The Voice of West Virginia
A little over a week ago, Mountaineer Nation was notably and appropriately subdued. Nothing about the embarrassing butt whipping at Missouri looked like what Mountaineer fans have come to expect from their team.
The Mountaineers have often played more talented teams, but WVU football has always been regarded as hard-nosed. You don’t get pushed around like the schoolyard wimp. You go down fighting.
It was dispiriting. Head coach Neal Brown was disappointed by the effort, but he made a point to say he was not discouraged. Trust the climb.
At his weekly press conference Brown spoke candidly about telling the truth, showing players the video and being honest about who did and who did not meet expectations. Multiple changes along the offensive line due to injury, sickness and poor performance sent fans searching the depth chart for the unfamiliar names of new starters.
Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning delivered the ultimate insult to some of his players, calling them “nice guys.” Maybe that contributed to WVU safety Josh Norwood’s ejection for targeting, but Koenning did say defensive players have to be a little bit crazy on the field.
Oddsmakers did not believe West Virginia could make enough significant improvements in a week to knock off North Carolina State. The Wolfpack were a touchdown favorite. I was with them. I had not seen anything after two games to suggest that the Mountaineers had a chance. I’m with Neal Brown on Trust the Climb; I just figured it was going to be a long, hard slog.
And perhaps it still will be. Being a prisoner of the moment after bad games and good ones is dangerous. However, Brown was confident enough after the 44-27 demolition of NC State to call the game a “defining moment.”
“This was really early for one, but it was a defining moment,” Brown said. “Things didn’t go well last week. How we responded in the week was what was on the field today.”
A previously non-existent running game produced 173 yards. The rebuilt offensive line not only cleared paths for runners, but also gave Austin Kendall time to turn in a performance of 27 of 40 for 272 yards and three touchdowns along with one interception. Sam James, who has quickly emerged as Kendall’s go-to receiver, caught one-third of all passes.
The Wolfpack offense came into the game averaging 525 yards, but WVU’s no-more-nice-guy defense held NC State to 369 yards and only 4.3 yards per play. The Wolfpack averaged just 3.8 yards per carry, while WVU averaged 6.1 yards per carry.
Last week, WVU was “bum rushed” by Missouri, but just a few days later and after what can only be called a masterful coaching job, WVU Gold Rushed NC State right out of the stadium. Country Roads never sounded so good.
Neal Brown’s resume includes upset victories at Troy—an improbable 24-21 victory at LSU in 2017 and a 24-19 win at Nebraska last year. Saturday’s win at home against NC State does not rank with those, but it was an upset, not only the final score, but also in how the Mountaineers played compared with the previous two games.
The definition of a “defining moment” is “an event which typifies or determines all subsequent related occurrences.” Brown’s decision to characterize Saturday’s win in that way bodes well for Mountaineer Nation.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A total of 57 blocks of emergency stopping material will have to be replaced at Charleston’s Yeager Airport after a small plane landed short of the runway on the night of September 4th, a damage report has shown.
Terry Sayre, the director of Yeager Airport, said the EMAS system — made up of foam blocks — worked properly during the emergency situation.
EMAS stands for engineered materials arrestor system.
“The first part of the damage occurred at the end of the EMAS bed where the plane impacted the bed and skidded about 100 feet into the EMAS bed and came to rest at about a 30 degree angle,” Sayre said.
“We credit this with saving another life, definitely.”
Inspectors with Safran, the EMAS manufacturer, visited the airport on Friday, September 6th to survey the damage.
The damage report from the company was returned last week but did not include a projected cost for repairs, according to Miller.
Sayre said he was hoping to have that before this Wednesday’s meeting of the Yeager Airport Board.
In addition to the EMAS repair costs, “We incurred lots of other costs for the emergency response, the recovery of the aircraft. We had probably at least 20 employees here that night working along with the Air Guard, fire department, wrecker service.”
No commercial flights were affected and the stopping system itself is still usable.
“There’s 200-some feet towards the runway and all around where this plane just marred the tops the blocks, but they’re still intact and functional,” Sayre said.
The pilot walked away from the problem landing without any injuries.
