And to be quite honest, after spending five days in Atlanta, which ranks a distant sixth in my opinion of the list of bowl destinations I've visited, I can't find a reason to disagree. Now keep in mind that I don't mind a little good natured trash talking. That is all part of enjoying the experience these days. It is even more fun when the person you're trading barbs with actually gets that it is just good fun and isn't trying to be an insulting dope. But we didn't run into many of those people in Atlanta.
Speaking of classless rubes, Marcus Vick struck again on Monday. After writing about Vick's exploits back in September, we were inundated with complaints about sour grapes after WVU lost to Tech. I had no sour grapes then, and I have none now. In fact, Virginia Tech's reaction to Vick's on-field thuggery has done nothing but make me glad that Tech is no longer a member of the Big East Conference. Despite being on institutional and legal probation, the younger Vick has now flipped off the fans at Mountaineer Field, given WVU assistant coach Tony Gibson a forearm shiver to the back of the head and stomped his cleats into the back of Louisville defensive end Elvis Dumervil's knee in the Gator Bowl. One thing for sure, Virginia Tech quarterback coach Kevin Rogers might be looking for a job after blasting Vick for his actions.
I am not into moral victories, but I must say that the Big East Conference more than held its own in every bowl game this season. Surely nobody is going to argue that the Big East is one of the top five conferences, but there were no indications in any bowl game that the top four teams in the league aren't, at the very least, competitive with the other conferences they matched up with.
Nobody gave Rutgers any chance against a high-scoring Arizona State offense that had given Southern Cal fits for almost three quarters, but there were Greg Schiano's boys lighting up the scoreboard and matching punch for punch with the Sun Devils in their hometown. And while the Scarlet Knights folded at the end when it counted, nobody could say they didn't more than hold their own in the Insight Bowl.
Nobody gave South Florida any chance against North Carolina State in the Meineke Car Care Bowl this past Saturday, either. But lo and behold, the Bulls go out and battle the Wolfpack to the very end before falling 14-0 in a game where USF blew three scoring chances inside the NCSU 20-yard line while also missing a field goal. This was easily the weakest effort of the four bowl teams, especially if you're stuck on offensive shootouts, but USF's defense held NC State in check all afternoon and battled to the final gun.
Louisville's effort against Virginia Tech was also gutty despite missing Big East Offensive Player of the Year Brian Brohm. One thing is for sure, if Brohm ever goes down again, the Cardinals have one tough SOB backing him up. In my opinion, the entire difference in this game was the absence of Brohm, who hurt his knee in November. Tech ended up winning the game by ten points on turnovers forced against the inexperienced Louisville QB. It is highly doubtful that Brohm would have wilted under the Tech pressure.
I don't know what was more satisfying; watching West Virginia win the Sugar Bowl for the first time ever with my 11-year old son and my father, or getting spend a few hours in the presence of Matt Keller, who was just as happy as the rest of us about the win, after having to listen to him say we were going to get blasted and never be able to run on Georgia for four days non-stop.
Hey Matt, have a sip of the Kool-Aid. It won't kill you.
Back to Atlanta for a few minutes. I can say for certain that I won't miss getting bugged by beggars every fifty feet. And I surely won't miss getting harassed by con men on every street corner either. But the thing that I'll not miss the most is the $6 beers they sell in the restaurants in Atlanta. This has to be the most overpriced destination I've ever visited. And even though I'm not a world traveler, I have been to enough cities and towns to say that I'll never visit that town for pleasure again in my lifetime, unless WVU happens to be playing there.
It is no wonder the streets are overcrowded with homeless people. You have to be a bank vice-president to afford a sandwich in that town, much less pay your rent.
Slaton's 17 rushing touchdowns placed him in a tie for third for a single season in WVU history with Avon Cobourne (2002). The single-season record is 19 set by Ira Rodgers in 1919. Imagine if Steve would have actually carried the ball in the first four games of the season.
Slaton's 1,128 rushing yards were the 10th most in WVU history and the fell but 10 yards short of Avon Cobourne's 1999 freshman record.
Pat White's 952 yards rushing ended up being the fourth most for a freshman in WVU history, the most for a freshman quarterback in WVU history and the most by any quarterback in WVU history, eclipsing Major Harris' 936 yards in 1989.
White's passing statistics, despite the cries about the lack of WVU passing game, actually ranks third all-time for freshman passers behind Major Harris' 1,200 yard 1987 season and Fred Wyant's 1952 season. Interestingly, Harris threw 41 more passes than White and his completion percentage (50.96%) did not match White's (57.0%).
West Virginia's Sugar Bowl victory has to rank as the greatest win in WVU history, despite wins over higher ranked teams over the years. It was WVU's first win in the Sugar Bowl, first win in a "BCS Bowl" and first-ever win over an SEC champion.
What makes the win even more satisfying is giving the facial to all the talking heads in the media who have been relentlessly bashing the Big East and West Virginia for two years since the despicable ACC raid.
Even more satisfying was being in Atlanta and getting to "converse" with Miami Hurricane fans after they got blasted in the Peach Bowl, watching Boston College play on the blue turf in Idaho and seeing Virginia Tech's thuggery exposed in the Gator Bowl while the leftovers were grabbing national respect by the horns.
It's too bad, really. Had Mike Trangeese had the foresight to invite Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida into the league before the departure of Miami, BC and Tech, and those schools actually had not jumped towards the promise of the almighty dollar, the Big East could have finished with five teams ranked in the top 25 and two in the top 10.
As it is though, not one Big East team was heard complaining about their bowl destination. Not one Big East had players ejected from a ballgame. Not one Big East player was nationally vilified for stomping on another player maliciously. Not one Big East player was sent home early for breaking laws or team rules.
It might take a few years, but this conference, despite the presence of Pitt, will most certainly have a better reputation among officials, the NCAA and the long arm of the law under the new configuration.
We have spent the entire week trying to find the date and time of the Pitt bowl game, but have been unsuccessful to this point. We must've just missed it.
Speaking of teams missing bowl games, the official over/under for the start of the hype for the opener with Marshall is seven days. I'm taking the over, but I'll lose.