Jimbo: And, I'm Jimbo.
Duke: Everything was in place for the West Virginia University Mountaineers on this beautiful, brisk, sunny autumn Saturday: Senior Day, Mountaineer Week, a fired-up capacity crowd, a national audience, an opportunity to gain national respect by beating a ranked opponent, the opportunity to send a former Big East brother fleeing to the ACC, the Big East Championship, a BCS Bowl bid and the chance to sing Country Roads with the seniors.
That is where the happy story ends. I haven't seen our "A" game this year, but I have now seen the "F" game. This effort puts the whole season in doubt. We play three decent teams and the record is one win and two losses - and that is assuming Maryland is a decent team. How can we have 17 returning starters and perform like this? We just went from a BCS bowl to potentially losing next week and landing in the Continental Tire Bowl. I feel like I was just kicked in the gut.
Jimbo, it all started badly Saturday morning. I arrived early to Morgantown around 7:00 a.m., went to my favorite breakfast hangout and found a hair in my western omelette. I should have just gone home.
Jimbo: I think "F" game is a very severe evaluation, but this team was probably a little overrated. That being said, this team is a talented team. Without Miami we were the best in the Big East going into the season and I believe that they did not handle the challenge of being the hunted very well. But don't fret Duke, a chance of a second straight New Year's bowl is still there, so I don't agree the season is in doubt. If you look around the nation, on any given Saturday anybody can beat anybody. Sorry about the omelette - that stuff happens just like losing a game you are supposed to win.
Duke: Perhaps I am being a somewhat severe in the evaluation of the whole team. The special teams play and being disorganized down the home stretch of the game was really upsetting.
Jimbo: The two areas this team has had problems with this year finally came back and hurt them, those being special teams and penalties. All year the kick team has not been able to consistently put the ball deep into enemy territory, so we have resorted to a pooch kick to hide this inefficiency. Boston College was able to take a huge advantage of this area and start with great field position. Phil Brady must improve his hang time even if that means sacrificing distance. Those punts looked like a rocket going to the return man, resulting in two touchdowns.
Duke: Jimbo, explain the rationale behind West Virginia punting with about six minutes left in the game. We have no shot at winning the game unless we go for it. There aren't enough possessions left in the game. Adding insult to injury, Boston College runs the punt back for a touchdown. And did I tell you that the coffee was lukewarm too?
Jimbo: No problem. You cannot go for a first down with the score 30-17 with 7:57 to go in the game with the ball inside your own territory. A great punt pins them back, and the defense was playing solidly, even though the Mountaineer faithful didn't see it that way. If B.C. goes three and out, we are right back in business with five minutes to play. A botched fourth down try and the game is sealed. I do realize the punt was way too low and the rout was on after that touchdown. Speaking of special teams, why not put Kay Jay Harris out as one of the bullets on the punt team?
Duke: While it turns out we have a lot of important football left in this season, this last home game brings a lot of mixed emotions. It started Saturday morning, ripping out the last set of tickets from the season ticket package. It continued with the early morning drive to Morgantown, going to the stadium and meeting the old timers, and discussing Mountaineer football an hour before the game for the last time this season. It is hard to believe that we have to wait until next September for our next home game.
Jimbo, many of these seniors we have followed for six years starting with the Blue and Gold News recruiting reports, through the signing period, through their redshirt year, through injuries, through their four years of eligibility, and today their final run onto Mountaineer Field. There have been huge wins and emotional loses.
Jimbo: Any Senior Day in Morgantown is special as we watch our young men go from being a prospect to being a huge contributor for the Mountaineers. The big wins included two over Virginia Tech and two over Pittsburgh, so it has been a great ride no matter what happens between now and the bowl game.
Duke: Jimbo, we can talk about the Maryland, Virginia Tech, and Boston College games, but those are mere footnotes to the big story, the Pitt game. I haven't missed a home or road Pitt game since 1980. It is more than just a game. It is good versus evil. It is moral versus immoral. It is the good guys against the bad guys. It is the State of West Virginia against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is the largest city in West Virginia (i.e., Mountaineer Field) against the metropolis of Pittsburgh. It is about the city folk telling their toothbrush jokes; their one leg shorter than other jokes; their wife, sister, divorce jokes; and the Pitt public address jokes (Pitt's PA announced in 1987 that a tractor in the parking lot left its lights on, license plate E-I-E-I-O).
They can snicker all they want and I hope that satisfies them because by the end of Thanksgiving Day we will once again ask, "Who's you Daddy?" Pitt will hear, "Let's Gooooo Mountaineers." They will hear the Pride playing Country Roads. They'll understand what it means to bring 30,000 fans to an away game. They'll understand Spot the Ball. They'll understand smash mouth football. To Jack Fleming there was only game, the Pitt game. As Jack would say, BEAT PITT.
Jimbo: Duke, earlier you were ready to pack it in, but now you are right back to your old self and ready to fight on! It must have been the free breakfast at your favorite spot in Morgantown after the hair incident. Playing Pitt in football is a great time, and we need this one badly. The stakes are high so it will be a lot of fun when we go up there to win again.
Duke: Now for the Big Finish!
Duke: While traveling to Houston this week my plane was delayed, and who should sit down beside me but Tom Jackson of ESPN. We talked football for half an hour. He flew into Pittsburgh in the morning, visited the Pittsburgh Steelers for about two hours, and was returning home to Cincinnati. It was interesting that he noted that the Pittsburgh Steelers practice harder than any team in the NFL. He seemed to be really impressed with how hard they practiced as he repeated this thought several times. He said a lot of teams say that, but don't really do it. He said the Steelers mean it and it all comes down to their coach, Bill Cowher.
Jimbo: Duke do you realize attendance at Mountaineer Field this year was the highest since 1993 our last undefeated season? Thanks to the fans for that record.
Duke: This year's seniors represent the end of the Don Nehlen era. The players include Tim Brown, Lawrence Audena, Jeff Berk, Adam Lehnortt, Ben Lynch, Rasheed Marshall, and Ryan Thomas. Coach Nehlen, you recruited some good ones. I'm sure a couple of these guys will add to your NFL resume.
Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't congratulate all the graduating members of the Pride. You brought your "A" game every game. Nice little twist today with the majorettes coming out with the drum line. I realize that you are not bringing the full band to the Pitt game, so you'll have to turn it up a notch.
Jimbo: Duke, Coach Nehlen was great at taking a prospect and turning him into a pro player and he should get credit for a great Senior Class that will be heading to its third straight bowl game. Let's go 1 - 0 one more time, and BEAT PITT!!