Here are my Royal 10 Views of the weekend:
10. West Virginia's kickoff package has to give opponents fits. Pat McAfee either kicks it deep to the end zone, pooches it around the 25-yard line, or hits the line drive bouncer. Coach Rodriguez will use any of the three at practically any time. WVU has surrendered a couple long returns (e.g. Marshall), but eventually this unpredictability will pay off. I really don't believe that kicking the ball from the 30-yard line (back from the 35-yard line in previous years) has had as big of an effect as Coach was worried about.
9. Staying with the kicking game, a bad sign for any team is when your punter is the best player for that day. That being said, East Carolina's punter, Matt Dodge, was outstanding. He punted seven times for 327 yards, yielding a 46.7 average. Dodge's stats do not really capture his outstanding punts as they were long and high – and may I say, majestic.
8. I'm not sure which stat I'm the most giddy about – Pat White's 18-of-20 passing for 181 yards, rolling up 599 total yards of offense, yielding only 160 yards on defense or three penalties for 35 yards. Maybe that they all happened in one game is the very best story.
7. There are two things that I miss from last year – (1) Danny Buggs strolling the West Virginia sidelines and (2) the rapper 6-6 240 who had had a different version of the "The Blue N Gold Song" for each game.
6. With 4:18 to go in the first quarter, West Virginia had three flags on one play – (1) a block in the back, (2) holding and (3) another block in the back. First, I cannot remember a single West Virginia play ever drawing that many flags. Second, it probably works out well for the players to get their flags in bunches, as it divides Coach Rodriguez's wrath.
5. It appears to me that Steve Slaton's style of running has changed just a bit this year. It looks like he is running with more power and looking for contact and perhaps with a bit less swivel. Peeling the onion a couple layers, is it due to new linemen or blocking schemes or is it by design? I'd like to see a bit more swivel. Steve still made some terrific moves on Saturday, but is something different from last year?
4. Wes Lyons' block was truly a "decleater." I was hoping that Coach Rodriguez would throw him a bone by getting him a reception.
3. On the drive home I was listening to the Michigan State-Notre Dame game and the radio analyst referring to Notre Dame's lack of depth said, "A sign of a championship team is depth." Assuming this to be true statement then West Virginia is a championship caliber team. The depth at nearly every position is incredible. Against East Carolina eight players ran the ball and eight players caught at least one ball and many others saw the field. Other than the defensive line, I feel that WVU is very deep at every position. Against East Carolina defensive linemen Thor Merrow and Doug Slavonic saw considerable playing time giving Keilen Dykes an opportunity to rest, and Mike Bilokonsky even saw the field. Going down the home stretch we'll have a fresh team.
2. When NFL commentators analyze Troy Aikman, Marc Bulger and Carson Palmer they often say that these quarterbacks throw a "nice ball, a catchable ball." Their definition of a catchable ball is that it has just the right amount of velocity with a tight spiral, and that the ball leads the receiver so he doesn't have to break stride. In analyzing Pat White, I believe that he throws a nice ball - a very catchable ball. Unless he is being leveled, his passes have nice touch and normally always lead the receiver. Besides Marc Bulger, Pat White throws as nice a pass as any previous West Virginia quarterback. Perhaps my memories of Marc are slightly enhanced by his fine professional career.
1. Lastly - we are one victory closer to playing the University of Southern California Trojans on January 7th in New Orleans.
See you in South Florida Friday – and be sure to bring your gold!