Royal Review: WVU - Syracuse

West Virginia returned to the victory column with a sound performance against the struggling Orange of Syracuse. The following are my Royal 10 Views of the weekend:

10. One of the beautiful scenes of college football is watching a 300-plus pound lineman smelling the end zone and doing everything in his power to get there, as those opportunities are very rare. ESPN's Chris Berman has a famous line, lifted from Keith Jackson, about "rumbling, bumbling, stumbling", and Keilen Dykes' second quarter interception and 19-yard run for a touchdown had a little of all three.

9. At 11:15 am, just 45 minutes prior to kick-off, the Syracuse student body had 75 students in it – just 75. At the 9:00 minute mark in the 3rd quarter I could have gotten a front row seat there, as most of the students had left the game. The attendance was announced as 35,345, of which 10,000 were disguised as empty seats.

8. It is just unbelievable how the Syracuse program has fallen. Syracuse always seemed to have a great quarterback that you feared, whether it was Don McPherson, Marvin Graves or Donovan McNabb. In two consecutive weekends, we've seen the complete ends of the spectrum having played a thriving, vibrant program in South Florida and a program struggling very badly in Syracuse.

7. It was great to see the Mountaineer Band make it to the Carrier Dome. The Pride took it on the chin on the way to Syracuse, as one of their buses had mechanical problems, resulting in an hour and a half delay. But they made it, and it was great to see Mountaineer Brady Campbell back in the saddle after his absence in Tampa.

6. NFL coaches coming into the college ranks seem to struggle more than other hires, although a couple had early success against WVU. Virginia's Al Groh beat the Mountaineers soundly in the 2002 Continental Tire Bowl by the score of 48-22. Then Maryland's Ralph Friedgen beat West Virginia badly in four consecutive games. But thta string ended when Pitt hired Dave Wannstedt and Syracuse brought Greg Robinson on board.

Dial ahead to 2007 and the NFL coaches are for the most part struggling in the college ranks. With the exception of USC's Pete Carroll (who did lose this weekend to Stanford), Notre Dame's Charlie Weiss, Nebraska's Bill Callahan, Friedgen, Groh, Wannstedt and Robinson have not had great years in the NCAA.

5. Despite having considerable talent on the kick-off coverage teams, WVU continues to give up long returns. Pat McAfee's mixed kick styles aren't producing the desired results, as Michael Holmes ripped off a 64-yard return against the Mountaineers.

4. West Virginia has now proven that it can beat up on the East Carolinas and Syracuses. I cannot wait for the upcoming road battles with Cincinnati and Rutgers. These games are why you follow college football.

3. There seems to be concern about Steve Slaton's lack of production this year. Currently Steve is number 18 in the NCAA with 625 yards, which equates to a 5.6 yards per carry average. Looking at the NCAA leaders, Mike Hart of Michigan has 976 yards with a 5.5 average, Kevin Smith is at 860 yards with a 5.9 average and Eugene Jarvis is number three with 851 yards and a 5.9 average. Arkansas's Heisman Candidate Darren McFadden is number four with 779 yards and a 6.0 average. It seems to me that Steve's lower production is really a function of fewer carries and a young offensive line. Steve carried the ball only one time in the second half against South Florida despite a 4.2 average, and only had 15 carries against Syracuse.

2. Every Mountaineer fan seems to thoroughly enjoy it when Owen Schmitt is running down field with the ball. I just wish I could see the eyes of the defender just before collision.

1. Lastly – it a perfect time in the schedule to have a week off and get healthy. With Patrick White banged up and a slate of six games in 36 days, this break looks to be positioned perfectly to help the Mountaineers prepare for the second half of the season.

Have a good weekend off, and see you in Morgantown the weekend of the 20th!


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