Sat 11/12/11 12:00 PM
Paul Brown Stadium
Louisville L 35-38
Pitt W 26-23
Series: WVU 15-3-1
First Meeting: 1921
Last Meeting: 2010
West Virginia's offense, with more passing and lots of first downs, has led to longer game times this year. (We'd also swear that TV is sneaking in more commercials too, but that's an examination we'll defer to another day).
On the season, WVU has completed just one game in less than three hours. Which one was it?
TIME TO SHINE
WVU wide receiver Ivan McCartney has improved dramatically from his freshman season, in which he caught just one pass, but the Mountaineers really need him to take another stride, now that senior Brad Starks is out with a knee injury. McCartney has just six catches in his last three games, and in two of those totaled just 16 yards. There's no doubt that the Florida native has the ability to be a game breaker, but he must be more consistent in his route running, and do a better job on attacking the ball at its highest point on contested passes.
In no way should McCartney's season be considered a disappointment this year. He has, as noted above, come a long way since last year. But now, with West Virginia's season hanging in the balance, the Mountaineers need every offensive weapon it can muster. McCartney is the player with the tools to do it, but he has to bring consistent play on every snap.
ANOTHER VIEW OF YOUTH
West Virginia has shuffled its linebacking corps so much, and is playing so many inexperienced players, that veteran Najee Goode holds an interesting distinction. The senior stalwart is WVU's active career leader at all three linebacker positions. Among his 22 starts are 12 calls at the strongside position, eight in the middle and two on the weak side. Behind him, Doug Rigg, Casey Vance, Jewone Snow and Josh Francis all have starts this year, with Snow and Rigg also holding starts at multiple positions.
The shuffle might not be over, either, as true freshman Jared Barber could get the nod in the middle this week.
David Saunders holds the single season receiving yardage record at WVU with 1,043, but his mark could be broken by not one, but two players on this year's team. With four games left to play, Stedman Bailey has 933 yards, and barring disaster will own the record soon – perhaps as early as this week. With six 100-yard receiving games under his belt already, the Miramar native should streak by that total soon.
Tavon Austin is also having a stellar year, and has 781 yards on his ledger. He needs 262 yards to tie Saunders' total, but he too figures to top that mark by the end of the campaign. It should be noted that Saunders achieved that mark in just 12 games in 1996, while this year's Mountaineer squad will play 12, but there's no asterisk needed in this case, as Bailey will likely pass it with games to spare.
NO NO FOR NIPPERT
Cincinnati has not played at its home base, Nippert Stadium, since Sept. 22. It will go for 71 days without playing at the venerable location, as it doesn't return until the season closing contest against Connecticut on Dec. 3.
It's clear this is something of a sore subject for UC, which wants to play more games at Paul Brown Stadium but doesn't want the tacit admission that its on-campus stadium is substandard. However, that's something the Bearcats are going to have to deal with, because it's clearly one of the biggest obstacles in their hope to move to another conference. Nippert is by far the worst stadium in the Big East, and unless the school can embrace Paul Brown Stadium and play more games there, attracting another conference is going to be a difficult sell.
GETTNG A LEAD
In this week's Match-Ups feature, we discussed the importance of the Cincinnati running game, and what West Virginia needs to do to slow down Isaiah Pead and the Bearcat ground attack. Two more points on that topic:
1) Cincinnati QB Zach Collaros is an effective runner, bot from the zone series and in scrambles off pass plays, and must be contained by the Mountaineer defense. WVU hasn't faced a running quarterback of the quality of Collaros this year, so keeping him in the pocket is a key.
2) WVU can most effectively limit Pead by getting an early lead and forcing Cincinnati out of its offense. That's just what it did a year ago, scoring four first-half touchdowns and putting the Bearcats into a passing mode. Pead had just eight carries in the game (he was still very good, piling up 78 yards), but he couldn't be utilized in the manner head coach Butch Jones would have liked, as his team fell behind 30-0 in the opening half.
This might seem like a trick question, but the answer is the Marshall game. Apparently stats for time of game don't include weather delays, so the official time of 2:25 is by far the shortest for the Mountaineers. If you are counting the actual time from kickoff to the end of the contest, however, the even three hours for the WVU – Bowling Green game was the shortest this year. The longest was the 3:40 consumed by the Rutgers contests, which excluded some extended timeouts to plow snow for the field. For some reason, though, those delays were included in the official time.