The Kinder Garden - 8/22/02

I'm putting you on the coaches' hot seat this week.

As two a day football practices, I've started thinking about the season ahead.

But before I start with that thought (see, I've already gotten distracted), I have to say that I'm amazed at how injuries get written off or characterized as "minor" by the traditional media and some fans.

Lew Daniels gets a concussion -- a concussion! -- and we say 'it's minor, he'll be back in a few days'. Jeff Berk breaks his hand, most likely from having it squeezed like a grape in a vise between a couple of helmets, and he's back practicing the next day.

My thinking is that injuries are only minor if they happen to someone else.

OK, on to the season. And here's your challenge. August 31st. Mountaineer Field. There's five minutes to go in the third quarter, and WVU is comfortably ahead of UTC.

DISCLAIMER: I am not predicting that the Mountaineers are going to pound the Mocs. I am just offering it as a hypothesis. Back to the scenario.

You're Coach Rod. WVU just got the ball back. Do you play Rasheed, or do you send in Danny Embick to get some experience? Rasheed needs experience too -- he's not exactly overloaded with minutes yet. And next week, he's going to be facing a slightly tougher task.

On the other hand, Danny has zero experience. He has the talent to play. You don't want him coming in cold off the bench for his first college snap against Wisconsin or Miami.

In my best Dennis Hopper impersonation: "Pop quiz, hotshot. What do you do? What do you do?"

SECOND DISCLAIMER: Shooting one of the QBs, as Keanu Reeves did to his partner in the movie Speed, is not allowed.

It's a tough call. Is there a right answer? I don't know. But I do need to know, as we all do, before the situation arises, so we know what to yell from the stands and sidelines.

You convince me - post your answers and thoughts for discussion.

* * *

One other thought about the UTC game. Many people are overlooking this game and saying that the Wisconsin game will really tell us how much WVU has improved from last year.

While that may be true on one level, there's one place that the UTC game could provide a good indicator, and that's the final score.

I went back to 1980, and looked at the first early "easy" game on the schedule. Most years that was the first game - in some we opened with Oklahoma or Pitt, so I had to move down the schedule a game or two. And what I found was interesting.

In those seasons where WVU was "successful" (at least eight wins, plus the 7-3-1 season of 1985), the Mountaineers defeated their "less challenging" opponent by an average score of 45.6 to 9.5. In those seasons, WVU went on to average 8.7 wins against 2.8 losses.

In the "not so good" seasons (six wins or fewer, plus a couple of seven win years where the record was near .500), West Virginia only outscored those teams by an average of 32 to 18.9. The won-loss record wasn't pretty, yielding an average of 5.2 wins and 6.1 losses per year.

Of course, this is all mathematical horse hockey, but it's entertaining mathematical horse hockey. And there is a germ of truth under all those numbers. WVU needs to build confidence in the first game by rolling up some points and making some big plays. If they can do that, it could set the stage for some later successes. If the Mountaineers struggle with the Mocs, though, it could indicate a bit of a bumpy ride in 2002.

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