I have heard from plenty of people what they have to say about Saturday's game with the Wisconsin Badgers. Most of it is the typical negative banter, with a few decent observations thrown in for good measure. Not that people who point out the negatives are completely wrong, but sometimes I think we get too caught up in blaming ourselves for bad play, and not giving enough credit to the other team for just being better.
Whith that in mind, here are my observations from Saturday's Wisconsin
The 2002 football season saw WVU escape the injury bug for the most part, as the Mountaineers kept almost all of their starters healthy all season. Evidently the week of September 30, 2003 was when WVU was required to make a balloon payment on that credit.
Make no mistake, the loss of Tim Brown cost this team not only time to throw, but cost them time to run, and cost them offensive line leadership. Slap that together with Rasheed Marshall getting knocked out of the game in the first half, Jahmile Addae hurting his ailing shoulder and being lost for the game, Quincy Wilson banging a knee and leaving the game, and Grant Wiley again tweaking his knee, and you have a heck of an all-star team on the pine.
Charles Hales did a super job coming in a leading the Mountaineers on short notice. The eyes of Hales give him away as a man confident in any situation, but his best play of the game went unnoticed by most people on Saturday. When Hales hit the field on Saturday as Rasheed was being carried off, Hales gathered his teammates around and took command, but that wasn't the most impressive part.
As the Badger defense all lined up, still during the timeout, along the line of scrimmage to shout their pleasure at the new meat, Hales turned around and gave them the old stink eye. He stood right in front, let them all see that it wasn't new meat in the game. "Here I am, see how you like it!" At least, that's what it looked like to me. The touchdown on the drive gave WVU a lead they would keep until the fourth quarter.
Mike Lorello had a tremendous game on Saturday, as evidenced by his Big East Defensive Player of the Week honors. It isn't often that Grant Wiley plays second fiddle to anyone on the WVU defense, but Lorello was all over the place on Saturday.
Speaking of Wiley, he was beginning to dominate Wisconsin in the second half until field position and excess playing time started to get the best of the entire defense. Those guys won't say it, but they were on the field entirely too long in the fourth quarter, and the bigger Badger offensive line started to wear them down. It isn't often you see the Mountaineers call time out on defense, but they were flat tired, and needed a breather.
Hello world, meet Pac Man Jones. Pac Man single handedly resurrected the hopes of the Mountaineers, and filled the stadium with fire, with one play on Saturday. Right after what could have been the most devastating punt block since the 1996 Miami debacle, Pac Man took the kickoff five yards deep in the endzone (with me wondering why on Earth he was bringing it out) and blazed an 81 yard trail deep into Badger territory. WVU only came away with three points on the drive, but the answer to the Badger score was made, and notice was served that the Mountaineers were here to play, all day.
The defensive backs did a tremendous job covering Wisconsin's ballyhooed set of receivers. So good of a job, in fact, that QB Jim Sorgi became a weapon on his feet as he scrambled for big yards when his receivers were all covered.
Say it with me: Brad Cooper, three points...good!
Will someone please save me from this reoccurring nightmare that we call a punt team? Please?
Two decisions I would love to have back:
Going for it on fourth down in easy field goal range for the aforementioned Cooper wasn't the greatest idea, although I was all for it at the time. The problem I had with it was the play that was called.
1) A toss sweep on fourth and less than a yard never works. At least, not for WVU. Never has, not in my lifetime. We have enough large bodies in our running back stable to pound it right in there, and a QB sneak in that situation would have worked better. Put Moe Fofanan in at fullback, KayJay in at tail, and that freight train could trip over for a yard without much effort.
2) Snapping the ball with three seconds left on the third quarter clock on third down was a horrible mistake. WVU didn't have to take a snap, and the quarter would have ended. And the Mountaineers would have had to kick into the wind either way, if the first down wasn't achieved. WVU could have used the quarter break, and the obligatory TV timeout, to consider their options before running their third down play.
One decision I won't second guess - putting Rasheed back in the game when he was cleared and ready. It is easy to blame his insertion as the cog that blew the momentum, but a check reveals something a little different. Sure, two straight three and outs hurt, but the defense held UW to a three and out of their own, and gave up a field goal on a short field after the second. I'll still take a seven point lead at home over a ranked foe going into the fourth.
But what people miss is that Rasheed didn't have Quincy running behind him anymore in the fourth, after Q banged his knee. Erick Phillips is a very good running back. But he isn't Quincy, and he was playing his first game as a redshirt freshman. The rushing stats showed that, as WVU had 150 yards rushing with four minutes to go in the third quarter and ended up with 165 for the game. Hales was 5-10 for 40 yards in the air. If he only had 15 yards of rushing to help him out, he would have been in deep trouble all day long.
We need to keep Wisconsin on the schedule.
We need to get Virginia Tech off of it. Two faced turncoats. Screw ‘em. Oh, I wouldn't bring your kids to Morgantown on October 23rd. This isn't going to be a G-rated event.
On to East Carolina. Let's see, fire Steve Logan, score three points in your season opener. Give up 40. Two lessons. First, we will have to score a lot of points to beat Cincinnati, if ECU proves to have any defense at all this week. But I'm betting it has more to do with ECU's lack of defense than UC's offense, which is going to be pretty good with Gino Guidugli back at the helm.
Steve Logan, call Mike Hamrick, collect.
See you on Saturday.