Jimbo: And, I'm Jimbo.
Duke: I thought the preseason was over and the regular season was to begin Thursday night against Maryland. With the score 28-0 at the end of the first quarter, thought, I was beginning to wonder if that was true or not. At this point it is really difficult to analyze the performance delivered in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters. Coach Rodriguez can coach-speak and tell the team that the score was 17-24 after the opening quarter, but in reality it was difficult evaluate the performance as, psychologically, WVU lost its edge. This game was a re-run of the Sugar Bowl, when West Virginia jumped to a commanding lead and then coasted for a while. Georgia fans will tell you that their team woke up, but that is really malarkey – we let up on the gas.
What can we ascertain from this win? There is the obvious - Slaton and White are nationally elite players and they confirmed this - again. Many would say Owen Schmitt belongs in this conversation, and he is certainly among the finest fullbacks in the country. As my buddy Tom told me during the game, Darius Reynaud has earned Coach Rodriguez's deepest trust and is sneaking into this conversation as well. Last season Darius had some huge catches early in the season, and he is continuing that play this year. Defenses must keep a careful eye on Darius, as he is deadly on reverses, and can make the tough catch in critical situations. And don't forget his kickoff return abilities!
Jimbo: Duke, my perspective on this game is a little different. I just can't believe how the dominance in this series has flipped. Just two years ago Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen was labeled a genius, had strung together three straight 10-win seasons, and he had hammered West Virginia to the point of embarrassment. Now the situation has flipped 180 degrees. Coach Friedgen has gone from being a confident coach to one that appears confused and constantly scratching his head, while Coach Rodriguez is being recognized nationally.
Duke: Jimbo, that is an interesting thought. Is this "flip" because Rich finally has his own style of players or has Rich's program simply evolved and grown to this point? Or perhaps is it because White and Slaton are performing beyond their recruited expectations, with all other units being equal?
Jimbo: If you're asking whether West Virginia lucked into White and Slaton, I'm not saying that for a second. Slaton and White don't play defense and this defense has stopped Maryland in the last three games. While some believe that this defense is giving up to much ground, this defense is solid with the potential to be really good. The young guns like Charles Pugh, John Holmes, and Quinton Andrews are ball hawks and by the end of the season they'll be solid veterans. If I'm doling out luck awards, I'm giving one to Coach Friedgen who after going 10-2 in 2001, 11-3 in 2002, and 10-3 in 2003 has regressed to the point where they'll be lucky to go 500 this year.
Duke: Trivia Boy what do you have today?
Trivia Boy: All right guys, in Don Nehlen's new book, "Tales from the West Virginia Sideline," Coach Nehlen talks about his last home game. Who was Coach Nehlen's last home game against?
Duke: Now for the Big Finish!
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Dr. Doom, Bob Smizik, (who makes the Morgantown Dominion Post's Rob Hertzel look like Mr. Positive), compared our Steve Slaton to Pitt's Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett. Wrote Smizik Friday in his comparison, "Some might call this sacrilege, but the performance brought to mind another slight back of an earlier era: Pitt's Tony Dorsett. There will never be another Dorsett. But the way the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Slaton runs – the way he glides, changes speed, sets up his blocks, cuts on a dime and accelerates in an instant – is reminiscent of Dorsett."
Jimbo: Speaking of speed the old adage goes, "You can't teach speed," and our offensive line is blowing open huge holes with their speed. While Steve Slaton and Pat White get the headlines and deservingly so, the offensive line continues to dominate under the tutelage of Coach Trickett and the physical development of Mike Barwis.
Duke: The large inflatable helmet that the Mountaineers run out from seemed to come alive Thursday night. The players really seemed to be pumped up for the game as the helmet was rocking around. That whole scene is something special with the cheerleaders lifted in a circle, the band playing "Space Odyssey," the smoke rising from the helmet, and the Mountaineer blasting his musket.
Jimbo: Trivia Boy, you have to make the questions harder – East Carolina! And last week's answer to the longest coaching tenure in the Big East is Jim Leavitt, who is in his tenth season at the University of South Florida. Duke, it is now time to take our show on the road and face the East Carolina Pirates. This is a critical stretch in our schedule as four out of the next five are on the road, but we must focus on the Pirates and go 1-0 one more time!