10. In less than spectacular fashion West Virginias wins 17-6. The bright spot was Noel Devine, who was fabulous with 18 carries for 188 yards. That included a game-icing 92 yard touchdown run. It was a great way to end the Homecoming Weekend, as West Virginia is now 2-0 in the Big East
9. Overall it was another successful Homecoming.. The Homecoming Parade Friday night was entertaining as always. To me, the highlight is always the Pride of West Virginia, as it starts coming down High Street playing Country Roads. You really don't realize how forceful the Pride is unless you are up close.
After the parade I went to see my high school alma mater, Brooke High School, lose a tough one to University High at their new stadium 20-19. If I have my facts straight, it appears that the new University High School will open this November. Congratulations to the University High students, as you should be very proud of this new facility. The school and football field are top shelf.
WVU also tipped off basketball season with Midnight Madness at the Coliseum. It looks as if that program is still on the rise, with several talented newcomers joining a solid corps of returnees. Even without Joe Alexander, West Virginia could well do some damage in the Big East and NCAA Tournament again this year.
8. I heard a great skit this week on Saturday Night Live called "Really? With Seth and Amy." The skit had their financial analyst Oscar Rogers discussing the financial market crash in the past weeks. As I watched, I thought it could easily be related to the 2008 Mountaineer offense.
Seth: That doesn't sound very promising?
Oscar Rogers: It's not. These people need to fix it. I've been a financial consultant for 16 years and I've never seen it this out of control. They need to clamp it down and fix it. When I wake up tomorrow morning it better be fixed!
Seth: How do we go about fixing it specifically?
Oscar Rogers: Take it one step at a time, identify the problem, fix it! Identify another problem, fix it! Repeat as necessary until it is all fixed!
Seth: You keep saying, "fix it," but how?
Oscar Rogers: Fix it!
Seth: Fix What?
Oscar Rogers: It! It needs to be fixed! Now!
Seth: Any final words, although I do think I know what you are going to say?
Oscar Rogers: Oh yeah, what do you think I'm going to say Seth?
Seth: I don't know, probably…
Oscar Rogers: Fix it! Fix it! Fix it!
Gang, I can relate to this. I don't care if the problem is the new offense, the offensive line or the coaching staff, just fix it. When I wake up tomorrow morning it better be fixed!
7. On a more serious note, I'm worried about the amount of time the defense has spent on the field this in the first half of the season. In WVU's first six games, the Mountaineers have lost the time of possession battle four times. The season totals are West Virginia: 172:55, Opponents: 189:05. This concerns me for two reasons. First, WVU just completed the easier half of the season, and this differential could be increased with the tougher second half schedule. Second, while WVU has depth at the linebacker and secondary positions the health of Scooter Berry and Chris Neild greatly concerns me as these two guys are the guys that must win the battle at the line of scrimmage. If they get banged up (and Berry already is), the defensive efficiency will suffer. If West Virginia can reduce third down conversions while the offense gains a little chemistry, it may be the recipe to rest the defense.
6. West Virginia's opponent's fans always sit in the southeast corner of the stadium and it looked like Syracuse brought about 50 fans to the game. I'm not sure if I've ever seen fewer fans from an opponent. How a school's fans travel has always been a barometer, to me, on the health of program. Whatever the lowest barometer reading is, the Cuse may have reached it.
5. The defense was superb, and congratulations must be extended to the coaching staff for a great game plan and to the players for their execution. The defense simply saved the game for West Virginia. What I like about the defense is that someone new is always stepping up. Today Syracuse was on West Virginia's 43 on 4th and 3, and Julian Miller knocked down a pass to end the drive. It was the second of back-to-back knockdowns by the defensive line, and gave the ball back to WVU in great field position.
4. A couple of weeks ago I said that that Doug Slavonic was the poster boy for persistence. Actually there are two faces on that poster now – the other being Nate Sowers. Nobody has been kicked around as much as Nate, going from quarterback to wide receiver to defensive back. Nate was a force today with four huge tackles including a key interception and two run stops. He also had a key block on a kickoff return, and played an excellent all-around game.
3. West Virginia has now completed half of the season so let's grade the units based upon the first six games. This can be a difficult task when actual results are weighed against expectations.
Offense: I think offense gets a pass on the Syracuse game because Pat White did not play, even though there shouldn't be a significant drop off with Jarrett Brown. The offense clearly has not established any chemistry and this may be attributable to an offensive line that has not dominated as expected, as well as the new offensive wrinkles. With Pat White and Noel Devine, back the offense was certainly expected to score more than it has. Head coach Bill Stewart took some heat for making comments about the lack of offensive production due to the losses of Steve Slaton, Darius Reynaud and Owen Schmitt, but I think he was being open and honest. Grade C+. We just need to fix it!
Defense: With the loss of seven starters from 2007 expectations were low, but this unit has essentially saved the 2008 season. If the defense can reduce opponents' third down conversions, this can be a very good defense. Grade B+
Special Teams: Pat McAfee and Ellis Lankster have been very solid this year. Both of them have blips on the radar such as Pat's missed field goal in OT against Colorado, but both of these guys will be remembered well in Mountaineer history. WVU's kickoff coverage has been spotty at best, but overall the coverage on punts has been good. Grade A-
2. The timing is perfect for a break in the schedule to get this team healthy. West Virginia must get Patrick White healthy for the difficult second half of the season, but Pat isn't the only player that needs some rest. Guys like Scooter Berry and Pat Liebeg also need some time to mend themselves.
1. Lastly, the best sight of the weekend was seeing the Mountaineers dressed in blue jerseys and gold pants.
See you in Morgantown next Thursday, as WVU welcomes the Auburn Tigers from the SEC.