It happened less than a month after a rebuilding of the EMAS system was completed at Yeager Airport following a 2015 hillside collapse.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Greenbrier’s federal lawsuit against an insurance adjuster over damage claims from the 2016 flood amounts to an intimidation attempt, according to an executive with the company.
“Unfortunately, this kind of legal bullying is a standard tactic used by Justice-owned companies to try to get out of paying what they owe to contractors, lawyers and even the government,” said Neil Kahn, executive vice president of Goodman-Gable-Gould.
The Greenbrier filed its lawsuit in August in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.
Lawyers for The Greenbrier contend that the insurance claims adjuster did not do enough to help pursue compensation from damage following the flood.
“GGG acted as if they were dealing with a roadside motel, not the historic and architectural landmark that is the Greenbrier hotel,” stated Richard Getty, a lawyer representing the resort.
Office of the Governor
The Greenbrier, owned by the family of Gov. Jim Justice, is a 240-year-old resort in White Sulphur Springs. Justice’s annual ethics disclosure lists more than 90 businesses in the family’s portfolio of resorts, coal companies and agriculture.
The Justice companies are involved in a variety of other legal actions over finances. In one case, the Justice companies filed suit against the federal Office of Surface Mining, apparently preempting a lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The origin of The Greenbrier’s lawsuit against its insurance adjuster was when hotel and surrounding properties were damaged by historic flooding in 2016 and the hotel operators filed insurance claims to aid recovery.
The resort entered into an agreement with GGG about July 7, 2016.
The Greenbrier was seeking compensation after that year’s flood damaged the hotel’s roof, the casino, a brand new chapel and the tennis stadium.
The damage also included revenue losses at the hotel and its golf courses, plus the cancellation of the Greenbrier Classic pro golf tournament, normally held that week.
And the lawsuit contends the catastrophic event hurt future revenue, affecting plans for a new ski area, a new golf course and residential expansion.
Lawyers for The Greenbrier contend GGG failed to properly calculate the resort’s business operation losses “and refused to correct and revise those calculations, despite the plaintiff’s demands that it do so.”
Goodman-Gable-Gould says it completed professional work that was overseen every step of the way by representatives from The Greenbrier.
“The process was completely transparent,” Kahn said. “Every submission — the analysis, the detailed spreadsheets — was reviewed multiple times by representatives of The Greenbrier.”
Representatives of The Greenbrier have contended for months that the insurance payouts were inadequate to cover the losses.
Lawyers for The Greenbrier say the recoveries totaled about $39 million and were obtained “with extreme pressure and assistance from Plaintiffs.”
GGG suggests the $39 million that was collected from insurers was just what came in up to a certain point.
“It was not a final settlement,” Kahn said. “It was a sum certain as of that date.”
When operators of The Greenbrier demanded in September, 2017, that GGG file suit against the insurers because of their refusal to negotiate and settle their claims, the insurance adjuster refused, the resort’s lawyers say.
Kahn says a lawsuit isn’t the responsibility of the insurance adjuster.
“They do allege that, and it’s puzzling because we are not lawyers,” he said. “We can’t sue anybody, initiate a lawsuit against anybody.
“We’re not a law firm, and the decisions to pursue legal actions are The Greenbrier’s, not GGG’s.”
By late fall of 2017, The Greenbrier operators terminated the services of GGG, saying it hadn’t lived up to its duties.
Except GGG says it wasn’t informed of the termination.
“The Greenbrier never communicated why they chose to finish the project without GGG,” Kahn said. “The only notification GGG received was a carbon copy of a message to insurance companies stating that GGG was no longer representing the Greenbrier.”
Lawyers for The Greenbrier say GGG was compensated but that $609,515 remained in dispute. That money is in an escrow account. The Greenbrier, through its lawyers, says GGG is not entitled to the money.
In GGG’s view, that money represents compensation for work that it had done prior to the breakup with The Greenbrier. As money came in from insurers, GGG contends, The Greenbrier was supposed to pay for the work out of the escrow fund.
“Yet the ownership of the Greenbrier has yet to live up to its obligations under that agreement,” Kahn said.
