The View From 217 - Pitt Edition

Few things in Mountaineer sports are as satisfying as winning a tough game over a ranked Pitt team, in Heinz Field, in front of the second largest crowd in Pitt history.

And any one of the thousands of Mountaineer fans who made the trip into the Steel City and braved the cold, strong wind and mix of rain and snow to watch WVU break a two game losing streak to Pitt will tell you that this one was fun.

9-3, 6-1 in the Big East. Wow.

Wherever the Mountaineers go bowling, be it Jacksonville, Charlotte or Phoenix, WVU is going to bring a team that just seems to get better and better with every game.

My observations, from the press box at the big ketchup bottle on the banks of the Three Rivers.

* Once again, WVU ran the ball successfully on a team that was determined to load the box to stop the run. The offensive line will never get the credit it deserves for the performance they have put on this season, but game in and game out, the unheralded earth movers in the trenches continue to create space for what is quite possibly the best team backfield in Mountaineer history.

* Ben Collins was all over the field on Saturday. Two fumble recoveries, four tackles, and a pass break up on the game's deciding play. And he doesn't get our defensive player of the game.

* Brian King once again had a tremendous day in the defensive backfield. Three tackles, three pass break ups, and the interception at the goal line at the end of the first half.

* Rasheed Marshall's 79 yard touchdown completion to Phil Braxton was a thing of beauty. This was by far the best pass Marshall has thrown in a game, and Braxton never broke stride as the completion/reception was the career long for both players.

* The reverse played a great part of the Mountaineer offense on Saturday. Travis Garvin ran two times for thirty yards. Phil Braxton ran a reverse for a short gain. But the play of the day had to be the end around to Danny Embick. The Mountaineers didn't clean out the playbook on Pitt, but in this case, they sure dusted off a heretofore unseen play. Embick took the pitch, and turned and threw back to a wide open Marshall for 25 yards.

Head coach Rich Rodriguez noted that the reverses are a counter to opponents that are loading up against Rasheed Marshall runs. When the defense follows Marshall on what appears to be a quarterback sweep, the reverse goes back against the flow. In addition to gaining yardage, it also has the effect of making the backside defensive end stay at home to check the reverse option. That gives Rasheed more room to cut back when he does keep the ball.

* What most people didn't see on that play was Phil Braxton wide open down the middle on the play. There wasn't a Pitt defender within 10 yards of Phil. Somehow I think we may see that play again.

* Danny Embick may be the best punter on the team. Something has to be done about the punting situation, before it costs the team a ballgame. The Mountaineer running game consistently created a field position advantage for the Mountaineers, and the punting game didn't take advantage of it once until Embick's punt before the final drive.

* Todd James' 42 yard field goal in the first half was a thing of beauty. In a football stadium that has earned a reputation for chewing up kickers like Christmas cookies, James' kick into the wind would have been good from 50.

* Avon Cobourne is just amazing.

* Quincy Wilson cannot be a welcome sight to a defense that is tired of chasing Avon and Rasheed all over the field.

* I was really puzzled at some of the defensive formations that allowed Larry Fitzgerald to run free in the secondary. I was especially perplexed to see a safety on him in man coverage on his last TD reception.

* I was also puzzled by Pitt's lack of attempting the fade pass to Fitzgerald on that last series. The fade pass has become a staple of Pitt's offense between Rutherford and Fitzgerald. Perhaps the Pitt coaches felt the wind was too strong at that point?

* Heinz Field is an excellent facility. But the parking there is a joke. There are several huge parking lots around both the football and baseball stadiums, yet none of these lots are available for game day purchase. I see what Pitt averages in attendance, and there is no way that they have sold 40,000 parking spaces in advance. We had to park in a parking garage on the other side of PNC Park, which is about a half a mile from Heinz. And many fans parked much further than that.

* I hate Pitt, but Coach Walt Harris was nothing but class in his comments after the game, in reference to West Virginia, and his own team.

"This is the way that a rivalry game should be," Harris said after the tough loss. "It should be a packed crowd. It was packed. It was loud. I'm sorry we didn't come through for the fans. We can match up with any other team, facility wise, but when the guys come to the game (recruits) - it's the atmosphere. This is the way the Backyard Brawl should be."

* Someone should tell Coach Harris that the Mountaineer fans don't feel let down.

* I also got a large kick out of the announced attendance. The attendance was announced as 66,731 in 65,000 seat Heinz Field. It was announced as Pitt's second largest game in history, and the largest crowd in Heinz Field history. At least seven thousand of those people came to the game dressed as chairs.

Attendance figures are always a combination of tickets sold and game workers in attendance, not just a tally of fannies in the seats. It's something every school does, but it's misleading.

* Heinz Field got high marks for its press box food presentation. But it got low marks for the food. The smoked salmon was excellent, but the potatoes were undercooked, and the noodles with the beef tips were not done. But, the price was right.

* On the other hand, the lasagna in the Jerry West lounge during the WVU-James Madison basketball game was excellent.

* Notre Dame's loss to USC seems to have really thrown WVU's bowl picture into limbo. Once again, the school who is too good to be in the conference, yet needed the Big East to get its basketball program out of the garbage heap, needs to be a parasite to the Big East bowl opportunities. Here is my vote for giving Notre Dame their final ultimatum. In or out. All or none. Keep your NBC contract. You either join up in football, or your other programs can take the train.

* Either way, WVU is going bowling. Somewhere. See you there.

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