It is a tried and true tradition in football at every level. It is a tried and true tradition at West Virginia as well.
Bobby Bowden did it. When he was here, it was off tackle left, off tackle right, pass. Don Nehlen did it. Off tackle left, fullback up the middle, draw.
At least, that is what you heard from the critics.
When Rich Rodriguez burst on to the scene in Morgantown, the offense was the topic of the day. No holds barred, no huddle, not afraid of a trick play offensive genius.
"Spot the Ball and go."
"Play like your hair is on fire."
Well, once again, the no huddle spread offense is nothing but a mask for an ultra conservative, power running attack. In fact, star superback Quincy Wilson had almost three times as many rushing attempts (40) as second year starting QB Rasheed Marshall had passing attempts (15).
It isn't like Marshall wasn't completing passes. He finished the day with seven completions, including at least two drops on throws that were perfect, and 185 yards and a TD. Wilson rushed for 177 yards.
Now, I am all for a smash mouth, power running attack. There is just something about seeing Wilson steamroll a defensive back that makes me want to jump out of my skin. But the offensive play calling by Rodriguez lately borders on the type of conservatism that makes Don Nehlen look like the architect of the run and shoot.
Before I get too deep into complaining this week, let me state that I am a firm believer in what the Mountaineer coaches are doing, in the kids they are bringing in, and in how they are trying to lay a foundation instead of taking shortcuts to try to get to the top.
But the offensive play calling borders on spinelessness. I can't think of one football game that I have seen in twenty years in which an offensive team had a five inch height advantage on both of their opponent's cornerbacks, and sat and watched as the opponent pinched not only their strong safety but their free safety within three yards of the line, on almost every single play. At least not since Oklahoma ran the wishbone.
Rutgers was begging the offense to throw the ball, yet WVU still called run after run after run after run.
Every time Marshall dropped back to pass, he had man on man coverage going down the sidelines. And every time he threw deep down the sideline, he hit his target. One ball was dropped, and one ball was ruled out of bounds, but they were all there except one ball he threw too early to a wide open Tory Johnson in the middle of the field.
Yet when Marshall looked over to the sidelines on every play to get his audible, because audibles are called from the sidelines and not by Marshall in most instances, the coaches seemed to be bound and determined to run the ball no matter what the defense.
When you play a team that loads the box, especially when that team is Rutgers, you have got to throw the ball. When else are you going to have a better opportunity?
A few more observations from a beautiful Saturday and an ugly game:
Grant Wiley continues to terrorize opposing runners and receivers. This week it was an interception, and if it weren't for a poor call on a fumble, he would have been credited for another stripped ball. One of the plays that went largely unnoticed was his batted down pass to an open receiver that would have given Rutgers a TD instead of a field goal in the second quarter. That play, if completed, would have cut the Mountaineers' lead to three when WVU wasn't doing much on offense.
Mike Lorello once again made a case that youth is to be served on the Mountaineer defense this week. Lorello unofficially led the team in tackles, which makes the fourth time this season that has happened, and picked off a pass in the fourth quarter that enabled WVU to run out the clock in a game that shouldn't have been nearly as close as the score indicated.
Speaking of a game that shouldn't have been that close, I always get a kick out of people who try to spin their team's poor performance against a team they are supposed to have throttled. It is really quite humorous when a team wins a game by a TD or less, but their fans claim the game was never in doubt. Just a note, one mistake by your obviously superior football team, like an interception for a touchdown, and you lose.
It was a sad ending to the life of Travis Garvin's cousin this week in Florida. Garvin has suffered many personal problems since his arrival in Morgantown, and most of them are not of his doing. What makes me feel the need to point this out, is that some WVU fans were very critical of him when he left the team to deal with personal issues before the Continental Tire Bowl last December. They were also very critical of him when he left the team for a day during fall camp.
Just a note to those fans, this was his problem, he was trying to get his cousin help. In fact, he had been living with Travis in Morgantown since fall camp. And this was how it ended. Maybe some people should not be so quick to point fingers at these kids. Real life means real life problems, and Garvin was delaing with them the best way he knows how.
Count me as one of the people who thinks a ball thrown to Chris Henry is destined for Henry's hands, and nobody else's.
Seeing a wide receiver tandem of Chris Henry and Rayshawn Bolden has to be bothersome to teams with no tall cornerbacks. Considering that Miquelle Henderson is the smallest of those three, at six feet three inches tall, it appears that the fade pattern may be in the works for later in the season.
Adam Jones will either return a kick for a touchdown this season, or he will get killed trying.
Speaking of Pac Man, what I saw on the field out of him on Saturday was even more impressive than his performance against Miami. Adam was there to play on Saturday, and it didn't matter if it was Rutgers, Miami, Ohio State or Prarie View A&M. He was there to play, make plays and have fun. With hunger like that on defense, we will be in more games late than not.
I will end on this note. We have ten days to get ready for the biggest logistical nightmare in Mountaineer football history. The parking lots around the stadium do not open to RVs until 4:30 for a 7:30 game. Cars and other vehicles will be allowed on the lots beginning at 5 p.m.
Luckily for me I will be settled in my parking spot on Tuesday. But I would be willing to bet that you could look out at the stadium after the first quarter and still see cars lined up to get on the lots. There is no way humanly possible to get 65,000 people into Mountaineer Field in two hours, if that many show up.
And it isn't like the Mountaineer fans weren't going to be fired up enough for this game, what with Tech's abandonment of the Big East Conference, and the team that begged to get them into said conference. It is going to be scary in Morgantown in 10/23.