New coach, same grades. It was probably unrealistic to think that the team would look drastically different just one week after canning Charlie Weis, but at the same time, if we were going to get some big, emotional, playing-above-our-talent-level type of performance, you'd think the first game would be it (think Romeo Crennel's Chiefs beating the undefeated Packers after Todd Hailey's firing a couple years ago). We didn't see that. What we did see was a performance that was pretty indiscernible from any other from the Weis era.
Quarterbacks - F
The one bright note here is that Montell Cozart's job is now officially up for grabs. Cozart had been awful through four games, and before a halftime benching he'd completed 4 of 10 attempts for 42 yards (aided by one 32 yard pass to Nigel King), and should probably have had two picks to his name as well. The offense was simply stagnant under Cozart, and had been since opening week. Michael Cummings came in after halftime, and though he looked more comfortable and assertive, the results and accuracy weren't there for him either, going 8 of 17 for just 65 yards. TJ Millweard came in to throw one late pass as well. Overall the quarterbacks notched just under 4 yards per attempt.
Running Backs - C
Given how little the running back position has been given to work with, it's hard to give them much of anything else. After DeAndre Mann went down with an injury following his only run of the game, Corey Avery took over and put up 58 yards on 17 carries. Those unimpressive numbers would probably earn him a lower grade, but given the unimaginative playcalling and complete lack of running room, I don't blame Avery for the low YPC. I actually think he would look very good running behind a good offensive line, and a coordinator who doesn't insist on running option plays into a swarm of awaiting defenders.
Wide Receivers - incomplete
I'm taking the easy way out on this group until I see a quarterback who can put his receivers in a position where there is some degree of success to be had. Cozart and Cummings simply didn't show an ability to reliably get receivers the ball. Nigel King had one nice long reception, and between him, Pierson, Harwell and Mundine, it really looks to me like there's some talent in this group. Take them and put them on a team with even average quarterback play, and they might even look above average.
Offensive Line - F
The line play is making it virtually impossible for the offense to succeed. At this point, Cozart and Cummings aren't going to look good, but they might look something close to adequate if they had any time or room to work with. A four-man rush is usually enough to pressure our QBs on passing plays, and there are always plenty of linebackers and safeties swarming our runners. Part of that is the fact that our poor QB play allows defenses to bring 9 men into the box on every down, but our linemen are continually getting beat one-on-one. Offensive lines tend to gel and improve as the season goes on, but I don't see where this line has the capacity to grow into anything serviceable. If it does, my hat goes off to John Reagan.
Defensive Line - F
Our line just wasn't able to get any push against West Virginia. The Mountaineers threw 37 passes, and on only one of them did we record an official QB hurry. No sacks. West Virginia ran 79 plays, and we were only able to record 5 tackles for loss on the day. Basically, their offense was able to freely run whatever it wanted with some success.
Linebackers - C-
Ben Heeney and Jake Love were able to make some tackles, and Michael Reynolds was able to get into the backfield a couple of times, but overall this was a pretty unremarkable performance for the linebackers. The secondary was making altogether too many tackles on short plays. Part of that falls on the D-line's inability to fully occupy WV's blockers and free up the linebackers to make plays, but I didn't see anything above and beyond from this group (aside from a few vintage big plays by Heeney).
Secondary - D
Our defensive backs have a unique ability to repeatedly make very nice plays and negate them with awful ones. McDonald and Shepherd both showed what they were capable of in one-on-one coverage situations, but they also showed an ability to fall behind their man on a few occasions. Our two starting corners combined for 12 tackles, which is the kind of nonsense we used to see from Turner Gill's nonexistent defenses. Sendish and Johnson combined for 17 tackles and Johnson picked off a pass, but overall they look a little slow to me in space. Same goes for Tevin Shaw and Fish Smithson. Also, Matthew Boateng should not be on the field in a Big 12 football game. He's a true freshman, so I won't write him off entirely, but dear god he isn't ready right now.
Special Teams - D
We heard a lot about the changes to special teams this past week, and they responded by allowing a 94 yard kick return for a touchdown. That said, punt coverage was very good, and got quite a workout with Trevor Pardula punting a Milan Puskar Stadium-record 14 times. He ended up with a respectable 44.4 yard average, and pinned 3 inside the 20, but he also had a few uncharacteristically bad punts mixed in. A Nick Harwell punt return for a touchdown at the end of the game saves this from an F.
Overall - F
Though we kept the score from getting out of hand, we did allow 557 yards and put up 176 of our own. The offense was a complete disaster and a case could be made that the defense got a little lucky where the point total is concerned. We were completely outdone in every phase of the game, and that includes coaching (and I say that not thinking much of Dana Holgerson). This game reinforced to me just how much of a rebuilding job our next head coach has in front of him.