C’est la vie

That’s life as a Mountaineer fan. If it’s the big game, chances are, they’ll find a way to lose.

It happened in the first Big East game against Georgetown, in Dec. of ’95. It happened again the next year against Georgetown in January of ’97. The Hoyas repeated the act again in the Big East Tourney in 2000, at G’town in 2003, and now, you can add 2008 to the list of last second losses.

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Game Recap: UConn

Now THAT is more like it. Finally, even after a sluggish start (in which we only lead by 10 at half), WVU put together it’s most complete effort yet this season. Against a team that had not given up more than 27 points all season, the Mountaineers absolutely humiliated UConn for 517 rushing yards and 66 points. In Reece Davis speak, we hung half-a-hundred on them, plus a few more for posterity.Seriously, what we witnessed Saturday afternoon was a thing of beauty. When this offense clicks on all cylinders, frankly, I don’t know who can stop it. Certainly not UConn. They weren’t even close.

In the national spotlight, with the BCS Championship on the line, it looks like CRR let his hair down and really let the offense run full-steam. WBGV had been calling for more Noel Devine for weeks, months even. What did we see Saturday? More Noel Devine. Not just in a relief role, either. More than a handful of times, we saw the scariest of Mountaineer backfields: White flanked by Slaton and Devine. And you know what? It worked. Over and over. White runs for 186 yards, Slaton goes for 2 TDs, and the mercurial Devine averages over 10 yards/carry. Imagine that.

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Game Recap: Cincinnati

At times, we made Cincinnati look silly. At times, Cincinnati made us look silly. Sure, our good plays outnumbered there’s, but anytime a team racks up that many yards against you, you know you haven’t played your best. But even without our best, we went on the road and beat the #22 team in the country. I don’t care what my expectations are these days, that’s a good win.

Thoughts from the game:

  • Luckily, we saved our fumbling problems until we were “comfortably” ahead. Seriously, at this point, I have no idea what to think about this. Has a team ranked so high in turnover margin had this many problems just giving the ball away in key situations? If you think this isn’t a huge problem you’re kidding yourself.

    It doesn’t seem to be confined to any one player, either. Sure, this week, it was Pat White, but he also carried the ball on seemingly every play down the stretch. Against Louisville, Steve Slaton joined the act. Against South Florida, the entire team wanted to give the ball to the Bulls. Whatever the problem, it needs fixed. Pull a James Caan in “The Program” and hand every skill player a football to carry around campus for the next month. I don’t care how it gets done, but the epidemic needs to be stopped.

  • Play Noel Devine more.
  • Bad things happen when quarterbacks scramble against WVU. Bad things really happen when they scramble laterally and look the throw. Cincinnati’s Ben Mauk exposed our secondary the same way USF’s Matt Grothe did over a month ago. Our defenders need to find that happy medium between stopping a potentially scrambling QB and that wide-open WR running free in the secondary.
  • Play Noel Devine more.
  • Of course, the run defense was absolutely stifling. Cincinnati had no chance to throw the ball late in the game, and with an 18 point lead (on the road), the pass defense is going to give up some yards. I understand that. But kudos to the defense on forcing them to pass. When you can shut down an entire half of a team’s offense, it makes things a little easier.
  • Play Noel Devine more.
  • The BCS dominoes keep falling our way, don’t they? Now, all WVU has to hope for is either an LSU loss or an Oklahoma victory in the Big 12 Championship game. With a healthy Sam Bradford, OU should be favored against either Missouri or Kansas. Whatever you do for the next few weeks, do not allow yourself to be talked into being scared of either a) Ohio State or b) Arizona State. Neither will pass us. I promise.

Well, that’s about it for Cincinnati. I’m sure a few highlight videos will hit YouTube later this week, and when that happens, you’ll find them here.

