Royal Review: WVU-MSU

West Virginia's 38-13 win over Mississippi State was just one of the highlights of an excellent homecoming weekend on the Mountaineer campus.

Homecoming weekend was topped off by one of the best first quarters that I can remember. The following are my Royal 10 Views of the weekend:

10. The homecoming weekend was fun as always, including the Friday night Homecoming Parade. The bands are always a feature, including numerous high school and middle school bands, the WVU Alumni Band and of course The Pride of West Virginia. Men's basketball coach Bobby Huggins served as the Grand Marshal. Also on Friday night the twentieth-ranked men's soccer team beat #1 UConn in an exciting 1-0 match.

The weekend at WVU was a major contrast to the Syracuse game, where the Friday night before the contest was dead. You wouldn't know there was a game scheduled for the next day. Morgantown was the complete opposite Friday night as the University City was buzzing, and traffic was in complete gridlock.

9. As a Mountaineer fan you only need two rules. Rule Number 1: The Mountaineers are your favorite team. Rule Number 2: Your second favorite team is whoever is playing Pitt. It is a little confusing for me to understand why a Mountaineer would want Pitt to beat the University of Cincinnati, yet when P.A. announcer Travis Jones reported the final score, many fans cheered that Pitt beat Cincinnati 24-17. I would think West Virginia fans would want Cincinnati to be ranked as highly as possible, so that when the Mountaineers play them it counts as a nice win.

8. It was interesting to see some of the changes made during the break, including new starters Selvish Capers on the offensive line and Chris Neild on the defensive line. Those changes brought good, if not spectacular, results.

7. My initial impression of UConn's 5-0 football record was they weren't very good, as they hadn't played anybody. However, the Huskies played well over their last two games, dropping a tough game at #19 Virginia by the score of 17-16, and then defeating Louisville on Friday night. (Yes, that is still an accomplishment.) South Florida had better be careful next week in East Hartford, or they'll be experiencing a two-game losing streak.

6. It was a good decision by head coach Rich Rodriguez to pull Patrick White from the contest once it was decided, thus, preventing any additional hits to a banged-up player. The game was essentially over, and there isn't a need for him to rack up stats. It is all about the wins at this point, and the team is in good hands when led by Jarrett Brown.

It was also good to see Rodriguez getting Steve Slaton his 20-25 carries. When you have a great back like Steve he must carry the ball 20-25 times in order to get into rhythm. Rodriguez said as much

5. Johnny Dingle is becoming a big play guy on defense. I still believe that Keilen Dykes is the man, but Dingle has an ability to get to the quarterback that I haven't seen in Morgantown since Gary Stills. He is turning the corner very well on pass plays, and even when he doesn't get the sack he often disrupts the play.

4. West Virginia is also getting some very nice play from defensive backs Antonio Lewis, Larry Williams and Ryan Mundy. I can't recall seeing as many broken up passes as I have seen in the past 2-3 games. It is also good to see Lewis and Williams playing well, as they have taken some significant heat from fans in the past couple years. Both have said they feel more comfortable this year, and credit the experience of the past couple of seasons with giving them more confidence.

3. It is enjoyable watching the reaction of teammates when a player makes a big play. When Marc Magro came back to the bench after his interception and return, his teammates were more exuberant than usual. There's obviously a great deal of respect for Magro, who is one of the hardest working Mountaineers in memory.

2. Congratulations to Steve Slaton on breaking the record for most career rushing touchdowns. West Virginia has been blessed with a number of impressive running backs, going all the way back to Ira Rodgers, continuing through Garrett Ford, Jim Braxton, and Artie Owens, and on to the present day's Avon Cobourne, Amos Zereoue, Quincy Wilson, Adrian Murrell, but none have scored as many times on the ground, or as quickly, as Slaton.

The record is even more impressive considering the fact that Slaton isn't West Virginia's only touchdown maker. White, Owen Schmitt and Darius Reynaud also get their share of scoring chances.

1. Lastly – it is an understatement to say there is a lot riding on the game next Saturday at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights will be sky high following their huge win over South Florida last Thursday, and their stadium figures to be a snakepit for the visiting Mountaineers next weekend. As Marty Brennaman of the Cincinnati Reds says, "This will be a titanic struggle!" It should be fun – see you at the birthplace of college football on Saturday!


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