Conversations From the Car

Perhaps the most interesting conversation I had this week did actually occur in the car. It was a conversation I had on the way home from Morgantown on Sunday with the hosts of a radio sports talk show on Sirius satellite radio.

No, I wasn't on the air with the guys, and to be honest there was nobody around to hear what I had to stay. But as I headed down the highway, I couldn't help yelling back at the top of my voice at the misguided comments of the radio talking heads.

As you may have guessed, the conversation centered around the debate of whether the Big East should be allowed to retain its Bowl Championship Series automatic bid. After South Florida pulled off the upset by stomping Louisville — who these same radio hosts had labeled earlier in the season as the Big East's only solid team — the show's hosts claimed that was only further evidence that the Big East did not deserve to have a bid.

The words that came out of my mouth as a response cannot be repeated on this site. In fact, they may not even be appropriate for the Outhouse section of our message boards. All season long these loudmouths had claimed that the Big East was only one team. But when South Florida — in its first year in the conference and selected to finished near the bottom — stepped up and got a big win, they still refused to give the conference any credit.

Instead of admitting that maybe the Big East was not as top-heavy as they had first perceived it to be, these hosts made the claim that now the Big East had nobody. Forget the fact that West Virginia had already knocked off a solid Maryland team and that those same Louisville Cardinals who were now no longer any good had pounded one of the mighty Pac Ten's babies, Oregon State, into submission the week before. The Cardinals were no longer undefeated, so the Big East was no longer a viable conference.

Their next comment almost made me lose control of the car. One of the hosts chimed in and stated, "West Virginia and South Florida are now the top teams in that conference. Just listen to those names, West Virginia and South Florida, that just doesn't sound the same as Florida State or Notre Dame."

Apparently there is no longer room for a new football power. If your program is not already among the nation's best on an annual basis, it can never get there. I have just one question for those hosts. Where were Florida State and Virginia Tech 30 years ago? The same teams that these hosts are now claiming to be two of the best in college football, were not much of a factor until their current coaches arrived. There was room for new teams to rise to the top then, but evidently that window is now closed. I have to get off this subject before I lose my lunch, but before I step off of my soapbox, I must touch on another subject that makes me nauseous to think about. That is the WVU student ticket policy.

I graduated from WVU almost three years ago, so I no longer have any personal interest in how students get into the games. What I do have, however, is an interest in seeing the best for West Virginia football, and this policy is not it.

When I first arrived in Morgantown as a freshman, all that was necessary for admission into the student section was a student ID. Bring it to the gate, have it scanned, and you were in. The seats were first-come, first-served. I remember arriving for the Ohio State game in 1998 four hours before game time, standing in line to get in and then rushing to get the best seat possible.

When the Mountaineers came out on the field for pregame warmups, the student section was nearly filled, and the roar that the team received brought goose bumps to my skin. I also remember sitting in the stands in 1993 and looking across the field at a packed student section singing "Take Me Home, Country Roads" more than two hours before Miami and West Virginia took the field to battle it out for the Big East crown. Last Saturday, however, when I looked across the field at the student section during the Mountaineer warmups, it was almost empty. Only a few scattered yellow shirts filled the gray bleachers.

Even when the ball actually went in the air to start the game, there were still plenty of empty seats in the corner of the student section. It wasn't until midway though the first quarter that the section was finally filled to the brim. Students now have no reason to come in early, so they don't.

What is the reason for this policy – one which makes students have a ticket and a particular seat? When it was first put in place the university said it was done in order to help control some of the behavior problems coming from its students.

So let me get this straight. Students now have no reason to enter the stadium early, and they can spend an extra few hours in the parking lots with their mouths around the hose of a keg. Sure, I can see how this would help control behavior.

Mountaineer Field needs to be rumbling hours before kickoff, and the administration is responsible for that no longer being the case. If you want to control conduct in the student section, bring in more security. But don't give the students more time to get loaded, and in the process take away the pregame atmosphere inside the stadium walls.

One step with the left foot, now one step with the right foot. There, now I am down from my soapbox and ready to talk Mountaineer football.

The biggest question I have heard all week is, "What happened on Saturday?"

The simple answer is that WVU overlooked a much-improved East Carolina squad and nearly paid the price, but it goes much deeper than that.

West Virginia had problems getting in a rhythm offensively, its backs did not run as hard as they did the week before, and penalties and turnovers hurt a number of offensive drives.

The Mountaineers played with little or no enthusiasm, and the sold out Mountaineer Field crowd never had a reason to stand up and get behind their team — although I don't believe you should ever need an excuse to yell, "Let's Go Mountaineers," at the top of your lungs.

One comment that I have heard a number of times that I have to disagree with, though, is that the defense did not play well. Sure, the Mountaineers gave up some yardage outside the tackles to the ECU running game, and the late touchdown through the air gave the Pirates some fourth-quarter life, but if it weren't for the WVU defense, East Carolina could have gone home with a win.

Don't forget the fact that the Pirates took over inside the 10 in the first half and were held to three points. West Virginia may have bent and given up some yardage, but never did I see it break.

Any Division I-A school is going to be able to move the ball at times. The keys to success are not allowing big plays and making the opponent march down the field a few yards at a time. WVU has done this all season, and if it can do the same against Virginia Tech, strange things could happen Saturday afternoon in Morgantown.

Don't forget to be outside the Puskar Center at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday to greet the team. This could be the start of a great tradition. Be there, be loud and be ready to stay that way right up until the time you are singing proudly with the team and celebrating a 5-0 start.

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