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Louisville Game Recap

Forgive me father, for I am about to sin…

Well, that certainly was a steaming pile of dog shit, wasn’t it? Surely, none of us have witnessed a more poorly conceived effort than the one that CRR put together Thursday night. It’s like he popped a couple Xanax and lost all ability for creative thought (and consciousness). Seriously, what was that?

  1. What was with the 71 consecutive Pat White runs straight up the middle? (I haven’t rewatched the game, so I don’t know the exact number). It’s like CRR’s play-calling shrinks significantly when we’re facing a test. At some point, you can tell he’s actively trying not to lose, rather than to win. To me, this is embarrassing. The last thing a top 10 program does is play not to lose, at home, to a 17 point underdog. You just don’t do it. You step on their throat from the word go and blow them out of the damn stadium. When we took the 17 point lead, that’s what should have happened. Instead, we played grab-ass for the next 15 minutes. What a fucking joke.
  2. Where is Steve Slaton? Outside of the Sugar Bowl, has there ever been a worse big-game player in a Mountaineer uniform? Last year, he put the ball on the turf over-and-over against Louisville and then delivered a whopping 43 yards against South Florida. This year, he has averaged 62.3 yards in our three biggest games (South Florida, Rutgers, and Louisville). It’s obvious that Rodriguez doesn’t trust him in important situations, which is saying a lot when you’re talking about a former Heisman trophy candidate.
  3. Don’t let Owen Schmitt punt. Just don’t. If you’re going to go for it on 4th down, go for it. If not, trot McAfee out there and let him punt. He is the fucking punter for God’s sake. I can’t get mad at Owen Schmitt as it’s his job to be a fullback, not a punter. This one, as always, falls on CRR. And while I’m at it, we were lucky to get 9 yards on that punt. It traveled 3 at the most.
  4. Noel Devine must play more. There’s just no way around this. Everytime he touches the ball, the entire stadium holds its breath. Not because he might fumble, as is the case with Slaton, but because he might break a run or somebody’s ankles. He’s a game-changer, both with score and momentum. That kick-return was just another example of this. If Slaton is busy throwing up on himself in big games, give the kid a chance. He’s only the most heralded recruit in Mountaineer history.

So that’s about it. If you saw me after the game, you almost undoubtedly told me a “win is a win.” I then undoubtedly wanted to punch you in the face. I came pretty close a couple times, too. If you want to be one of the best of the best, a win is never a win. Style points always count. Walk into the stadium, no matter who the opponent, and fuck them up. Easy as that.

Now, we need to get that memo to CRR.

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You Got Knocked The F–k Out

Yes, you, Rutgers. Dominated. Owned. Pwned. Whatever you want. The tradition of Rutgers being West Fuckin’ Virginia’s bitch continues.

Just ask Ray Rice:

“We got outplayed,” said Rice, who rushed for 142 yards on 30 carries and became the first Rutgers player to surpass 1,000 yards rushing three times. “They came out here and executed, and we didn’t.”

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.

Rutgers, at times, moved the ball on the ground against WVU. But even during these stretches, not once did they make the “big play,” turning sustained drives into points. Each time, WVU met that challenge. Sure, Rutgers shot themselves in the foot by dropping passes, but more times than not WVU’s defense stepped-up in key situations. Even if WVU’s offense played awful, the defense would have kept us in this game.

But, of course, the WVU offense didn’t play awful. They didn’t just play average. They played pretty fucking amazing. Finally, it seems, the luster we lost during the USF game has been replaced. No longer is the execution — and playcalling — in some type of comatose. They’re both alive and well. The best example of this was the 51 yard slip screen thrown to Steve Slaton against an all-out blitz from Rutgers. Maybe it’s luck to catch Rutgers at their most vulnerable, or maybe it was good preparation and a good call. One way to know is if this awesomeness continues, which after these last 3 games, I have no reason to think it won’t.

