Bits and Bytes: WVU - Auburn

It's a Thursday primetime kick, so we offer up our best assortment of informational items and nuggets to help you get ready for WVU's showdown with Auburn.






BlueGoldNews.com Game Scorecard
Series: First Meeting
Thu 10/23/08 7:30 PM
Morgantown WV

Mountaineer Field
Record: 4-2
USA: NR
Last Game
Syracuse W 17-6

TV: ESPN
Radio: Sirius, MSN
Web: BlueGoldNews.com

Record: 4-3
USA: NR
Last Game
Arkansas L 22-25
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2008 Schedule
First Meeting: 2008
Last Meeting: ----
Rosters/Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2008 Schedule

Click for Morgantown, West Virginia Forecast

COLOR CODED

The last time the Mountaineers have lost on a Thursday night at home was on Nov. 25, 1926, when they lost to Washington & Jefferson 13-3. WVU is 32-29-2 (.524) in all time Thursday games.

OK, so that's pretty meaningless. However, it provides an intro to this week's trivia question. Washington & Jefferson was West Virginia's first football rival, and is forever tied to WVU in a simple, but often-overlooked manner. Can you name the tie? Answer, as usual, at the end of this column.

RECENT SUCCESS

Auburn's fifth-year seniors are shooting for a record number of wins over that span. The Tigers have won 42 games over the past four season, and combined with its four wins this year, need five more to set the all-time record of 51. Last year's senior class currently holds the record at 50.

West Virginia could do the same in its record book, as the Mountaineers have 41 wins over the previous four seasons. That gives WVU 45 wins to date, and a chance to set its own school record over that span. The Mountaineers have 15 fifth-year seniors on the roster, including John Bradshaw (OL), Mike Dent (OL), Jake Figner (OL), Chris Glenn (K), Tito Gonzales (WR), Adam Hughes (LS), Mortty Ivy (LB), Dorrell Jalloh (WR), Jim Lewis (LB), Pat Liebig (DL), Stephen Maw (OL), Sammy Morrone (TE), Doug Slavonic (DL), Ryan Stanchek (OL) and Pat White (QB).

CLOSE TO HOME

While the SEC certainly deserves its reputation as a college football powerhouse, there's more to that storyline than team talent. For example, many SEC teams don't venture far from home for non-conference games – if at all. Auburn is a poster child in this regard, as it will be playing its first non-conference road game in five years when it travels to WVU on Thursday. The Tigers' last venture out in such circumstances was a 2003 trip to Georgia Tech.

While all sorts of arguments can be made for such scheduling, there are some negatives too. Taking a road trip to a different venue, to face an unfamiliar foe, is part of the college experience. And while players don't get the chance to sightsee or do a lot on those road trips, they still do get the thrill of playing in a different venue, and seeing a different part of the country.

A couple other interesting notes about this made for TV scrap:

  • It will be the latest non-conference road game for Auburn since a game at Wake Forest on Oct. 27, 1979.

  • Auburn has not played a game as far north as Morgantown this late in the season since a Nov. 22, 1941 trip to face Villanova in Philadelphia, Penn.

    MAKING A STAND

    West Virginia's defense gets wrongly criticized for being a "bend-but-don't break" unit, as if keeping an opponent from scoring is a bad thing. But one stat that you simply can't find a negative in is this one: 9-20. That's the ratio of touchdowns allowed against red zone trips by opposing offense this year.

    Like any stat, this one can be affected by circumstances. Red zone trips don't include touchdowns scored from further than 20-yards away (something we've never been able to logically justify). Game conditions can also force teams to eschew field goals and go for touchdowns. However, there's simply no denying the fact that WVU protects its endzone like King Midas does his gold.

    RETURNS IN FOCUS

    Auburn kickoff returner Tristan Davis is getting ample notice this week for his proficiency in that arena after he set an Auburn single-game record with 182 kickoff return yards against Arkansas. Included in that total was a 97-yard return for a score, the best of his five returns on the evening. However, the player to watch may be senior punt returner Robert

    Dunn, who is averaging an eye-popping 21.4 yards on his nine punt returns this year. Like Davis, Dunn's total is boosted by a long scoring return, this one a 66-yarder against Louisiana Monroe, but remove that from his total and he's still tallying almost 16 yards per return. Davis has also gained at least 17 yards on five of his nine returns. That's like getting a free first down and a half before even starting a drive.

    Many times, a WVU punt is a signal for fans to hit the concession stands and refrigerators. Not this week. Pat McAfee and the WVU punt team will need to use all of the weapons in their arsenal to keep Dunn contained.

    QUADRUPLE THREAT

    Nate Sowers'interception against Syracuse gave him a rare four-cornered career achievment list. The Martinsburg, W. Va. native has now thrown a pass, caught a pass, intercepted a pass and ran for a touchdown in his time at WVU. The last player to do that at West Virginia was North Carolina native Marcus Mauney, who lettered for the Mountaineers from 1972-74.

    TRIVIA ANSWER

    In "Hail West Virginia", the lines:

    "Others may be black or crimson, but for us it's Gold and Blue"

    refers to Washington and Jefferson's colors. If you didn't know that, proceed immediately to this page and learn all of the words to "Hail West Virginia", Fight Mountaineers" and the Alma Mater. Then sing them lustily every chance you get.


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