He said the insurance adjustment company is examining its legal options.
“We are analyzing that with our attorneys,” Kahn said. “We hope it wouldn’t be necessary to countersue.”
He says the situation didn’t need to come to this.
“It’s just regrettable that The Greenbrier has taken this tact,” he said.
“It seems to be a standard tactic that they take what what we feel is a scorched earth strategy to avoid paying a contractual obligation. We believe that is what’s going on here, not the manufactured obligations that they put forth in their complaint.”
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Austin Caperton says when it comes to the Governor’s Downstream Jobs Task Force, the main purpose is selling the state to the petrochemical industry.
“We’ve got support from the U.S. Department of Energy. We certainly have the governor’s support, and we have the president’s support,” he said.
“We already have a cracker going in across the river in Pennsylvania. There’s a possibility of another cracker. These crackers create products that go to other large manufacturing facilities that create products that go to further manufacturing facilities.”
Gov. Jim Justice announced the task force in August, which will focus on the anticipated job growth related to the petrochemical industry in Appalachia, and named Caperton as the head of the body.
“We want to make sure West Virginia gas and its liquids create jobs in West Virginia and not somewhere else,” Caperton said on a recent episode of MetroNews “Talkline.”
West Virginia Department Environmental Protection
Caperton and Department of Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy, who is also on the task force, spoke at last month’s West Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Meeting and Business Summit about their goals for the body, which includes encouraging energy companies to come to the Mountain State.
Hardy said there could be a rejuvenation of the petrochemical industry in the state, including in the Kanawha Valley where he is from.
“Twenty percent of what we’re producing locally — when I say locally, I mean the Appalachian storage field — will be going to the Shell facility in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. That facility is huge,” he said. “The fact that it’s being built and the state of Pennsylvania has invested potential tax credits of up to $1.65 billion indicates what a giant facility that will be.”
Ohio has invested $47 million in a similar site in Belmont County.
“It’s petrochemical products that are going to have tremendous downstream opportunities,” Hardy added.
Hardy said 80% of what the facility will produce will go to plants around the Gulf of Mexico.
“According to the Department of Energy, (it’s) 23% cheaper to make the product here rather than ship it to the Gulf,” he said. “Right now, there’s enough demand for one and a half crackers today based on the production a day. Additional crackers to the one in Beaver County.”
The Energy Department noted in July an “Appalachian petrochemical renaissance” would bring more than $30 billion in capital investment, create more than 100,000 permanent jobs and increase annual business revenue by $30 billion on an annual basis.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In order to get his offense moving forward against North Carolina State, Neal Brown had West Virginia move sideways.
Motion was a major part of the Mountaineers first-half game plan. West Virginia put someone in motion on 14 of its 31 first-half snaps. On eight of those motions, there was jet- or fly-sweep action that made the wide receiver a threat to take handoffs or short shovel passes from Austin Kendall.
“We tried to get them running east and west early,” Brown said. “We felt we could get them moving east and west to go north and south.”
The split was even more dramatic before West Virginia’s 10-play touchdown drive in a three-minute drill to end the first half. The Mountaineers sent a man in motion on 13 of their first 21 plays, but maintained a more straightforward approach in the hurry-up attack.
Once the Wolfpack had the offense pegged, the Mountaineers changed things up.
In the second half, West Virginia only ran motion on 10 of its 37 snaps. Three of the motions came on the final touchdown drive that was capped by Leddie Brown’s 3-yard touchdown run – basically, WVU went away from pre-snap movement until it needed to put the game away.
Motion wasn’t the only wrinkle to West Virginia’s East-West approach.
Quarterback Austin Kendall had five designed rollouts to force the defense to cover horizontal ground. Of Kendall’s 40 pass attempts, no fewer than eight were crossing patterns that adhered to the same principles.
Kendall’s 9-yard pitch-and-catch with freshman Ali Jennings was among the most impressive plays of the game.
After selling the handoff on a play-action, Kendall threw a dart that only Jennings had a chance at catching. But Kendall said the touchdown was all Jennings.
“That was a low ball. To me, that really wasn’t a very good throw,” Kendall said. “That was a good catch. I told him that was a really nice job.”
