Jimbo: And I'm Jimbo.
Duke: Saturday's game was an extremely important conference tilt for both West Virginia and Rutgers -- for two very different reasons. For West Virginia it was a game that provided very little emotionally, especially after a tough Virginia Tech loss. However, it was a "take care of business" kind of trip – one that the Mountaineers needed to concentrate on while trying to keep the Louisville game out of their heads.
For Rutgers it meant continuing the momentum and emotions of the Pitt victory and trying to sneak into the upper crust of the Big East and position themselves for their first bowl game since they went 9-3 in 1978 and played in the Garden State Bowl.
Jimbo, Steve Slaton played huge and really was the difference in the game. While his stats were impressive (25 carries for 139 yards), it appeared that Steve was ready to break a long run on several carries. Unlike other positions, running backs either have "it" or they do not and Steve Slaton appears to have "it." Steve has that certain vision that I have only seen in Amos Zereoue and Avon Cobourne. Jimbo, what was your take on this game?
Jimbo: Duke, with what we saw Saturday, I believe we have seen the face of the team for the rest of the season. Adam Bednarik, Steve Slaton, and Jason Gwaltney played extensively and are really laying the foundation of this team. It appears that Rich Rodriguez is starting to make significant personnel decisions as Jason Colson and Pernell Williams did not see any action. Based upon Pat White's solid performance in the Virginia Tech game I was surprised that he did not see action in the first half. That being said, we were flowing in the first half and I agree with Coach Rodriguez's decision not to play him. If fact I thought we forced Pat into the second half when we should have continued with Adam.
While I like what I saw defensively, I am very concerned about our defensive line. Our line is terrific at stopping the run, but against Virginia Tech and Rutgers we just cannot put any pressure on the quarterback unless we are sending a safety or a linebacker. If our line cannot put any pressure on Louisville's quarterback, Brian Brohm could have another monster game.
Duke: Jimbo, good point. It seems that unless Mike Lorello or Eric Wicks is bringing some pressure, the Rutgers quarterback, Teel or Hart, appeared to be getting six or seven seconds to throw the ball, but let's give the defensive a little credit. Coach Rodriguez preaches to play physically on every snap, and Rutgers' tough guy fullback, Brian Leonard, spoke to our physical play in his post game comments, saying, "This is honestly the worst I have ever felt after a game." Jimbo, this game wasn't pillow fight. There was some good hitting out there. For helmet stickers this week, I must go with Mr. Steve Slaton for all the reasons discussed.
Jimbo: This certainly wasn't a pillow fight. On one play Jahmile Addae smashed a Rutgers' receiver coming across the middle, but it appeared that Jahmile received an equivalent dose of pain on the hit. My helmet sticker is split this week. Adam Bednarik played a very efficient game. Adam was 9 for 10 in the air and he also rushed for a timely 26 yards. It was also good to see that Adam did not get nicked up in this game. My other helmet sticker goes to Phil Brady. The punter normally only gets love in a losing effort when no one else is deserving of recognition. Phil, however, is showing consistency in both the traditional and rugby styles of punting, as he averaged 45.8 yards per punt. Phil's punts really gave West Virginia a big advantage in field position.
Duke: All right, Jimbo let's jump into the fan mail! Let's open the first envelope.
Pretender or Contender?: Based upon this game, is Rutgers worthy of a bowl game?
Jimbo: Contender. It is almost a process of elimination. The Syracuse and Pitt programs are struggling with their new coaches. Cincinnati will finish at or near the bottom of the conference. That really leaves Connecticut, Louisville, South Florida, Rutgers, and West Virginia. Based on this, Rutgers should be able to receive a lower tier bowl bid.
Duke: I'm saying pretender. Rutgers keeps attempting to knock in the door, but they always fall short in critical games. As you said on the way home, "Rutgers needs a signature win." Yes, the beat Michigan State last year, but they need a win against a good Big East team when the chips are down. It seems that they are always falling short.
Duke: What do have for us today Trivia Boy?
Trivia Boy: All this discussion about of Steve Slaton and Jason Gwaltney makes me think of talented freshman running backs. Guys, who had more yards in his freshman year, Avon Cobourne or Amos Zereoue?
Duke: Now for the Big Finish!
Duke: Concerning the sites and sounds of New Brunswick, thumbs up to the Rutgers Band for playing Hail West Virginia in the pre-game. I believe it is a classy move for the home team to play the opposing teams fight song when their band cannot attend the game.
Jimbo: I think that the Rutgers administration should provide for better tailgating at the stadium. The majority of the parking is remote from the stadium including parking at the RAC (now called the Louis Brown Athletic Center and formerly the Rutgers Athletic Center). As you approach the stadium there isn't any smell of charcoal, brats, sausages, or burgers, and it just doesn't provide the full college football atmosphere. While Rutgers is the Birthplace of College Football it is still waiting for the Birth of College Tailgating. Of course, the rain, which was of biblical proportions at times, didn't help the pregame scene much.
Duke: I was at the Oakmont Country Club near Pittsburgh on Thursday and saw our buddy Bill Fralic from Pitt. Jimbo, it took everything I had not to ask him about the 1983 game in Morgantown where WVU won 24-21.
Jimbo: Duke did you refrain from discussing this victory with Mr. Fralic because of good sportsmanship or did it help by the fact that he looked like he could still play and would run you down like a wounded animal? Trivia Boy, easy one, the answer is Avon Cobourne.
Trivia Boy: Good job Jimbo. Avon Cobourne had 1,138 yards on 224 carries in 1996 and Amos Zereoue had 1,035 yards on 222 carries in 1996. By the way guys, I heard you were able to get into Yankee Stadium Friday night. How was it?
Jimbo: Trivia Boy when the Yankees came back to take a 6-5 lead after being down 5-0, I thought the second deck was coming down. It was an awesome experience. But I must say the ride down to the Bronx on the subway provided as many and larger thrills.
But right now, I am thinking about another thrill and it goes like this: The high-powered and nationally ranked Louisville Cardinals are coming to Morgantown this Saturday. At stake for WVU is its spot atop the conference and the inside track to a BCS bowl. Let's load the wagons and have the team, the coaches, the fans, and the band give it our very best effort game of the season. And, or course, let's go 1 and 0 one more time!