Other random thoughts:

  • It was good to see Noel Devine get back into action, though his 6 carries for 40 yards came when the game was already well in hand. Either way, any experience is good experience.
  • WVU goes on the road and beats a 25th ranked Rutgers squad that had beaten USF the week before. Arizona State beats a similarly-ranked Cal team at home and finally Arizona State is for real. I know ASU is unbeaten, but does anybody actually think they’re a better team than WVU? Dennis Erickson might even agree with me. Luckily, it’s only a few years until they’re on probation.
  • Arizona State is so good, they have opened as a 7 point dog against Oregon. Seeing as how Oregon is the much stronger team, we have to cheer for ASU in this one, though a road win is unlikely.
  • Fox Sports/CFN are still projecting WVU to the national title game. Stranger things have happened, I suppose. (5th Year Senior will be back later today with a full BCS post.)
  • I have absolutely no idea what this means. Any ideas?

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Game Recap: Fire Croom!

Not really.

There was not much Mr. Croom could have done to stop our first quarter on Saturday. Sometimes — like Maryland last year — we’re just destined to kick some ass. Saturday was one of those days. If you needed any more proof, just look at the offsides penalty on the opening kickoff. If that play stands, the first quarter might look dramatically different. Unfortunately, at least from Miss. State’s perspective, they were just a little too antsy to tackle Steve Slaton. After that play, however, they didn’t seem in a hurry to tackle any of our players.

The easiest analogy from Saturday is that our game lived up to the hype of the gold jerseys. Personally, I was not looking forward to seeing us wearing what I thought would look like a huge highlighter stain. I was way off. The gold jerseys looked good. Not great, but good. Sometimes, when I’m busy reminiscing, I long for the simpler Nehlen days when we knew we were wearing blue jerseys and gold pants at home. But, in these Nike times we live in, I have to live with change. At least this change wasn’t as abhorrent as I first thought.

OK, now for the rest of my stream of conciousness:

  • Slaton looks better, but he still looks human. When you consider I was halfway to naming my unborn child Charles Steven Slaton West, it’s a little disappointing. Luckily, if he goes for 124 and 2 TDs every week, we still have a chance to win every game we play.
  • The offensive line looked just OK. With a new starting tackle (Selvish Capers), this was understandable. Long-term, I think Capers gives us the best and most athletic line, but the going might get rough in the short-term. Luckily, we have about 5 days to correct this.
  • I am going to stop paying full-price for tickets if Noel Devine doesn’t start getting more PT. I find it hard to believe that Jock Sanders is actually #2 on the depth chart and that Rodriguez wanted to have Slaton play all 4 quarters of a blowout. Maybe CRR is trying to send a message to Devine. If I were him, and he wants me to consider Charles Noel Devine West, he better start busting his ass.
  • Someone needs to tell the nation we have a defense. It has 11 guys and generally shuts down opponents. Why hasn’t anyone outside of West Virginia noticed this? This might not be a problem if they’d actually watch us play.

Besides 5th Year Senior’s weekly “Things That Made Me Want To Throw My Shoe” later today, that just about wraps Mississippi State. Overall, we beat an SEC opponent two years running, both by a significant margin. Not too shabby.
Ballhype – Game Recap: Fire Croom!
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Syracuse Game Recap

There isn’t that much to say about the game, except that this was WVU’s best overall performance of the season. However, I’m going to make you all suffer through a game recap (editor’s note: fuck!).

The defense stepped up and played a great game after initially looking pretty shaky. I think a girl would compare this defense to me after a night of heavy whiskey drinking. Initially, things are looking pretty sketchy but in the end I turn out to be a very solid performer.

Pat White went down with another injury but he has the heart of champion and should be ready to go against Mississippi State. As I noted during my halftime post, I was keeping track of CRR’s play-calling and I was extremely pleased. We had a balanced attack with the run and pass. CRR even took some shots down the field (9 to be exact).

I still think CRR plays it conservative because he doesn’t totally trust White’s arm, DUMB. Hopefully, in the coming weeks CRR will continue to open up the game plan and take shots down the field. To me, if you really believe in the spread offense you need to do it both horizontally and vertically.