It was Jennings’ first career touchdown catch.
Sleeper of the game
Receiver Sean Ryan left early with an injury, but not before making two significant contributions to the victory.
Things went awry on West Virginia’s second offensive play, a designed double-pass. After catching the backwards pass from Kendall, Ryan had the poise not to force anything downfield when nothing was available. Thanks to a block from tight end Jovani Haskins, he then escaped what should have been a 7-yard loss and worked his way towards the line of scrimmage.
Once he got that far, Ryan was sprung by none other than his quarterback, who managed to block two defenders on the play. Instead of facing a third-and-long, the Mountaineers were on their way to a confidence-boosting early lead.
Ryan’s crucial sideline catch early in the third quarter was also a game-changing moment. Initially ruled incomplete, the call was overturned when replay officials saw that Ryan tapped his foot inbounds. The first-down grab eliminated the possibility of West Virginia punting out of its own end zone on the opening drive of the second half.
The Mountaineers managed to make their way all the way down the field to take the lead on an Evan Staley field goal.
What was that?
More than a few folks were left scratching their heads when holder Josh Growden took a knee on West Virginia’s final PAT. But it was a case of basic mathematics.
In the unlikely event that Staley’s extra point was blocked, N.C. State could have returned it for 2 points, cutting the margin to 44-29 – a two-possession game. By taking the knee, West Virginia assured itself of maintaining a three-possession lead with 3:04 remaining, making a Wolfpack comeback virtually impossible.
As Pitt proved by missing a 19-yard field goal at Penn State Saturday, there’s no such thing as a sure thing in the kicking game.
By the numbers
The Mountaineers are no longer the nation’s worst rushing offense after gaining 173 yards against the Wolfpack.
West Virginia moved up from 130th to 118th in yards per carry, boosting its average to 2.82 ypc. The rushing attack moved from 129th to 123rd as it improved its average to 79 yards per game.
The Mountaineers also shed the distinction of being the only team in the country without a running play of at least 10 yards. WVU had three gains over 10 against N.C. State.
Defensively, West Virginia is in the Top 20 in two different categories.
The Mountaineers are 19th nationally in explosive plays allowed. Opponents have seven gains over 20 yards.
WVU is second in the country in pass breakups with 17. Only Central Florida has been credited with more PBUs (21).
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WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — For the third consecutive year, Joaquin Niemann carded a 64 on Sunday at the Old White TPC Course.
This year, the final round 6-under par was plenty good enough for Niemann, 20, to win A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier.
At 21-under par, Niemann became the first Chile native to win on the PGA Tour and now holds the largest margin of victory at six shots in the tournament’s nine-year history.
“I’m really happy to get the trophy for my family, my coach and everyone back in Chile,” Niemann said. “It’s unbelievable. It couldn’t get any better.”
Niemann’s final round included eight birdies and a pair of bogeys, but he didn’t pull away until the back nine to claim the $1,350,000 top prize.
Niemann stepped to the 10th tee box at 15-under and was tied atop the leaderboard with Tom Hoge. His second shot at the 10th was inside of 4 feet and set up a birdie that allowed him to regain the solo lead.
On No. 11, Niemann got up and down for par from 40 yards out to remain on top.
Niemann made birdie putts from 9 and 13 feet, respectively, on the 12th and 13th holes to begin to pull away for his first PGA Tour victory.
“From the beginning of the week, I played with a lot of confidence,” Niemann said. “Coming off three weeks off, I felt fresh. I was playing really well and practiced a lot with my coach in the offseason.
“My game was feeling great and mentally it was awesome. I was feeling like I was going to win this tournament since the first day. I was in a really good mindset.”
Niemann responded to a bogey on the par-3 15th by finishing his round with three straight birdies, including one from 10 feet on No. 16 that all but sealed the verdict.
“I love this place and I’ve played really good golf here,” Niemann said. “I’m going to be here a couple more times.”
After an opening round 65, Niemann fired a 62 in Friday’s second round that left him tied with Scottie Scheffler and Robby Shelton atop the leaderboard.
With Old White playing tougher on Saturday, Niemann managed a third-round 68 to take a two-shot lead into Sunday.
