There are no statistical categories for moral victories in NCAA football. Believe me, I looked it up. All that happened on Saturday was that the Mountaineers entered the day with a 5-2 record, and ended it at 5-3. Period, end of story.
And I have a bridge in French Creek to sell you if you buy any of that.
It is great that the Mountaineers don't like that they lost. That shows progress not only in their ability, but in their mental outlook, and in their goal structure. These guys were not celebrating not getting blown out by what may be the best team in the country. They were not happy about losing, period. And that is more progress than you might first think.
But it must be stated that WVU played a very good game. The Mountaineers answered a lot of questions on Saturday, but not all of them. So here are some observations:
* Anyone who thinks this offense would be better without Rasheed Marshall than with him can't see the forest for the trees. On Sunday morning, all I can read and hear is how Rasheed's lack of passing is killing WVU. And there is no doubt that he needs to improve his passing for WVU to make the step to the next level.
I guess nobody noticed WVU rushing for over 350 yards on the 12th ranked defense in the country. I also suppose that nobody noticed that Rasheed ran for 131 yards on Saturday. The final stats say 93, but that includes 38 yards lost on sacks, which is part of the passing game everyone wishes for.
On a side note, WVU is currently running the ball with an efficiency that would make Don Nehlen smile so big he would need plastic surgery to wipe it off his face. This is the same offense that many people, including the football savvy media in this state, said that you couldn't run the ball in less than one year ago. But I digress.
Rasheed turned several plays, that were designed to be passes, into big running plays with his speed and skill. He ran for a touchdown, his eighth of the year, on a play where he was blitzed from the backside made an excellent move to get away, and found nothing between him and the endzone except plastic grass and ground up tires.
He fumbled once and threw a pick with less than a minute to go. Otherwise he played a tremendous game. Yet he is criticized by the fans and the media. He will take it like a man, because that is the nature of the beast that is the quarterback position. And that is why he is a winner.
*Avon Coborne continues to impress out of the backfield. He performances are becoming so common place, that one might be disappointed if he runs for less than 150 yards. But one thing that is going unnoticed by the outside press is the man from Weirton who is backing Avon up.
Rest assured that the teams we have played know who Quincy Wilson is after they leave. And Avon sure knows who he is, because he isn't having to tote the ball 35 times a game anymore. Quincy has turned into a tremendous back at WVU. The man just will not be tackled on first contact. Methinks that WVU may be OK at running back next season.
The defense played a great game on Saturday. How a defense can look good, yet yield over 500 yards to the opposition may seem incongruous. But the Mountaineers were playing smash-mouth football on both sides of the ball on Saturday.
Make no mistake, the pass defense is still struggling, but the run defense stonewalled Miami all day long. Miami was forced to pass, and forced to make adjustments in their passing game, in order to beat West Virginia on Saturday. And even the most die-hard of Mountaineer supporters would not have predicted that on Friday.
* Phil Braxton was excellent on kickoff returns, when he had a chance. It was obvious that wind played a factor in the kicking game on Saturday. All of the kicks, from either team, that went towards the South end of the stadium reached the endzone on Saturday. But the kicks that went towards the North didn't make it quite as far. The return team did an excellent job of blocking for Braxton and avoiding penalties. And Phil hit the holes with abandon, and gave WVU excellent field position on all three of his returns.
* I will go on record as saying that I loved the fake punt call. Maybe if the coaches get a chance to teach the punter to read coverage better, he would have hit a wide open James Davis, instead of throwing the ball where he was instructed to. (Of course I'm joking here.)
The fact remains, he is a punter. He's not a quarterback. You can't expect him to look at three different receivers and find an open man. Not to mention the fact that the receiver whose job it was to go up and get that pass is a safety, and not a receiver by trade. If that play was run against anyone else, it works. Miami has too much speed at every position to get away with one that isn't executed perfectly.
I also want to say a couple of things about the crowd. The people that attended the game on Saturday were excellent. Mountaineer Field was rocking against the ‘Canes. The place was loud. And that is the way it should be. But I was very disappointed in a couple of things.
First the total attendance was pitiful. I don't know what people need to show up for a game in Morgantown anymore, but obviously a 5-2 record and a game against the number one team in the country isn't it.
I was also disappointed in seeing the student section in the upper deck sit half empty in the middle of the first quarter. I guess the parties in the Pit were just too good to break away from. The section filled up as the game progressed, and it was loud, to say the least. But, let's try to get to the game on time. This isn't Dodger Stadium, it's Mountaineer Field.
*I will end with this note. It has been questioned as to whether the current coaching staff at WVU has what it takes to get WVU back to prominence. I have to say that based upon the improvement that I have witnessed this season, they are certainly moving us in the right direction. We don't appear to be ready for prime time yet, but based upon Saturday, October 26, 2002, I think we're much closer than we were at this time last year.
* Well, one more note. Teams we play for the rest of the season had better be ready for more running from the Mountaineers. Because we are coming. And we aren't fooling around.