Staff writer and columnist Bill Gleason fires away with his thoughts from the opening game of the 2004 campaign.
It was Hurricane Frances who was responsible for me being able to attend the 56-23 shellacking dished out by the Mountaineers this weekend. Were it not for that weather, my family and I would have been well on our way to spending a week at Disney before we attended the WVU-UCF game at the Citrus Bowl this coming week. Due to a major brain cramp on my part, the trip included us leaving on Friday, before the home opener. Brilliant. Mother Nature, as usual, was smarter.
As bad as the weather was in Florida this weekend, it was that nice in Morgantown. You couldn't ask for better weather than what the Mountaineers were greeted with to kickoff their season. It also helped to be across the line from a completely overmatched East Carolina football squad.
There is a new rule in college football where the official stands over the ball and lets the defense get ready before the offense can snap the ball. The only times this seemed to have a consistent effect on the pace of play was after a change of possession, but there were a handful of other times as well. What has me puzzled, and if this is part of the rule it is ludicrous beyond all belief, is that not only does the official stand over the ball and not let the offense snap the ball, but the play clock runs while the offense is not allowed to snap the ball. Twice the Mountaineers were not allowed to even prepare to snap the ball until there were 12 seconds left on the play clock. And one of those times, the clock struck ten just as the official stepped out of the way.
I'm OK with the rule and letting the defense get on to the field before the offense can start running plays. But I'm not OK with running the play clock while the offense is held in shackles. When the play clock is allowed to run down while the umpire stands over the ball, the offense doesn't have a chance to see the defense. I predict that WVU will garner at least one delay of game this season through no fault of their own because of this silly rule.
Every year the running back position is a big concern, and every year it appears that the concerns are unwarranted. It was even widely predicted that the Mountaineers would not have a 1,000-yard rusher this season because we just didn't have a break out type of superback. Most considered that both Jason Colson and Kay Jay Harris would share the load throughout the season, thus keeping each back's totals under a thousand yards. Well, Kay Jay's 337-yard, 4 touchdown performance certainly threw a wrench into the pessimism on Saturday. Colson sure didn't do anything to cause himself to lose playing time with his 60+ yards and two scores, but Harris was clearly a man among boys out there against the woeful Pirates.
Think Kay Jay doesn't understand how things work? Think again. Kay Jay was very humble in his post game interview, even though he'd just set three school records and a Big East conference single game rushing record just minutes before his interview. The first thing Kay Jay pointed out was the stellar play of his offensive line. Take a look at the stats. Everyone who ran the ball for WVU, including Charles Hales and Rasheed Marshall, ran for more than four yards per carry, with the exception of #3 QB Adam Bednarik. Season prediction: If WVU's offensive line dominates the trenches the way they did on Saturday night, the Mountaineers will be almost impossible to stop.
Lost in the shuffle of the rushing onslaught was a tremendous effort by the defense. Despite two poor pass coverage plays by new cornerbacks in the first half, the Mountaineers once again held ECU once again to less than 100 rushing yards for the game. Also, the supposed poor pass defense was much improved. While the final stats show that ECU threw for 332 yards and 3 touchdowns, 200 of those yards, and two of the scores, came well after the game was decided and the bottom of the benches had been cleared out.
It is never a surprise to see former players show up for ballgames at Mountaineer Field. What is sort of a surprise, however, is seeing the parents of former players continue to come to WVU ballgames after their sons are finished in Morgantown. Once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer. Something tells me they'll be naming one building at the Friends Inn the "Wiley Wing" before all is said and done.
Saturday's opener brought out an excellent crowd with great student turnout on a perfect starting time. All those who visited were treated to the unveiling of the new luxury suites and Touchdown Terrace in the North end zone. The outside façade of the suites was given a nice final touch with two raised block flying WVs (nicely lit at night), and the inscription "Milan Puskar Stadium". Very nice, and very classy.
One or two complaints from the new configuration had to do with the scoreboards installed on the suite façade. The old North scoreboard, which was the second scoreboard at Mountaineer Field, had permanent displays of passing yardage, rushing yardage and total yardage. The graphics board on the old scoreboard was used to scroll through scores of other college games throughout the day.
This has been replaced by two smaller video type boards on each side of the scoreboard. These boards were used mainly as advertising boards throughout the game. However, in the second half, the board on the left scrolled through college football scores, and the board on the right showed the yardage stats for the game. However, these were not always on, and they were replaced regularly by advertising.
Now I'm not here to gripe about the advertising. Big time football takes money, and those ads bring in a nice piece of change to the athletic department. But there is plenty of room all around the stadium for advertising AND stat boards. They don't need to be consolidated into one spot. I think WVU should consider installing the old stat board on the framework of the South end zone scoreboard, where there is plenty of room to the right or the left of the current score and video boards.