, it didn’t make a difference in the final outcome of the game.

As far as game plans go, Texas had it drawn up as well as any team that’s faced WVU this season: cater to your offensive strengths (running the ball) and keep the ball out of Geno Smith‘s hands. On defense, get pressure on Smith, don’t allow the big plays and force a couple turnovers if you can.

The Longhorns did all of the above for the most part, but as is normally the case in close games, one mistake gets magnified when it becomes the difference in the game. That was a missed 41-yard field goal by Penn State transfer Anthony Fera. Of course, that miss was preceded by a botched snap for which UT quarterback David Ash apparently wasn’t ready. That resulted in a loss of 16 yards.

When Texas was able to drive the field in one minute to score one final touchdown, that missed field goal loomed.

It was an even, well-played game between two very good football teams. It came down to the last second and a failed onside kick gave the No. 8 Mountaineers a 48-45 win over the No. 11 Longhorns.

Smith wasn’t even the star. He didn’t do much to hurt his Heisman stock, going 25-of-35 for 268 yards, four touchdowns, and again, no interceptions — although he had the ball stripped a couple of times — but it wasn’t the video game numbers he’s been putting up. That’s to be expected; Texas is by far the best defense WVU has played all season.

No, it was running back Andrew Buie (pictured) who gets the game ball. The sophomore ran 31 times for 207 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His most important carries came at the end when Dana Holgorsen went out of his comfort zone and — gasp! — bled the clock (Nick Saban would have been proud). Buie carried the ball seven times on the team’s final offensive drive and scored a touchdown.

And that is the scariest thing about WVU’s offense: that it’s not just Smith. It’s Tavon Austin (who had 10 receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown). It’s Stedman Bailey (who had three touchdown grabs). It’s Buie. That makes it difficult to slow and nearly impossible to stop.

The defense and special teams? They’re bad enough that they might cost WVU a couple games this season, but through two Big 12 matches, the offense has been able to get it done.

The next month holds some crucial games for WVU. The Mountaineers have to go on the road again to Texas Tech before a pair of home games against Kansas State and TCU. Then, there’s another road game at Oklahoma State before the big Nov. 3 game against Oklahoma. That’s a decently tough stretch, but one of the biggest questions WVU had heading into the season was whether it could play on the big stage after years in the Big East.

Considering its first Big 12 road game was in front of 100,000 people, I’d say yes.

Mother’s health — and playing time — triggered Byron Cowart’s Aurbun departure

Associated Press
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Initially, there was no known reason for one of the top recruits in the Class of 2015 left his original college football home. Not long after, the window of insight was cracked a bit.

Tuesday, Byron Cowart was granted a release from his Auburn scholarship, one day after requesting it from the football program. In an interview with al.com, the defensive lineman revealed that his mother in Florida is going through an unspecified health situation and, as an only child, he wanted to be closer to her to help her through it.

Additionally, he acknowledged that, yes, his playing time, or lack thereof, played a role in his decision to leave The Plains.

“I’m happy with my decision and I know that this ain’t it for me,” Cowart told the website. “My main reason was my mother’s health is more important. Me being an only child, got to get back to home to her. Plus I already wasn’t playing enough and contributing to the team.”

In a separate interview with 247Sports.com, Cowart also acknowledged that he has twice previously considered leaving the Tigers, the last coming this past summer.

Cowart also indicated that, very soon, he will be starting up classes nearer his home in Seffner, Fla., presumably at a junior or community college. After that, he’ll decide where to continue his collegiate playing career at the FBS level.

“I’ll see what options I have and what the NCAA allows me to do,” the junior lineman told al.com. “This isn’t over for me and this definitely is not the end of my college career. … I can guarantee you football is not over for me. I still love the game, I love everything about football.”

A consensus five-star signee, Cowart was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 player in the Class of 2014 while 247Sports.com had Florida product as the No. 3 player overall on its composite board. In 26 career games, Cowart was credited with 15 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. He was one of four Tigers arrested for marijuana possession in May of last year.

This past spring, Cowart was moved from end to tackle in an attempt to jumpstart his career. In three games at his new position this season, he had three tackles and half a tackle for loss in three games.

Div. II football player Robert Grays dies from neck injury sustained in game

Midwestern State athletics
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There’s horribly sad news to note today as Midwestern State University football player Robert Grays passed away Tuesday, the Division II school in Texas confirmed Wednesday morning.

Grays sustained a serious neck injury attempting to make a tackle during this past Saturday’s game against Texas A&M-Kingsville.  After initially being taken to a local hospital in Wichita Falls, he was life-flighted to a hospital in Houston, where he ultimately succumbed to his injuries.

“Robert touched many lives while attending the university, but perhaps he will be remembered best for his smile,” a statement from university president Suzanne Shipley said, in part. “He was an inspiration on and off the field to those around him, and he will be remembered with love and affection by his friends, classmates, coaches, and teammates.”

Grays was listed as a 5-8, 160-pound sophomore cornerback on the Mustangs’ official roster.

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those impacted by Grays’ way-too-soon passing.

Wisconsin fans push two Provo bars to record-breaking financial weekend

Associated Press
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In a stunning development, it turns out that Wisconsinites (gasp!) like their beer.

Of course, it’s neither stunning nor a development that the state of Wisconsin tends to imbibe more than most others, as survey after survey after survey has suggested. This past weekend, a pair of Provo bars — in fact, the only two bar bars in the entire Mormon-heavy city — bore witness to the alcohol monolith that is the state in general and its college football fans in particular.

The Wisconsin Badgers invaded Provo Saturday for its Week 3 matchup with the BYU Cougars. With its fans in tow, it seemed as if the whole of the college football world was just daring Badger Nation to drink the city dry, a challenge from which they didn’t back down.

The damage? Both bars reported that they had their best financial weekends ever, thanks in very large part to the thirst of Badger Fan.

“Financially, it‘s the biggest day I’ve ever had here,” ABG’s Libation Emporium owner Gary Whitling told the Salt Lake Tribune, stating that he did triple the amount of business he would’ve normally done. For those curious, Wisconsinites mostly quenched their collective thirsts with Bud Light and Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey.

Despite the copious amount of imbibing, there were few if any incidents involving the out-of-towners, which serves s a significant testament to the fan base.

“It was a wonderful thing,” Whitling said. “The people from Wisconsin are fabulous. They‘re the nicest, funnest people we’ve ever had here.”

Shane Buechele taking majority of first-team reps at QB for Texas

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As expected, there will be no channeling of Lou Gehrig and Wally Pipp in Austin.  Probably.

Shane Buechele suffered an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder in Texas’ season-opening loss to Maryland. Ever since, Tom Herman has stated very firmly that Buechele would return to his starting job when healthy.

After watching Buechele take what the Austin American-Statesman‘s estimated to be 60 percent of the snaps with the first-team offense in practice Tuesday, the first-year UT head coach pronounced that there’s “[n]o Wally Pipp for the moment.”

Sam Ehlinger, who started both games since Buechele’s injury, took the rest of the snaps with the starting offense.

“Thought both of them looked good,” Herman said according to the American-Statesman. “I asked Shane towards the end of practice and he said, ‘Coach I feel good.’ So we’ll continue to monitor his progress. Last week, he was a bit sore each day after throwing. But with a couple of days off here, hopefully we can get that soreness out.”

Herman stopped short of naming Buechele the starter in their next game, against Iowa State, although the Longhorns have a bye this weekend before squaring off with the Cyclones on Thursday the 28th.

In his two starts, the true freshman Ehlinger completed 36-of-67 passes for 520 yards, three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Both of those picks came in UT’s near-upset of USC in Week 3.