Bits & Bytes: West Virginia - Pitt

It's just hours until the Brawl kicks off, and the anticipation is thick from the Steel City to the hills around Morgantown. Here are some final notes and items of interest to keep you from exploding before kickoff






BlueGoldNews.com Game Scorecard
Series: Pitt 59-36-3
Thu 11/6 7:30 p.m.
Pittsburgh, Pa.

Heinz Field
Record: 8-1
USA/Coaches: 8
Last Game
UC W 42-24

Click for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Forecast
Record: 6-4
USA/Coaches: N/A
Last Game
UConn L 45-46
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2006 Schedule
First Meeting: 1895
Last Meeting: 2005
Rosters/Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2006 Schedule

POLL POSITION

With its move to number eight in last week's BCS rankings, the Mountaineers established a new school standard for consecutive weeks in the top ten. West Virginia has now been in the Top 10 for 13 consecutive weeks, breaking the old mark of 12 straight it set in 1988. Those are the only two double-digit streaks in WVU history.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

In addition to Morgantown and Pittsburgh, the Backyard Brawl has been played in two other cities. Can you name them? Answer at the end of this column.

OUCH!

In my column for the Blue & Gold News following the Louisville game, I detailed the medical woes of some of our staffers, especially Chris, who we have dubbed "The Elephant Man" for his many ailments. You can't say that Chris isn't doing everything he can to reverse the trend that resulted in the Louisville loss, however. His physical therapy regime includes something called "Russian therapy" which sounds to me like large Eastern European women doing squat thrusts on recalcitrant body parts.

Apparently that wasn't it, however, so Chris attempted to educate me. But when he got to the phrase "electrical shocks", I shut it down. Sometimes, it's better not to know.

ROADBLOCK

West Virginia is averaging 101.2 fewer rushing yards per game on the road than at home this year. What's causing the drop from 363.2 yards at Mountaineer Field to "just" 262.0 awa from Milan Puskar Stadium? There could be a few causes.

The first is that East Carolina and Mississippi State, two road opponents, match up well with the Mountaineer offense. Neither team is particularly good against the pass, but both have good second level defenders that get to the ball quickly and tackle extremely well. Also, Connecticut took some gambles in selling out to stop the run – a strategy that worked well for a while.

Or could it be the turf factor? There's not much arguing that Patrick White and Steve Slaton run better on artificial surfaces, which give them better traction for their lightning fast cuts and quick bursts when they see gaps in the defense. Slaton slipped a couple of times at East Carolina, a sandy track that was in good shape, but still not the same as WVU's speedy artificial surface. (Warning for the upcoming game: The fields of WVU's road foes to date, as compared to Pitt's surface, are akin to the Swedish Bikini Team standing next to Ugly Betty.)

Some of it could be mental as well. The comfort of playing at home is surely a psychological advantage, and perhaps that little missing edge has been enough to put West Virginia slightly out of sync.

UP THE CHARTS

Steve Slaton currently stands sixth on West Virginia's all time rushing list, but it won't be long before the scintillating sophomore is in third place. With 2,491 yards, Slaton trails Quincy Wilson by 117, Robert Walker by 129 and Artie Owens by 157.

After that, however, it's a long trip to the top pair of Avon Cobourne (5,164 yards) and Amos Zereoue (4,086). If Slaton wants the WVU record, he will in all likelihood have to play four years at West Virginia to get it. That, of course, is a discussion for another day.

Slaton is, however, within reach of the WVU sophomore rushing record, held by Zereoue with 1,589 yards. Slaton has 1,363 yards, and has four more games this year in which to pile up the necessary 227 yards to snare the mark.

ROAD WARRIORS

The visiting team has won 11 of the last 19 games in the Backyard Brawl. While one would think that the home team would be getting a big boost from its fans in this emotional rivalry, perhaps a different dynamic is at work here. Going on the road, there's a "circle the wagons" mentality at play – an "us against the world" outlook. While a few thousand fans from the visiting team are usually in attendance, perhaps there is something of an advantage for a team that blocks everything out in a hostile road environment to accomplish the task at hand. Or maybe, it's just the luck of the draw.

WHITE HOT

Patrick White already holds two records at West Virginia. Among quarterbacks with at least 100 passing attempts, White has the highest completion percentage at 62.3%. White has also already established the single season rushing record for quarterbacks with 952 yards last year – and will soon become the only Mountaineer QB with 1,000 rushing yards in a season, as he needs just 168 more this year to surpass that barrier.


ANSWER: Wheeling and Fairmont were the hosts for the first two games of the series. West Virginia won in shutouts in both, which means it might be time for a return engagement.


BlueGoldNews Top Stories