Fact Check

Getting on the BlueGoldNews.com message boards this week has literally made me ill. One well thought out comment among 50 quick tempered bashings of everything WVU football simply doesn't excite me. Although every Mountaineer fans has the right to express his or her opinion and debate it with others, I simply don't understand the enjoyment that some get out of their constant negativity.

If watching the Mountaineers only brings about feelings of disgust and hate, then why make that your hobby? Why not go to a movie or take a quilting class? If you can't take pride in the positives that are happening, then why put yourself through the torture each week? If you can't think back to the not so distant 3-8 past and realize how good it feels to be 6-2 and still have a shot at a conference championship, then you are going to spend most of your life feeling disappointed.

But the most glaring thing that makes my blood boil when visiting the board is seeing all of the inaccuracies. It seems as though the posters never let the facts get in the way of a good argument. So with that in mind, I decided it was time for a little fact check. I pulled off some comments from the message boards and compared them to reality. Below are those comparisons.

"Trying to show he isn't RR has pretty much killed the offense. We left the run way too early and never really tried any zone plays. Which was successful in the past against their fast defense."

Really? When was it successful in the past? Rich Rodriguez lost his last two games to South Florida by trying to run the zone over and over and running continuously into a brick wall. Even in the win over the Bulls last year, the Mountaineers managed just 181 yards on the ground. USF has continually stopped the run against WVU, and it was time to try something different, especially after the Mountaineers fell behind by two scores.

As for changing the offense, I have seen comment after comment saying that the Mountaineer coaching staff should not settle for mediocrity. If that is what you believe, then you can't claim that WVU should have stuck with the same plan of attack as it used under Rodriguez. As Pitt proved in spoiling the Mountaineers' shot at a national title, WVU could have won a lot of games with that attack, but it never would have won the big one. There was always going to be a team (USF, Pitt) that was going to sell out to stop it, and the offense had to have an answer.

"I have better bowl expectations than St. Pete, Birmingham, Charlotte, or Toronto. Two years ago we were kicking arse and taking names. Now, these guys act like they are going through the motions and the reward for that is a trip to the Dairy Queen for ice cream."

Right now, this Mountaineer team is 6-2. Guess how many losses WVU had the year it won the Fiesta Bowl? If you answered two, you win the award. Who were those two losses? If you said South Florida and a 4-7 Pitt team, give yourself the bonus points. The two losses this year are to a South Florida squad pretty much equal to the 2007 USF team, if not better, and an Auburn team that is much better than Pitt was in 2007. Both of those 2007 losses came in the Big East, and only one has been in conference play this year. Could it get a lot worse before the season comes to an end? Sure it could. But claiming that the Mountaineers have taken a step backward is way premature. Let the season play out before those comments are made.

As for the bowl games, there was certainly plenty of excitement in 2002 when Rich Rodriguez took his team to Charlotte. It seems as though many have forgotten that WVU did not win ANY bowl game from 1985 until 2000. A win over a strong North Carolina team in the Meineke Car Care Bowl is nothing for which any Mountaineer should be ashamed. There are certainly a lot of teams out there, many with many more resources that WVU, that would have taken that result.

"It's a shame, says a poster on this thread, that Bill Stewart is turning WVU into another Louisville despite the fact that the Mountaineers have so much talent. He is among those saying the Big East needs WVU to remain strong in football."

A Louisville team that won the Big East in 2006 didn't even make a bowl appearance in 2007, its first year under Steve Kragthorpe. Stewart hasn't come close to matching those failures.

> A few more facts before I close out.

  • WVU's coaches spend a minimum of 12 hours a day evaluating their team, breaking down their opponents and studying the game of football. Most of the message board posters spend a few hours a week watching games on TV or at a stadium. The coaches know a little bit more about what is going on than the average fan.

  • No team goes to a BCS bowl game every year. If you can find one, please post it and prove me wrong. BCS appearances are rare. What an informed and realistic fan should expect from a quality program is to play in a BCS game once every few years and avoid falling to the bottom in the off years. WVU has done that.

  • Twenty-one games into his head coaching stint at WVU, Bill Stewart has the best record of any coach in school history over that span.

  • Before anybody goes spouting off about what he inherited, please remember that Rodriguez had the Big East's all-time rushing leader (Avon Cobourne) a future Big East Offensive Player of the Year (Rasheed Marshall) and he was playing against a watered down Big East. His records those first two years: 3-8 and 9-4. His record eight games into his second season: 5-3.

  • Bill Stewart has put together one of the best coaching staffs in the country, and they have recruited better than at any time in Mountaineer history. Many of those recruits are still working their way into the fold. Right now, the staff is still trying to overcome the lack of recruiting on the offensive and defensive lines and on the defensive side of the ball as a whole under Rodriguez. The skill players were in the mix, but the meat and potatoes were ignored. The attrition that occurred under Rodriguez's watch is still playing a factor as well – just as it is at Michigan.

  • West Virginia still has a shot at winning the Big East and playing in a BCS bowl if it wins its final four games.

  • Jarrett Brown may be a senior, but he has the experience of a sophomore, at best. At times, that is how he has played.

  • Play calling usually doesn't lose games. Lack of execution on those plays almost always does.

  • All 119 teams in the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision are trying to win games. Very few of them go undefeated. Upsets occur every week, and sometimes the better team loses.

  • Virginia Tech has already lost three games this year, including two in a row. Is Frank Beamer running that program into the ground?

  • West Virginia gets one or two players a year on a good year out of its home state that are capable of playing football at the FBS level. WVU does not have the financial resources that are found at schools like Notre Dame, Michigan, Clemson, South Carolina, Oregon and others. Ask any of those schools if they would like to trade their results over the last few years with the results of the Mountaineers. You would get some pretty quick yes responses. What WVU has been able to get out of the resources that it has is simply amazing. It's something Mountaineers should enjoy and celebrate with pride.

  • Fans who point out the positives in a 6-2 record are not underachievers, and they do not set their goals low and accept mediocrity. They simply realize how the game of college football works and choose to stand behind their team and their coach.

  • Athletic department officials who have been around the game for most of their lives are not going to make decision based on what is said on message boards. Young, impressionable recruits might.

    And my final fact ...

  • I am fully aware that many readers will rip me for this column, and it likely won't change a whole lot of minds. I have to admit, though, it sure feels good to get it off my chest.

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