Jimbo: And I'm Jimbo.
Duke: What a way to cap a fantastic 10-1 regular season record! A quality 28-13 victory over the up-and-coming South Florida Bulls, and a nice road trip to boot. This was a fun trip, as it felt like a bowl game. We left Pittsburgh in winter-like conditions and the plane was nearly full with Mountaineer fans. Once we arrived in Tampa the weather was beautiful and Raymond James Stadium completed the experience.
This wasn't a particularly exciting game as West Virginia controlled the game from beginning to end and both sides of the ball played solidly. There was, however, one exciting moment in the game that ranks with the very best in Mountaineer history. It was Pat White's 76-yard gallop in the forth quarter. The run was, well, simply Major Harris-like. While no one is quite ready to hand over the Major's mantle to Pat White, this kid is something special.
Jimbo: Duke, I'm taking a little different perspective on this game. Early in the year I wondered how Coach Rodriguez's team would perform, as all the players were finally "his" recruits. In addition to that we lost three key players to the NFL in Rasheed Marshall (Big East Offensive Player of Year), Chris Henry, and Pacman Jones, yet, despite being so young this team has developed an unbelievable chemistry and has just kept improving from week to week. Coach Rodriguez is getting a lot of press for coach of year and he and staff really deserve this recognition.
Duke: Well, said Jimbo. Let's get to the fan mail!
Fact or Fiction: Duke and Jimbo, do you see South Florida being a consistent Big East power? Some think that South Florida can be the next Miami.
Jimbo: This is absolutely a fact. South Florida has a huge recruiting base in Florida. Heck, 91 of their 99 players are from Florida! Their training facilities appear to be first rate and the Raymond James Stadium is a great venue. The South Florida fans also understand college traditions of great tailgating as the parking lots were full and the smell of charcoal, brats, sausages, and burgers was quite impressive.
Duke: Fiction. Everything you said is true, except I am not buying the recruiting. Tampa is not Dade County as a recruiting base, and as we have discussed before, college football is all about the recruiting. This team will be good, but not Miami good as Florida recruits will go to Miami, Florida State, and Florida before going to USF.
Duke: We first interviewed a player from the mid 90's (Jason Williams) and last week we interviewed Bo Orlando who played in the late 80's. This week we caught up with the David Oblak, captain of the 1983 team, at Raymond James Stadium and we talked a little Mountaineer football.
Duke: Dave let's dig right in. Give us a little background on how you have been doing since leaving Morgantown. How is the family?
David Oblak: After I graduated WVU in '84, I worked for John Hardesty/Preston Energy coal mines until '88. I moved to Ft. Lauderdale and went back to technical school for a year. I'm currently employed, for the last 15 years, at Beckman/Coulter. I'm a Senior Principal Mechanical Designer and we design/manufacture hematology analysis instruments. As far as my family is concerned, I have a lovely wife, Lauren, and two beautiful daughters, Alexa 10 and Brenna 6. They keep us pretty busy with basketball, soccer, softball and just being kids.
Duke: Dave, looking back at your career you played the nose at 230 pounds. In today's game that is pretty light. How would Dave Oblak fit into today's game?
Dave: It was probably more like 225 lbs soaking wet. That's a tough question. I injured my right knee in a 1980 spring scrimmage. The doctors told me at the time that the knee was pretty bad and it looked like my playing career was over. They redshirted me but I kept training with Dr. John Spiker. A year and a half later and still out of football, WVU beat Virginia in the opening game of 1981. Dr. Spiker and his staff tested my knee and it had excellent results. Doctors released me to play again so Coach Nehlen dressed me for the Maryland game. We went to College Park and beat Boomer Esiason and company. To answer your question, I'm not sure how a lighter noseguard would fit in. The guys today are consistently bigger and stronger. My staff didn't want me to bulk up too much because my knee may not have liked the extra weight. I was originally recruited as an outside linebacker, but having concentrated on the noseguard position my technique just wasn't there. I'll never forget what Coach Dennis Brown told me "It isn't the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog, that counts." And we had a lot of fight in our dogs.
Jimbo: Dave, I'm going to put you on the Duke and Jimbo Hot Seat. You played with Coach Rod Rodriguez. Did it ever occur to you that Rich had Division I-A coaching potential back in your playing days?
Dave: To be perfectly honest, no. But as time went on, it was obvious Rich had something going on. What struck me the most was the last time I was in the head coaches' office it was in 1983 with Coach Nehlen. The next time I walked into the same office, Rich was seating in Coach Nehlen's seat. I remember asking Rich how it felt to sit in "The Man's" seat.
Duke: Dave what are your thoughts of Coach Nehlen?
Dave: Coach Nehlen was a tremendous disciplinarian. Bo Orlando hit on this in your column last week. Coach Nehlen instilled discipline in all of us. I see Coach Nehlen in Rich. With Coach Nehlen, he was very clear. Everything was black or white. There were no gray areas. He liked the clean cut gentleman. He didn't allow facial hair other than mustaches. I'll never forget the first night he addressed the team for the first time. I believe we were in Tower 4 and the A.D., Fred Schaus, brings in Coach Nehlen. We're all sitting there very relaxed, feet up on chairs, some were chewing tobacco. Coach Nehlen gets everyone's attention immediately. He asked for the seniors to raise their hands and all of them did. Coach Nehlen then tells all players in the first two rows to "Get out of the chairs. I want my seniors to sit up front because these are the guys that are going to lead this team." Coach Nehlen knew if he instilled discipline in his seniors the rest of us would follow. He certainly got everyone's attention. He started pointing players out and telling them to drop 40 pounds or he was dropping their scholarship. I'll never forget those days. We had some great guys on those teams. Darryl Talley would pick you up and never, I mean never, let you down!
