Sat 10/17/09 3:30 PM
Syracuse W 34-13
TV: Big East Network
Tulane W 31-10
Series: WVU 8-0
First Meeting: 1911
Last Meeting: 2008
FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER…
…or at least in memory, WVU is slated to wear gold jerseys and white pants for a game. We'll wait to reserve judgment on that look until its viewed on the field, but for now it gives us the chance to pose this simple trivia question. Since 2001, what is the only uniform combination in which West Virginia does NOT have a winning record? Answer at the end of the column.
West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart made an off-season priority of making sure WVU was ready to play from the opening whistle after some lackluster starts in 2008. The Mountaineers have responded, outscoring foes by the count of 59-30 in the first quarter. Conversely, Marshall has been outscored 35-17 in the opening quarter, and 87-59 in the first half. (WVU owns a 106-60 opening half advantage.) Last week against Tulane, Marshall scored its first two first-quarter touchdowns of the season.
MANY HAPPY RETURNS
Although the Herd hasn't broken a really long kickoff return yet, it has consistently gotten good yardage from Darius Marshall and Troy Evans, who are averaging 25.3 and 24.0 yards per return, respectively. Coupled with WVU's up and down coverage, this is an area that certainly bears watching in Saturday's game.
The Mountaineers had their best coverage against Syracuse when the ball was kicked deep, even though those kicks had far less hang time than is usually desired on kickoffs. Maybe that's the key for West Virginia's coverage team, which has confounded all efforts to generate consistent coverage over the past year and a half?
Marshall placekicker Craig Ratanamorn is a perfect 7-for-7 on field goal tries and 16-16 on extra points this year. The Marshall kicker is in his second season of college football. He came to Marshall as a goalkeeper for the soccer team and left that program to focus on football last season.
West Virginia fans frustrated with WVU's kickoff woes are no doubt wondering why a similar switch couldn't occur at their school. While it has worked out for the Herd football program, the bet is that the MU soccer coaches can't be too happy with it.
EYE ON THE FIVE…AND TEN
With a 100-yard rushing day, Noel Devine would move into the top five of West Virginia's all-time rushers. Currently eighth with 2,547 yards, Devine stands 61 yards behind Quincy Wilson (2,608), 73 behind Robert Walker (2,620) and 101 away from fifth-place Artie Owens (2,648).
When he reaches that spot, he has a long way to go to move any further up the ladder. Fourth-place Steve Slaton amassed 3,923 yards in his Mountaineer career.
Meanwhile, Jock Sanders currently stands 11th all-time in career receptions at WVU with 106. Another typical day for Sanders could move him into eighth place on that all-time list. Cedric Thomas (110 catches), Darrell Miller and Steve Lewis (111 catches each) hold the three positions above Sanders.
LACK OF BUZZ
There's decidedly less buzz about this game than in previous years, and that downward trend was predictable (at least by us). We've noted that once the newness of the game wore off, it would become much like the basketball game, which has become just another contest for WVU.
Some are trying to put the blame for this decline on the rancor between the two schools over the scheduling issues, and are calling for a halt. At the same time, however, those same people say the game should be played, comparing it to other in-state battles. As usual, they miss the point. If the game is that heated, and should be played, there's going to be conflict and heated opinions. If not, it's just another game, and should have no problem being dropped from the schedule.
Remember, these are the same people that predicted every game would be on national TV and result in huge windfalls of television and outside promotional dollars. Neither has happened.
Since 2001, WVU is just 8-9 when wearing white jerseys and gold pants.