Jimbo: And, I'm Jimbo.
Jimbo: The Backyard Brawl played out as it was billed, with West Virginia being the one who got brawled. The Mountaineers continue to have major breakdowns in punting, kicking and penalties, and this time it cost the program a shot at a BCS bid, and at a minimum the Gator Bowl and the Big East Championship. All season long I looked for this team to jell, but for some reason the motor was always low on oil as we just couldn't get all the pistons kicking at the same time. Duke, where does this loss leave us and where do we go from here?
Duke: Jimbo, I have no idea. We went from playing in the Fiesta Bowl to potentially playing in the Motor City Bowl. I keep rehashing Thursday's performance. Jimbo, picture this: It's a fall Saturday afternoon in the neighborhood. The quarterback draws up a play in the dirt and says, "Jimbo, you go deep for a pass. Duke, you run to the oak tree. If you're both covered, I'll run it." By the fourth quarter, that is the way our offense looked - sandlot. The power spread that we have come to love in the past two years disappeared. Jimbo, it appeared that we did not have the discipline yesterday to run the offense.
I just hope this is a blip in WVU football and not a look into the future. I remember seeing Woody Dantzler at Clemson and their offense appeared to be a one-man band. It appears that Coach Rodriguez didn't have confidence in the passing game and the receivers. I guess I can understand the lack of confidence in the receivers. On the fourth quarter interception, Joe Hunter appeared to be running aimlessly downfield.
Jimbo: I'll agree in part. In the first half the offense seemed to be moving the ball well on a number of drives, but could never punch home a game breaking touchdown. It seemed that Coach Rodriguez had narrowed the playbook down to emphasize the talent of Rasheed Marshall, or perhaps he only has confidence in Rasheed as he allowed him to make all the choices of running or throwing the ball. You certainly don't feel confidence on the double reverse pass by Dwayne Thompson! Coach Rodriguez was quoted as saying, "We were reaching." I must add that it is also difficult to run the offense when you are first and 15 or first and 20.
Duke: First and 15 has been the norm this year. I have a quote in my office by Ty Willingham that says, "You need to be disciplined. Your teammates need you to be disciplined." The team really failed itself this year with its lack of discipline. While the coaching staff has to raise its hand and take responsibility for the lack of discipline, it has not been a problem the past two years. Did players such as Avon Cobourne and Quincy Wilson provide leadership that did not permit this lack discipline? Where these Don Nehlen players that understood leadership and discipline? That may not be totally fair, but just like Coach Rodriguez, I'm reaching.
Jimbo: Speaking of discipline, thumbs up to Coach for suspending Chris Henry. Decisions like this are needed to build a program long term. You just can't keep allowing an individual with great talent and with a history of violating team rules to set the standard. Chris Henry may or may not of been the difference in this one, but he found out the program is bigger then him.
Duke: Good call, Jimbo. You hear the cliché, ‘You have to play 60 minutes.' West Virginia's motto should be, "We must play a full season." In 2002 we started 3 and 2, and finished the regular season strong. In 2003 we started 1 and 4, and finished the season strong. This year we started 8 and 1 and finished poorly. It is a lot more fun finishing strong. The last two losses will affect, I'm afraid, the bowl ticket sales, as fan enthusiasm is really low.
Jimbo: Getting back to discipline, every individual involved in media reporting talks about our lack of discipline with penalties, so I must throw my two cents in as well. I am still baffled as to how we can have eight penalties in the second half, with key personal fouls in the third quarter after 11 games. This team never really got it together in a smooth flow. Duke, do you think there was too much pressure on the program trying to be the savior of the Big East?
Duke: Good question! Pitt has the same problem last year. They were about tenth in the preseason polls last year and everything fell apart. I don't think it is the pressure as much as it is that every opponent plays that game with a little more enthusiasm.
I have to address the officiating. The referees were horrible. I'll bet if I followed the referees back to the locker room and as they were taking off their stripes that I would find that they were wearing Panther Blue and Gold under shorts. Both roughing calls against the Pitt punter were great acting jobs. On another crucial call, Pitt clearly jumped off side and they called us for a false start. The referees were also giving them credit for passes that skipped off of the turf as long as it was only one bounce. Pitt had only two penalties for ten yards. Jimbo, something does not smell right.
Duke: Now for the Big Finish!
Duke: I thought there were three guaranteed things in life: taxes, death, and Lance Frazier catching a punt. Well, one out of the three is no longer a guarantee. On Monday Night Football Lance dropped two punts against the Philadelphia Eagles. It was nice to see Lance on the starting line up introductions, "Lance Frazier, West Virginia University." Jimbo, do you think that this is any indication that we can escape the other two guarantees?
Jimbo: I like the idea of no taxes. If you played a trivia game and said, "Which senior will see the most action in the NFL in 2004, Grant Wiley, Brian King, Quincy Wilson, or Lance Frazier?", not many if any would have picked Lance Frazier.
Duke: After the Duquesne-West Virginia basketball game, Wally, Bones, and I went eat at DeBlasio's and Jimbo, guess who was eating there? The ESPN crew doing the Pitt-WVU game! Kirk Herbstreit passed our table and Bones asked to him to speak to a huge Ohio State fan via his cell phone. Surprisingly, Kirk kindly obliged and spoke to Bobby for several minutes. Interestingly, we asked him how the OSU faithful treated him when he makes critical comments concerning OSU. He said that it has been very difficult as he receives a lot of hate mail. Kirk appears to a first class guy. I noticed during the Syracuse pre-game that he graciously accepted every handshake and picture request.
Jimbo: Duke, I want to thank you and the Blue and Gold News for this opportunity to write about the Mountaineers and look forward to our future adventures as we hit the road again next year because as much as we hate to admit it, we have the passion for West Virginia University….I will see you at the bowl game.
Duke: Likewise Jimbo, but don't forget (using your words) we need to go 1 and 0 one more time. We just don't know where or who! Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you. The good guys can't always win. The last two losses have been very difficult to accept. Give yourself a couple of weeks, drink the Blue and Gold Kool-Aid, play your Pride CD, and get ready to ride again.