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Texas-West Virginia: Q&A with The Smoking Musket

WVU travels to Austin to take on Texas this Saturday. The Smoking Musket's Matt Kirchner joins us to help preview the game.


Wescott: West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen was seemingly on the hot seat entering this season after a disappointing 2013 campaign. How much has the strong performance this year remove and what has really made the difference in 2014?

Matt: Holgo's completely off the hot seat in my opinion. It's been as good of a season as anyone could have hoped for. Basically, it's boiled down to experience and depth. We're not playing fringe Big East players in our two deep anymore. An off season for our of our skill players to get on the same page helped tremendously as well.

Wescott: How much has the arm strength of quarterback Clint Trickett improved following his shoulder surgery and how much better is his command of the offense this season?

Matt: Arm strength hasn't been a huge thing that's been different but you can clearly see a bit more zip to hit guys in stride more than just chucking and praying to catch a jump ball. The big thing is his command of the offense--he's leagues better than he was last year and is really in sync with Kevin White and Mario Alford.

Wescott: If you're an opposing defensive coordinator, do you sell out to stop the explosive wide receivers or to stop the physical West Virginia running game?

Matt: I probably sell out to stop the pass. Our running game is improved, but it's still very hit or miss. If you try to stack the box against this team, Kevin White will annihilate you without remorse.

Wescott: How much has the defense's inability to create takeaways, especially fumbles, limited this team?

Matt: It's definitely a factor. A couple big turnovers could have been the difference against Alabama or OU but we just couldn't get them. I don't know if it's scheme or execution but it's been a blemish on an otherwise successful season defensively.

Wescott: The Mountaineers have seemingly been a different team on the road. What gives?

Matt: You know, I really don't have a super great answer for this. I'm very steadfast in trying to not blame travel for every issue in the Big 12, but it's obviously a factor. Our home field advantage has came back with a vengeance this season. Our crowds have been absolutely spectacular. This probably seems like a cop out, but I really don't know. We've had problems with putting teams away and/or getting off to slow starts on the road, but we have been able to battle back and get big wins at Maryland and Texas Tech.

Wescott: What's your prediction on how this game plays out?

Matt: I think West Virginia's improved defense takes center stage on Saturday and really shuts down the Longhorns. Charlie Strong's defense is going to come to play as well, but I think that WVU can shut down Swoopes and the Texas offense and get just enough plays from White and Alford to move to 2-0 in Austin. I won't lie though, this game terrifies me. The tower, however, will not be orange.