Jabs and Gibes

While both Rich Rodriguez and Dave Wannstedt started out speaking the language of mutual respect when talking about the Backyard Brawl, there were some not-so-subtle shots fired in both directions before and after the game. That, as much as anything, defines the importance of WVU-Pitt.

Wannstedt started the ball rolling before the game when he noted that WVU wasn't serious recruiting competition for his school in Western Pennsylvania, where both compete for the area's top talent.

"We get most of the best players from there anyway," Wannstedt sniffed earlier this week.

That, of course was probably news to Rodriguez and defensive backs coach Tony Gibson, who recruits Western PA for the Mountaineers. And after the game, WVU's head coach fired his own broadside.

"Supposedly we're not supposed to be able to recruit there, but I think that wold come as a surprise to Coach Gibson," Rodriguez remarked with a smirk as he discussed West Virginia's 45-13 smacking of Pitt. "I'm sure he's happy with the outcome tonight."

And if that wasn't enough, the fifth-year head coach jabbed the needle in further when asked if it was satisfying that his team had knocked the Panthers from bowl contention with the win.

"Naw," said Rodriguez, playing the politically correct approach, "we weren't thinking about that. But I guess it will help in recruiting a little bit. I hope the recruits understand when we tell them that we'd like to spend some more time with them, but that we have a bowl game to prepare for, unlike some other teams that aren't going anywhere."

Without naming names, that was obviously a direct shot at the Panthers, who will be home for the holidays.

In fairness to Rodriguez, he usually doesn't start such scraps. He toes the P.C. line and is complimentary of his foes, often to the point of repetitiveness. However, when he feels an attack, or thinks his team has been slighted, he's quick to respond, and all but the most dull-witted can easily decipher his intent. And after hearing Wannstedt's remark, his team's demolition of the Panthers had to be doubly satisfying.

What makes this interesting is the fact that most coaches frown on any trash talk from their players, and as a result usually try to shut down media access in days before the game. What's sauce for the goose, however, is apparently not for the gander, as the subtext messages and undercuts were flying in both directions from the head coaches this week.

Once such things begin, they tend to escalate. It wouldn't be surprising at all to see future jabs from both coaches during Brawl Week -- an occurrence that would only add more spice to what is already the Big East's best rivalry.

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