While I am busy posting the "No Vacancy" sign on the bandwagon, I thought I would scratch out a few simple observations from Thursday evening's gut wrencher in Miami.
Adam Jones played the best game at cornerback in a Mountaineer uniform in six or seven years. The Mountaineer coaching staff has been looking for Pac Man to have a break out performance, and he did it in Miami. Don't be surprised to see this 11 tackle, one interception, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble show up as the Big East Defensive Player of the Week.
Pac Man's evening long tussle with Miami's star tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., was certainly a wake up call to the Hurricanes, and possibly a wake up call to the Mountaineer fans who have been bailing off the bandwagon left and right for the last two weeks. WVU came into Miami with the intention of smacking the Hurricanes in the mouth and letting them know that they were there for a win, and nothing less. There isn't one Cane in that locker room that will tell you they weren't in a war on Thursday.
Grant Wiley continues to slide into the background on this defense. Not because he isn't performing. In fact, he is having a stellar year. But the play of Pac Man Jones, Mike Lorello and Adam Lenhortt are stealing some of Grant's thunder. Don't worry about Grant, though. I am sure he will cause another fumble and knock another couple of running backs into oblivion in the Rutgers game just like he always does.
Players like this are easily taken for granted. And he is easily overlooked because he isn't out on the field showboating after every play he makes. He just makes the play, and returns to the huddle. Just like you are supposed to.
While it has already been beaten to death about Quincy Wilson's incredible run after the catch when he steamrolled Miami's back-up safety Brandon Meriweather, I think I will take a pause and reflect on what I saw on Thursday to make one comment. Amazing. Truly amazing. The type of play that should lead to a win and cement his status into Mountaineer lore forever. Alas, 2:00 is a lot of time against a team like Miami.
I will not second guess the defensive decision to blitz Miami on fourth down and three counties to go with less than 1:30 to go in the game. Without the pressure, one of Miami's speedy receivers likely gets open when Berlin has seven seconds to throw, and he completes the pass anyway. The defense worked. The coverage was there, and the throw was poor. It was a spectacular catch by Winslow, over top of the outstretched arms of Leandre Washington. I still can't believe he caught the ball.
Kay Jay Harris had a stellar day go under the radar in Miami. His catch and run in the first quarter on Thursday was a beautiful display of speed and power that has largely gone unnoticed due to the closing three minutes of the game. He also had an excellent day returning kicks, and ran pretty well when handed the ball. Look for the 1-2-3 combination to be more prevalent for the rest of the season.
Once again, Rasheed Marshall proved that he could hit the deep ball when given time to throw. While Marshall will never be confused with Dan Marino, he does pose good touch and accuracy on his throws, and his receivers seems to be able to handle his throws. Were it not for a couple of dropped passes in the first half, Marshall's stats would have looked tremendous.
For the first time all season, Marshall ran the ball effectively for WVU. This aspect of his game is his strength, and when it isn't working, his passing game is going to struggle. They go hand in hand, and as one thrives, so will the other.
Chris Henry continues to just go up and catch balls in traffic. How he spins his body around in a crowd and hauls in the pigskin is beyond me, but he does it. Now if we could just get the rest of the receiving corps involved.
Brian King looked like a natural at the safety position. This move looks to be his best shot at making the jump to the professional ranks next year.
The offensive line produced a solid, if unspectacular, game in Miami. This young line is showing signs of their potential to be very good, if not this season, but next. Part of the improvement had to do with health, part due to personnel changes, and part due to Coach Rodruguez's constant formation shifting, keeping Miami off balance.
Coach Rodriguez's game plan on Thursday deserves a strong ovation. While some have been wondering just what the plan was over the last two games, it was the Miami coaches who were left scratching their heads during the first half in the Orange Bowl. WVU ran at least six plays they had not run this year, as well as running some of their bread and butter plays out of formations they had never run them from in the past. This was an excellent job of game preparation by the staff, and they deserve credit.
The special teams looked very good as a whole for the first time all season. When the Mountaineers finally decided to shelve the "Rugby" punt the final piece of the special teams fell into place. The punt coverage was excellent, provided by at least three players whose names we haven't heard all season, one being Abraham Jones. Throw him in with Pac Man, who made some nice plays, and maybe we can call our punt coverage team "Avoiding the Joneses".
I was really disappointed when watching and listening to ESPN's post game comments about the game. Kirk Herbstreit, he of the mediocre Ohio State QB career, actually called WVU an "obviously inferior" opponent to Miami. And Lee Corso, he of the dumb comment every ten seconds career, blamed the entire game on Miami's lack of readiness. Someone needs to tell these yahoos that WVU finished second in the Big East last year, and gave Miami all they wanted, also right after getting shelled by Maryland in 2002. This team is not inferior.
WVU should be sitting 4-1 at this point, not 1-4. At the least, the record should be 3-2. The loss to Cincinnati was inexcusable, but the Wisconsin loss is really stinging. WVU should never have let that game slip away, and they should have been better prepared for UC. The loss to Maryland is kind of difficult to explain either way, but three of the four losses simply needed to be closed out at the end with fourth quarter leads. They weren't, and the record looks bad.
Anyone who thinks this team will look past Rutgers next weekend had better check their schedules. Ten days off before Rutgers and ten days before Virginia Tech, and a 1-4 start gives a coaching staff with some imagination and a mean streak a lot of time to prepare. Look for WVU to steamroll Rutgers like they have in Mountaineer Field during their last four visits.
I am sure glad that I wasn't a fireman in Morgantown watching the last three minutes of the Miami game. Although I wouldn't have minded being a Lay-Z-Boy salesman this week if WVU had won.
Here is a post game tip for the Rutgers game. Find your way to the Friends Inn between the stadium and McDonald's. The entire area rocks, win or lose.