Jimbo: You were one the last players to play in both Old Mountaineer Field and New Mountaineer Field, any thoughts?
Dave: The thing that sticks out the most is that the fans were so close to the players, if fact, maybe too close. The first two rows were pretty low. The fans would yell at me, "Hey #55 sit down we can't see!" It's like when fans yell, "Down in front!" I also remember the place was really falling apart. Our weight lifting room had moulding and concrete breaking off. The chalk boards were something out of the Fred Flintstone era. I remember Coach Kirelawich erasing the board with a rolled up sock. Our incline bench was the type you used at home with an adjustable pin. Heck, anything over 200 pounds and you'd snap the pin. We went through a lot. A couple of years ago, WVU welcomed back team members of the '82 Oklahoma victory. Coach Nehlen was there and told us that we were the foundation for today's success as it enabled them to go to the Board of Directors and build these great facilities. Jimbo, it was all in our hearts. I'm getting goose bumps just thinking about those days!
Duke: Dave you always had great stories. What stories have stuck with you?
Dave: It is kind of silly, but in my junior year we played Oklahoma and Coach Nehlen had different ways of motivating us. He told us every time Oklahoma scored that this horse and wagon would run across the field. Apparently the last time WVU played Oklahoma, they scored so many times that they had to replace the horse because it almost suffering from heat stroke. So we made a vow that the horse wouldn't die. Well, Oklahoma scored two quick touchdowns and here comes that damn horse and wagon. The players were getting fired up. After that we held them in check and we won the game and the horse lived!
Duke: What do you miss the most about Mountaineer Football?
Dave: The people and fans are the best. The fans brought me to West Virginia. I live in Florida, but miss the seasons and the mountains. I can't take these Seminoles, Gator, and Hurricane fans down here. Their always talking about how great their programs are. WVU needs to set their goals on a national championship and play this way with consistency and not be satisfied with just going to a bowl. Coach Nehlen built this program and Rich needs to take it to the next level. We need to be like the '70s Pittsburgh Steelers and be good all of the time and just beat teams up.
Duke: Wow! Now you have Jimbo and me fired up! Dave, thank you for your time and continued success.
Dave: Duke it was nice seeing you again and it was nice meeting you Jimbo. I love talking about Mountaineer football!
Duke: Trivia Boy, Dave and Brian Jozwiak were on the sidelines during the game and appeared to be having a great time. I've heard unconfirmed rumors that Dave was asking Bobby Hathaway if he could try on his uniform just for old time sake. What do have for us today Trivia Boy?
Trivia Boy: It wouldn't surprise me if Dave was trying to sneak into the game since Dave and Bobby both wore the number #55! There is still a lot of fight in that dog! I always thought that with Dave's passion that he would make great defensive coach. The question this week is with WVU going to the Sugar Bowl can you name the record for the most consecutive years that a WVU has gone to a bowl?
Duke: Now for the Big Finish!
Duke: This past week many fans and friends from other colleges called complimenting the Mountaineers' effort against Pitt. They all indicated that in the third quarter it looked like Pitt couldn't get back on the bus fast enough and how many of West Virginia players had bare arms. This past week this web site ran a pictorial salute to the seniors and for the following players, Brad McClug, Dee McCann, Anthony Mims, Jahmile Addae, Jeff Noechel, Garin Justice, Mike Lorello, Thandi Smith, and Travis Garrett you couldn't tell if it was 80 F or 16 F from those pictures. That is toughness! That is senior leadership!
Jimbo: What about Virginia Tech! They went from the White House to the outhouse with their loss to Florida State. Looking back at the season and what ifs, even if we win the Virginia Tech game we wouldn't be going to the Rose Bowl as USC and Texas have a lock on that game. The Virginia Tech loss didn't hurt us and it is pretty cool that we are team going to the BCS bowl.
Duke: The official Cincinnati Bengal web site this past week was discussing Chris Henry's rookie year and his possibility of being the offensive Rookie of the Year. Among rookies, he is second in receiving yards, third in points scored, and second in touchdowns. While it was probably the best for everyone for Chris to move on to the NFL it is great to see that things are working out for "Slim"! Chris added five catches today for 52 yards in their huge victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Who Dey!
As an update Bo Orlando's (assistant coach) Bethlehem Liberty High School team won 14-12 over North Penn and will take on McKeesport and West Virginia verbal commit Anthony Leonard in the Pennsylvania 4A State Championship game.
Jimbo: I can't remember our streaks in the 80's and 90's so I'm going with Coach Rodriguez's current streak of four?
Trivia Boy: Not bad Jimbo, but not totally correct! It's actually a tie between the Coach Nehlen and Dave Oblak lead 1981-1984 teams and Coach Rodriguez's 2002-2005 teams.
Jimbo: After several ho-hum road trips this year this trip really did cap off a great regular season. I hope we are fortunate enough to play this game late in the season every year. While I do believe that USF can be the next Miami in terms of play on the field, I believe that the USF fans are miles ahead of the Miami fans. I heard only compliments and gracious remarks from the USF fans. We'll now have to turn our attention to the Georgia Bulldogs of the SEC. This will be a difficult opponent as they are talented and this game will be essentially a home game for them. So we'll have to once again load all the wagons and head to Atlanta and go 1-0 one more time!