OU vs. WVU Q&A with The Smoking Musket: QB play, conference realignment and more!

September 25, 2021
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 18 Virginia Tech at West Virginia
Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We welcome Matt Kirchner to answer questions about West Virginia’s QB situation and more!

In this week’s Q&A we welcome Matt Kirchner of The Smoking Musket to preview the Oklahoma Sooners’ opponent — the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Let’s get this out of the way early — with OU and Texas on the way out and BYU, Cincinnati, UCF and Houston on the way in, are West Virginia fans optimistic about the future? What do they see as the positives and negatives of the developments?

West Virginia belongs in the ACC. I think that any Big 12 fan who watched the Virginia Tech game for any amount of time saw an atmosphere in Morgantown that they had never witnessed and one that I had forgotten was even possible. Being in that stadium brought back emotions about college football that I had sort of buried, given that I don’t really have any feelings about any Big 12 teams besides wanting to beat them the week that we play every year. I think the ACC remains the goal of West Virginia’s administration and any moves made by the Big 12 haven’t—and shouldn’t—change any of that.

That being said, for as long as the ACC remains a goal rather than a reality, the new look Big 12 is a fine spot for West Virginia that absolutely deserves a seat at the table in whatever the next stage of college football ends up looking like. I think that they added the best football fits available and it will remain one of if not the best basketball conferences (which doesn’t matter for expansion, but matters to me). It also doesn’t hurt that the new look will be easier for West Virginia to win on occasion and no matter what the league looks like, winning builds brands. It’s how West Virginia climbed up from the old Big East and it’s exciting to have that opportunity again without Oklahoma standing at the end like an unbeatable final boss. I realize that “stroking Oklahoma’s ego” isn’t popular right now, but pragmatically it’ll be nice to be in a league that doesn’t require beating y’all twice to win it. If I’m the Big 12, I’m doing two things as I move into this new era: 1) firing Bowlsby ASAP and 2) looking at the old Big East model and trying to get some fun marquee games on prime time weekday spots. West Virginia and Louisville built brands that way and it’s an opportunity for this new look league as well.

In light of OU and Texas leaving, which conference opponent will West Virginia fans hate the most?

I think I answered this above with my response about the ACC, but none of the above. Like, I guess Baylor on principle?

Of the new additions, West Virginia will reignite a minor rivalry with Cincy and it will be fun to finally have an opponent in driving distance again.

I also already hate UCF even though I’ve only known them for five minutes and am frantically looking for the receipt on this one.

West Virginia’s defense had a subpar outing against Maryland but seemed to buckle down against Virginia Tech. What seems to have changed between the opener and now?

I think that West Virginia’s defensive showing against Maryland was a bit misleading. They did well throughout the middle of that game and just got caught out of gas once the offense had sputtered enough and kept them on the field for nearly the entire second half. West Virginia’s defense remains the motor of this team and is the unit Neal Brown will lean on to win games.

While we’re on the topic, which defensive players should OU fans keep an eye on when the Sooners have the ball?

The defensive line is West Virginia’s strength and they can rotate in a good bit of guys that can win at the line of scrimmage and create pressure with four guys, which will be huge against Oklahoma considering that we are not going to want to blitz Rattler. Dante Stills and Tajh Alston are great but I think the most talented player on the defense is sophomore Akheem Mesidor. He will be a force and is definitely a Sunday player on the defensive line.

OU didn’t face WVU a year ago and faced Austin Kendall in 2019, so what about Jarrett Doege’s skill set should OU fans be aware of?

This is going to sound rude but not much?

He’s a game manager at the core and can be successful during scripted sessions but has a tendency to collapse for the rest of the game as soon as he makes his first mistake. I think that the clock is ticking on his time as WVU’s starting QB. It’s not to say that he’s not able to make any throws, but he’s just proven himself unable to elevate the team around him to more of the sum of its parts.

Speaking of the QB group, West Virginia has used Garrett Greene at the position to give a bit of a different look. How much of him should we expect to see this weekend?

I think that West Virginia will use Garrett Green a good bit on Saturday and I think this may be the last week he’s not the starter—assuming Jarrett Doege doesn’t transcend reality somehow. He brings a different element in the running game that Doege gives you absolutely none of. So much of Brown’s ideal offense is based off of zone read concepts and when Doege is no threat to keep it and run, not even a cursory time or two to keep defenses honest, it absolutely ruins anything that West Virginia wants to do.

We haven’t seen too much of Greene throwing yet, but he brings a lot of energy to the position and carries himself like a gamer. He has a lot of Baker Mayfield energy in how he carries himself even if he hasn’t had a chance to do a ton on the field yet. I think West Virginia absolutely needs to see what they have in Greene considering that they have their best QB recruit since Geno Smith hitting campus next year.

Of WVU’s offensive weapons, who is most likely to make an impact play on Saturday?

Leddie Brown is the best player on the offense and is the easy answer. They’ll feed him the ball (he’s the only RB getting serious snaps at this point) and try to get it to him in creative ways. Other than Leddie, Winston Wright has been a Tavon Austin-esque weapon on kick returns and they have to do a better job getting him the ball on offense. He has the potential to score every time he touches the ball.

We ask about this every year, but what’s your favorite variety of pepperoni roll?

I’m pretty basic on this. Sliced pepperoni and cheese. Nothing fancy. Sticks are weird.

Who is the greatest West Virginia alum outside of sports?

The easy answer here is Don Knotts, but I have a soft spot for Chris Sarandon who played Prince Humperdinck in one of my all time favorite movies, The Princess Bride and voiced Jack Skellington in the Nightmare Before Christmas. Billy Mays attended WVU but did not graduate, which is entirely on brand.