Jimbo: And, I'm Jimbo.
Duke: What a year! We went from being rated highly in the preseason polls with ESPN's Leo Corso picking us to play in the BCS Championship Game to going 8-4 with another bowl loss. Not many would have predicted that at the end of the season both post season polls would list West Virginia under "also receiving votes." I'm still recovering.
It appears that we saw our "A" game early in the year and didn't even realize it. The way we finished the season puts every phase of the program under the microscope.
Jimbo: Expectations for the season were high and rightly so with the talent and number of returning starters back. Blowing out a VERY BAD East Carolina team was the worst way to start the season. With all the hype and national attention, the team must have thought they were meant to have a great season. That being said, going to a second straight Gator Bowl is still a very respectable season in my eyes. The season was difficult indeed. but it should teach every Mountaineer fan to remember the games still need to be played before we make our reservations for a BCS bowl.
Duke: Don't give me that one game at time stuff, Jimbo. I recall you making Fiesta Bowl plans after week nine! I have come to the conclusion that the most overrated stat in college football is the number of returning starters. We had what, 17 or 18, starters returning? We had star power in PacMan Jones, Chris Henry, Rasheed Marshall, and Kay Jay Harris. With all that we finished 8-4. This all rings very similar to the Pitt team the previous year. The Panthers had a load of returning starters, star power, and a high preseason rating, yet flubbed. On the flip side, Virginia Tech was supposed to be down this year. They had few returning starters with no Marcus Vick and they played in the Sugar Bowl. Perhaps we can take a little credit for their turnaround with our little 14-point swing, but they really turned it around.
Jimbo: I agree totally. The team never really gelled as a unit and it showed when we played teams with winning records. You have got to be little lucky to win some of the big games. A bounce here or a block there, Duke, and we win two more games.
Duke: Maybe a couple less false starts here and few less misconducts there would also help. Speaking of misconduct, I'm going to switch to everyone's favorite whipping boy, Chris Henry. Jimbo, I'm going to take the other side of the Chris Henry argument. All we heard in the first year from Coach Rodriguez was that he needed a play maker. Well he had a super one in Chris Henry and I don't believe that we used him effectively. Admittedly, he took a down or two off. (Those are called "loafs" in WVU's grading system.) But did you see Slim blow past the Seminole defenders in the first half? Maybe Chris has been watching too much NFL, Randy Moss and TO, but I can understand some of Henry's frustration when he knows he can help win the game. Jimbo, when Chris Henry plays on Monday Night Football, will he say, "Chris Henry, West Virginia University," or "Chris Henry, Belle Chasse High School?"
Coach Rodriguez has to look at the wide receiver position and fix it. Is it a lack of player development? Is it the scheme? Are we recruiting the wrong players? Are we looking at talent first and everything else second? We took a shot at J.T. Perry and he was trouble. Travis Garvin was also trouble. Coach Rodriguez continually noted to the press that he needed play making wide receivers in order to win, but now he wants wide receivers that support the running game. Jimbo, there are only so many Hines Wards out there that can do both.
There have been some questionable judgments concerning the wide receivers going back to Antonio Brown. Brown was a pretty fine receiver until Coach Rodriguez came in, and then we discovered that he wasn't very good. Funny thing is that the Buffalo Bills thought he was pretty good too! What happened to Brandon Myles? Brandon and Chris Henry were going to be dynamic duo this year. Perhaps the problem rests partly in each of these areas, but the situation needs immediate attention.
Jimbo: I think it is the scheme and the huge emphasis on blocking for the receivers. The lack of depth due really hurt due to attrition and eligibility issues. Charles Hales and Dwayne Thompson may be good athletes, but they were really quick fixes at wide receiver. With Adam Bednarik's shoulder surgery there is no way Thompson will play wide receiver next year. I see at least two freshmen lining up at that position in 2005. I guess when you see guys come and go and not contribute it raises a red flag, but there is some real potential with Brandon Barrett, Darrell Jolloh, Darius Reynaud, Tito Gonzalez, and Brandon Tate.
Duke: Come on Jimbo, if you are putting all your eggs into the freshman basket with a young quarterback, that is a recipe for staying home for the holidays. Let's talk about our favorite position: tight end. WVU tight ends caught one pass this year for 17 yards. Throwing to the tight end is more of a trick play than throwing a flea flicker or running a fake punt in this system! What happened to the glory days of Rob Bennett and Mark Raugh?
Jimbo: I am a huge supporter of throwing the ball to the tight end, but it is not going to happen with this coaching staff. Throwing to the tight end is a dream we will not see in the Rich Rodriguez era Duke. Again, I think those young wide receivers will help this offense stretch the defenses next year.
Duke: Jimbo, if we are not going to use the receivers or tight ends to catch balls then let's just line up eight or nine lineman and run the ball.
If you had to pick the winner in the 2005 quarterback derby who would be your man, Pat White, Dwayne Thompson, Adam Bednarik, or even T.J. Mitchell? Please don't waffle. Who is first, who is second?
Jimbo: I am picking Pat White to be our quarterback next year with Thompson as the back up until Bednarik is fully recovered. T.J. Mitchell will have to wait his turn as he learns the offense. I wish I had more information on why the team waited so long to have surgery on Bednarik's shoulder.
Duke: Jimbo, I thought it was pretty cool playing Florida State and hearing the Seminole chant. Their chant is a part of college football as much as the Notre Dame, Michigan, or USC fight songs.
Jimbo: Florida State fans said the same thing about the Mountaineer and how the Mountaineer has been a great part of college football. What bothers me is the perception that we still are considered hillbillies from the sticks.
Duke: Now for the Big Finish!
Duke: I not going to debate the career of Rasheed Marshall, as I believe that he has been a very fine quarterback. There seems to be, however, extreme positions both ways. The one thing that I strongly believe that cannot be argued is the way Rasheed gave it his all. Yes, he won the Big East player of year, but I'm more impressed that he won the "Iron Mountaineer Award" as the top performer in the winter workout program. That is work ethic and leadership! Tony Caridi made a very telling comment about Rasheed late in the season on the MSN post game show. He said that in all his years of broadcasting that he had never met a finer Mountaineer than Rasheed.
Jimbo, unfortunately a couple of players create a negative picture of West Virginia, but we have many fine people in this program. Congratulations also to Jeff Berk for sticking it out this year. Jeff went from a Big East First Team Preseason selection to being a reserve. How many others would have stuck it out like he did?
Jimbo: I echo your statements concerning Rasheed and hope every recruit we get has the class and style that he has possessed during his fabulous career as a Mountaineer.
Duke: I able to talk with a couple of Mountaineers from my generations at the Gator Bowl. David Oblak from 1979-1982 teams looked to be in game shape.
Well as my Dad reminded me we are back to 0-0. Take a few weeks off Jimbo. We'll be signing our new recruits in early February. The Blue-Gold game is coming up in April. Maryland here we come!
Jimbo: Many Mountaineer fans are upset about the way the season has ended. I'm also upset but on the flip side, Coach Rodriguez has strung together three straight bowl appearances, (two on January 1st), and two Big East Championships. Furthermore, the program has put together the most wins in a three-year period since the 1981, 1982, and 1983 seasons. The future is still bright in Morgantown even with the challenges that lay ahead for the program. Duke, I can't wait to go 1-0 one more time.
Duke: Jimbo, do you really mean that or are you having dinner with the Rodriguez's tonight! See you this fall!