He began his final round with four consecutive pars before making a birdie putt from just inside 8 feet on No. 5.
Niemann played his final four holes on the front nine at even par, making a birdie on the par-3 8th, but giving it back with a bogey on No. 9.
At that point, Hoge was right in the mix having played the front nine in 4-under par, while making birdie on five of his first eight holes.
Hoge responded to his lone hiccup on the front — a bogey at the 9th — with a birdie on No. 10. He birdied the par-5 12th to get to 16-under for the tournament, but bogeys on the 13th and 15th holes allowed Niemann to create more separation.
Hoge did make an important birdie on the par-5 17th that allowed him to finish -15 and in solo second place.
“Today I hit a lot of shots close right off the start and had some good momentum going,” Hoge said. “Just a couple bad shots I would like to have back, but it was a good week and good way to start the year.”
At 14-under par, Brian Harman, Harris English, Nate Lashley and Richy Werenski tied for third.
Werenski couldn’t convert a birdie putt from inside 6 feet on No. 17 and made bogey on the par-3 18th to give Hoge the second-place finish.
“I putted pretty well all week, but today I didn’t,” Werenski said. “The greens got really fast, kind of baked out. Just really couldn’t get the speed.”
Scheffler, Shelton and Sebastian Munoz finished in a three-way tie for seventh at -13.
Viktor Hovland, who tied Niemann for Sunday’s low round, tied with Matt Jones and Mark Hubbard for 10th place at -12.
Niemann was the top-ranked amateur in the world from May 2017-April 2018 and finished tied for 29th during that time in his first appearance at Old White.
Last year, Niemann tied for fifth at The Greenbrier thanks in large part to an opening-round 63 and the closing 64.
The win increases his chances of being one of Ernie Els’ four captain’s picks for the International Team at this year’s Presidents Cup.
“Being on the Presidents Cup team is a dream,” Niemann said. “It’s a really good team this year and I know there are a lot of good players fighting for the four spots. It’s going to be tough, but this win helps to get a spot.
“I have to be patient and I have a couple more tournaments to hopefully play good golf and get on that team.”
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WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Photo gallery from the final round of A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier. Joaquin Niemann claimed at six-shot victory at 21-under par.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. Senate passed a resolution last week recognizing the city of Wheeling and the 250th anniversary of its founding.
Col. Ebenezer Zane founded the city in 1769 as the settlement of Fort Henry, and its location on the Ohio River made it popular for trade. Wheeling also served as West Virginia’s capital city from 1863 to 1870 and 1875 to 1885.
“Wheeling is a city of industry, good people and growth,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said. “Yes, there’s been ups and downs over the years, but today, it’s as vibrant as ever.”
Capito introduced the resolution on behalf of her and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
“Wheeling is historic, it’s beautiful, and it’s booming, and that’s all thanks to the incredible men and women who have called it home over the years,” she also said.
Manchin said Wheeling has an important place in the history of the state and country.
“Can you believe in 1849 when the suspension bridge was built, it was called the gateway to the West?” he said. “Not that far from here.”
Wheeling has multiple events scheduled through the year recognizing its history; a lecture will be given this Saturday at the Ohio County Public Library on Dr. Simon Hullihen, a Wheeling-born doctor recognized for his work in the field of dental surgery.
GRAFTON, W.Va. – Eighth-graders at Taylor County Middle School are going through a pilot leadership program designed to empower and enable students to become agents of change.
The initiative encourages students to find a leadership style as well as the best approaches for community engagement.
As a way to advance the program’s mission, students will take a trip to Mingo County.
“We’re going to meet with eighth-grade students from Matewan Middle School and Williamson Middle School for a roundtable discussion of this is what our community is like, now how can we start to do it differently now,” Taylor County Middle School counselor Jerry Dooley said.
Dooley added she is hopeful that after this year the program can be offered to all eighth-graders.
To fund the trip there will be a silent auction at the school this Saturday.
Some of the items up for bid include a football autographed by West Virginia native Nick Saban, tethered hot air balloon rides and tickets to the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.
The auction begins at noon.
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