The View From 217 - Maryland Edition

While last week's monkey-bashing win over 19th-ranked Maryland got the Mountaineers a little more respect from the talking heads around the national media, it is this week's contest that should have been the brawl to settle it all.

So while you are on your soapbox with the rest of the non-homework doing, uneducated fish hacks across the country railing about the fact that West Virginia is playing 1-AA James Madison this weekend, let's take a pause to reflect on who WVU is supposed to be playing this week, and what the story would look like...

Cue dream sequence

The Battle for Big East supremacy is on the line this week as the 2003 Big East Co-Champions meet this Saturday in Morgantown. The winner gets a leg up on the Big East's BCS berth and moves into national title contention as the undefeated and 4th-ranked Miami Hurricanes come to town to battle the 3-0 and 6th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers.

Miami is the only team to have beaten the Mountaineers in Big East play over the last two seasons, and it took a miraculous catch by Kellen Winslow, Jr. on 4th and 13 to do so last year.

The Mountaineers, coming off an exciting, overtime win over cross-border rival Maryland, are seeking to knock off the Hurricanes for the first time since 1997. Kay Jay Harris is leading the WVU ground assault with 489 yards rushing and five touchdowns through three games. Rasheed Marshall looked very ordinary at times against the Terrapins, but looked masterful in the Mountaineers' last two drives of regulation and the winning drive in overtime, will be returning for his third start against the Canes.

ABC will carry the game live from Morgantown in prime time at 7:00 and the ESPN Gameday crew will make its first ever visit to Mountaineer Field. The game has been sold out for months, and tickets are going on EBay this week for as much as $500 each...

End dream sequence

Thanks Donna Shalala. Thanks John Swafford. We love you too. By the way, wonder what kind of rating Swofford gave the ACC hacks who called the WVU-Maryland game? Bet it wasn't anything under 98%.

* * *

Nice to see Rasheed respond to some of the smack coming from across the hills in Maryland the last few weeks and months. I like to see the fire.

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It was also nice to hear a Ralph Friedgen post game press conference filled with a little less pompousness. It is a shame he couldn't do more to give credit where credit is due and just admit they were whipped, even though the score didn't indicate it.

* * *

It was also particularly disappointing to hear that only 10,000 students validated their tickets for the game. There is no winner in this debacle. The 1,000 students who didn't validate their tickets owe an apology to the 5,000 students who were unable to get into the game, or had to buy a ticket off of a scalper. And the University needs to look long and hard at a better solution to getting the student section filled, and filled early.

Empty seats at kickoff
It is disgusting to look across and see the student section with empty seats at kickoff. When the section was general admission, students had to come early, or face not having good seats. With the current ticket policy, the students aren't showing up late because they are stuck in traffic. They are stuck in traffic because they are partying like champs right up until kickoff.

I don't have a problem with the partying. I have a problem with them showing up late for the game. This isn't Dodger Stadium.

Here's an idea: You want to quell the drinking amongst the students? Let them have their general admission seating back. Search them like death row criminals when they enter the stadium. And force them to get there early. Trust me, the atmosphere in the stadium was ten times more rowdy when the students were in the stands cheering at top level when the teams first took the field to warm-up almost two hours before the game. Their excitement is contagious. And by the time kickoff comes around, everyone in the stands would be fired up and cheering.

* * *

Memo to the guy who wasted more voice telling fans how to cheer than he did cheering at the ballgame: When the guy with the red shirt stands on the field at the 20-yard line with his hand in the air, it is a TV timeout. There's no need to blow your voice out while ESPN is showing another Hustle commercial.

* * *

Memo to the band: When he game's on the line in the fourth quarter, you need to stop playing long before the WVU offense snaps the ball. The players have singals to hear and calls to make well before the snap.

* * *

Memo to another bleachere coach: Sure, we should have faked the field goal that tied the game with two minutes to go because you saw it on television once. And sure, we should stop giving the ball to Kay Jay Harris. To hear you tell it, Chris Henry is awful, Adam Jones is terrible, and Rich Rodriguez is the worst coach to ever take the sidelines.

* * *

Time to nitpick. Rasheed Marshall didn't have a masterful game for the most part against Maryland. He appears to be locked onto his primary receiver, and his running instincts do not appear to be at the level they should be at this point in his career. However, I think that the play calling has a large portion of blame in Rasheed's play. Despite the fact that there was a strong wind on Saturday, WVU's play calling, in its passing game, consisted of mainly long bombs. While it appeared that two or three of the balls should have been caught, I don't think that throwing the ball 40-50 yards into a 30 mph wind is a high percentage play.

For the first three quarters, WVU threw exactly one pass where the receiver had a chance to catch the ball inside of ten yards. And only two more passes inside of 15 yards (both passes to Jason Colson).

But with the game on the line, and WVU down bythree points, Coach Rodriguez opened up the four wide set. Marshall threw the five and ten yard ball beautifully on two consecutive drives, marching WVU into field goal position twice in the closing minutes.

Rasheed's play in overtime was perfect. And Chris Henry's move on Maryland's best corner was masterful. And WVU is 3-0 for the first time since 1996. I think we need to see some more slot passes, short and intermediate routes in our passing game. But that's just me.

* * *

One final note.

Dear Mark May (former Pitt Panther, Washington Redskin and current ESPN talking head):

Pitt is terrible. And so are you. You are the only person on the planet that can make Trev Alberts look intelligent.


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