Valley Vistas - Rutgers Game

It's hard to understand how you can be disappointed with a 40-0 win. If we had posted that in the opener against UTC, I think everyone would have been completely satisfied.

Before the kickoff Saturday, more than a few Mountaineer fans were very wary of this Rutgers team. After all, they had played Tennessee tough for half of their game the previous week, and WVU's team spirits were no doubt fragile after the pounding they took from Maryland. Also, it had taken a miracle catch by Phil Braxton on fourth down to give Don Nehlen his 200th win on this same field only two years ago.

By 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, however, we learned that there still are a few things you can count on it college football, and one of them is that Rutgers is bad. So bad, in fact, that even with an emphatic win, a lot of questions remain unanswered about this WVU team.

But I do think that some things emerged from this contest to give WVU fans hope.

* The defense is getting better. Yeah, I know, it was Rutgers. But to hold a team to 90 total yards is pretty darn dominating. Pursuit to the ball doesn't depend on whom you are playing, and the players were flying around again.

* The secondary played better. Yes, Rutgers helped by dropping quite a few balls, but there were a lot of examples of the defender arriving at the same time as the ball, knocking it loose. Naturally, the four picks also was encouraging.

* After a slow start, the offensive line seemed to find itself again, and you could tell they were wearing down Rutgers before the subs started coming in.

* I was really worried about the D line after Ernest Hunter went down, but Fred Blueford, Tim Love, and the rest seemed to fill the void nicely, and David Upchurch was still able to get time at the end position.

* Punting and punt coverage were outstanding. Check the box score – Rutgers had four return yards on 7 punts. FOUR! That is mind-boggling. Mark Fazzolari did a fantastic job burying ‘em deep all day, and put five out of bounds inside the 20. West Virginia enjoyed great field position practically all day.

But there is plenty of fodder for the critics to chew on, even in such a lopsided win.

* Rasheed is still showing big problems with his deep passing. It wasn't the best day to reach any conclusions, since the rain and a strong wind no doubt had a big impact on the play, but some of the misses were overthrows by 10 yards or more.

None of us know the reasons – if the pinky is still a problem, if it is mechanics, whatever. Of course, some want to label Rasheed the next Kordell Stewart instead of the next Major Harris, but it is still much too early in the young man's career to do that.

Rasheed is a smart quarterback who controls Coach Rodriguez's system well, provides a dimension we missed last year with his running ability and (with the exception of Maryland) doesn't make many mistakes.

Some point out that most of WVU's remaining opponents can stuff a one-dimensional offense and force you to beat them through the air. Can WVU provide that dimension? We'll find out soon enough.

* The receivers aren't helping out much. With the possible exception of Cincinnati, the wide outs have not shown an ability to go up and get the ball when it is thrown within reach. Along with the missed passes, there were several that receivers got a hand on and didn't hang onto.

I really do believe that the receiving corps is much improved over last year, but they have not stepped up like we thought they would, and even Miquelle Henderson has faded after a fast start. As mentioned before, most of the games coming up are ones in which the receivers could be the difference, we have to start catching some of those jump balls.

* Play calling, frankly, mystifies me at this point. I understand the desire to not put Rasheed in a lot of second and long and third and long situations, but we have become entirely too predictable on first down. Maybe the coaching staff are saving some things for the big boys, but I have to think we are going to need to throw more on first down in the rest of the games this year.

Again, the conditions probably played a big factor in the play calling Saturday, but we are not achieving anything near a balanced attack in terms of percentage of run to pass.

* We better figure out what to do about the delay blitz, because every team we play from here on out is going to use it against us. Rutgers was able to get to Rasheed a few times, and it was usually on a delay blitz. Of course, Maryland destroyed us with it. It doesn't take much of a defensive wizard to figure out every other team is going to use it against us as well – we can count on it.

All in all, it was an huge but ugly win on an ugly Saturday afternoon. But this is a blue collar team, and they, and the fans, better get used to the idea of taking their wins any way they can get them. Last time I checked, an ugly win is still a win, and WVU is still in the hunt for a bowl bearth.

I'm pretty sure Rutgers wouldn't mind to be winning ugly right about now.


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