I, for one, am not surprised. Well, maybe a little. But the continual improvement on both sides of the ball, and special teams, is turning this football team into a squad that is now receiving votes for the top 25, and garnering whispers of a win in their next game over Virginia Tech. That's a topic that would have been met with laughter as little as four weeks ago.
A few observations from a beautiful day to watch football in Morgantown:
* It is mind boggling to me as to why people do not come out and watch this football team continue to dismantle opponent after opponent. If you consider yourself a Mountaineer fan, and did not attend the game, and had no legitimate reason not to come, you should be ashamed.
There is plenty of blame to go around. The thing that puzzles me the most is the student section. I am not really surprised by the lack of attendance from BC fans, and the lack of attendance from the fence riders who essentially fill out the top corners of the stadium when we are doing well. BC fans never travel well, and, historically, we have never had good attendance for the BC game. But the student section should be filled for every game. Period. I don't want to hear excuses. I just want to see butts in seats.
Make it a tradition for you and your friends to attend games. Make it a habit. Eventually, when you are 40-year-old alumni, you will appreciate these fall Saturdays when you can get together with your old college buddies and stomp and holler for a few hours. Students, your teams need your support. Your energy is what drives the entire fan base. It was what created the excitement in the stadium in Old Mountaineer Field, and for twenty years in New Mountaineer Field. We need you. Eventually, you will become the long time supporters who bring friends from the towns they live in, and help fill up the corners like the old days.
* Angel Estrada has been on a tear ever since he picked off that pass for a TD in the Rutgers game. De-cleaters seem to be becoming the norm for Angel. It is too bad he just played his last home game in the gold and blue.
* Avon Coborne continues to hammer away at the record books. And in the process, he is helping this team become something that every old time, dirty fingernail coach would be proud of. Selfless, strong, tough as nails, gritty, determined and just plain good. While this team may not have the skill or the talent level of some of the past great Mountaineer teams, it has more character and heart than any to wear the old gold and blue in at least nine years.
* I am really beginning to like the way Quincy runs the ball late in the football game. It has to be really demoralizing to a defense to be run around and over all day by the best runner in Mountaineer history, and then get steamrolled by Quincy in the fourth quarter. I don't care how good the backs we have coming in are, if they plan to get this man off the field, they had better pack a lunch.
* Rasheed Marshall took the day off from running all over people on Saturday and tried out some new concepts. First, he threw the ball very well. It still puzzles me to hear people talking about a couple of bad throws after a performance like what he put on. You don't have to throw for 300 yards when you can run, as WVU has proven every game. Second, Rasheed threw a block that helped Phil Braxton get into the endzone on a reverse play in the second half. Would you like some syrup with that pancake?
* Mo Fofana set the tone for the game with a crushing block on a BC linebacker, who lay on the field like Wile E. Coyote in the Road Runner cartoons. The BC training staff had to call ACME to dig him off the field with a shovel, while Big Moe jumped up and down like a kid in a candy store. From that point on, BC knew they were in for a mouth smacking. And the WVU coaches knew their kids came to play.
* In my opinion, the play that won the game was the field goal block by James Davis at the end of the first half. BC had finally found some success throwing the ball underneath to the tight ends and the running backs, and methodically move the ball downfield, before WVU stopped them for a field goal attempt. With just over a minute to go in the half, BC had an opportunity to cut the lead to one touchdown, knowing they would receive the ball to start the second half. But Davis second snuff of the day swung the momentum back toward the home team at the half.
* Once again, both teams were victimized by what seems to be the normal poor officiating. West Virginia was denied an interception by Grant Wiley when a horrendous pass interference penalty was called on Lance Frazier, when Frazier clearly hit the ball and not the man. Rasheed Marshall was tackled by his facemask on WVU's first touchdown drive, and there was no call. And three times WVU receivers and backs were manhandled when they were well out of bounds, and after the whistle.
* Just a little note for our future opponents. I would think twice before I threw underneath in the direction of Angel Estrada or Grant Wiley.
* Speaking of Grant Wiley, he was seen smashing the quarterback, jumping in the air to deflect passes, drilling ball carriers, serving pizza on the South concourse, selling programs in section 104, giving tax advice in section 117 and discussing politics in Dr. Hardesty's luxury box. We do, however, understand that Grant cannot do everything, so he will not longer be required to hand out pass-out checks under the West stands at halftime. The Big East Defensive Player of the Year should get a little time off every now and then.
* This last note goes out to the Senior Class of 2002. Nobody has had to overcome as much adversity as this bunch of men in gold and blue. They endured a losing season in 1999 when Marc Bulger, now lighting it up for the Rams, was hurt and missed all or parts of six games. They had to live through the turmoil of Don Nehlen's retirement announcement after an emotionally crushing home loss to Syracuse, and the total overhaul of the Mountaineer program under Rich Rodriguez.
To those of you who didn't tuck tail and run when the chips were down, and didn't let a paranoid belittler ruin your college career, my hat is off to you. You have raised the foundation that was laid last year. You have given your younger teammates a vision. You have given your fans reason to hope. And you have made your coach as proud as a peacock.
Now lets go out and finish the job men. Two more games, and WVU could have the Big East Offensive Player of the Year (Avon), Defensive POTY (Grant) and Coach of the Year (Rich).
* OK, maybe one more note to the players. Don Nehlen was hired with two goals: beat Pitt and beat Penn State. Back in those days Virginia Tech was mired in mediocrity, and considered a tough game, but not a rival. We no longer play Penn State, because JoePa wanted nothing to do with the program Nehlen was building.
There are two games on the schedule which mean more to the fans of West Virginia than any other on the schedule. To the fans of the southeastern part of the state, Virginia Tech means as much to them as any game we play. People in the northern part of the state know the hatred for Pitt. The people of the southeastern counties of West Virginia feel that for Tech. Those people will be in the stands next Wednesday. They want this game as bad as any WVU plays. You will hear plenty about the Backyard Brawl in the weeks to come. But the mission now is to go down to Blacksburg and kick some Hokie tail.
* "Get in the Hokie Huddle" is the cry in Blacksburg. And that is just what we intend to do. Except we won't be coming to the huddle to shake hands and make nice. Here come the Mountaineers. With attitude.