Finally, his name is Reynaud, NOT ReynaRd, you damn idiot announcers.

Instruments Up

A few years ago, when Pac-Man was still returning punts, the Mountaineers had a slogan entitled “Instruments Up!” I’m pretty sure they even had t-shirts made. “Instruments Up!” told the band that they better be ready to get that fight song rolling, because we were a threat to take it to the house at any time.

For the past few years, at least under White and Slaton, this has been just as true. We were a home-run threat at all times. Or at least I thought we were. Apparently I had no idea just how dangerous we could be.

Enter Noel Devine.

Last night was a watershed moment. I would venture a guess that no Mountaineer fan know exactly where our program will go from here. Devine is a force like we have not seen before. Rodriguez, White, and Slaton have taken our program to the next level, but Devine has the ability to catapult us into the stratosphere. That rarefied air where programs like USC, Florida, and Ohio State operate.

Devine will affect recruiting. Devine will affect marketing. Devine will affect exposure. How much? No one knows. But it will happen.

If the YouTube highlight reel was step #1 in the making of the legend of Noel Devine, then last night was step #2.

I have no idea what step #3 is — yet — but I have a feeling I will enjoy it.

Sunburned And Hungover

Well, we didn’t drop 70. We didn’t even get close. To be honest, for about 50 of the 60 minutes of today’s game, losing seemed a real possibility. At halftime, I reused a quote one of my friends uttered after last year’s Louisville game: “where are my cyanide pills?” So, as you can tell, the afternoon morning and afternoon didn’t go quite as planned.

Still, we covered the spread and won by 25, so it wasn’t all bad. A ton of observations…

  1. The atmosphere of the crowd was generally pretty good. Not only did I not witness any major altercations, I was not involved personally in any major altercations. This is a major accomplishment considering the correlation between how much beer I drink and how much I run my mouth.
  2. Marshall fans are generally very nice, but most have a terrible inferiority complex. Unfortunately, there is no consensus on which way to go with this inferiority complex. Today, I was randomly made fun of for being a hillbilly (which I am not), wearing a collared shirt (which I was), wearing a Hollister collared shirt (which I most certainly was not), wearing sunglasses (check), being from Miami of Ohio (what?), and sitting in a chair (comfy). See how retarded this is? They need to have a meeting, pick a strategy, and then go out and start making fun of opposing fans with a clear purpose. Like Pitt and eating shit.
  3. The thunderclap is synchronized annoyingness.
  4. The most popular shirt today was “Chuck Norris Hates WVU.” The creative writing department at Marshall must really suck.
  5. OK, now from the game…

  6. The defense needs a scheme overhaul. At this point, our pass coverage can no longer be defended. Every single time we walk onto the football field, we are starting at a disadvantage. Each fan in the stands knows that the other team is eventually going to pick apart or secondary, either with short passes or beating our coverage deep – or both. I don’t have any clue whether we need to go to a 4-3 or a 3-4 or a box and one, but whatever it is, we need to hire a defensive coordinator to bring in his own system and implement the hell out of it. With our speed, we should be feared on defense, not laughed at.
  7. Steve Slaton didn’t get off the bus. He might not have even left the hotel. I would like to say that who we saw today was an imposter, but I can’t. Slaton, when we need him most, has been disappearing more and more. Sure, he apparently caught the shuttle to the stadium after halftime, but we can’t keep spotting teams with an entire quarter/half.
  8. Noel Devine is the truth. Our team is a much better team when he is involved in either the offense or special teams. It looks like Rodriguez is comfortable enough with him now to give meaningful playing time, which is a good sign. He should be turned loose very soon now.

That’s about all I have for now. We are working on a short week, so I do want to get into Maryland-bashing as soon as possible – we must protect this house! – but expect a few more Marshall comments over the next few days.

And remember, a win is a win. 10/11 more.