August 12, 2008

2008: Grading the non-conference schedules


We've created a vicious cycle in college football. Sure we all love the fact that just about every game is on TV nowadays. And because coaches and athletic directors want their teams to look good on TV, so they schedule a lot of limp fish opponents. Because wins beget bowl games. Bowl games begets job security. Job security begets more money. Thus, more money is insured by wins. You spin me right round baby right round, like a record.

No longer do college football teams across the country take chances. Or, well, rarely do they. Have you noticed how boring Septembers have become, except for the occasional Appy State upset of Michigan or Ohio State showdown with Texas?

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January 03, 2008

Over for a while already, now it's official

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Sooner fans will be wondering why it has to end like this year after year after. But the feel-good story of Wednesday night's Fiesta Bowl game has to be interim coach Bill Stewart.

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January 02, 2008

Now it's a shootout

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Don't blink. You might miss a Sam Bradford touchdown pass. Or, more likely, you'll miss another coast-to-coast jaunt from the Mountaineer of your choice.

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The big question

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Oklahoma just scored. The Sooners went on an 80-yard march. Went for two, missed. West Virginia leads 20-15 and it appears clear, the more capable team is finally coming forward. Just maybe, OU will pull this game out. But it will mean ending all the steps backward.

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Fiesta Bowl halftime report

GLENDALE, Ariz. — While attending media scarf down frozen goodies and hot dogs (nothing but the best at the BCS bowls), one has to wonder what kind of tact Bob Stoops is taking in the halftime locker room with his Sooners, who just played their worst half of football this season, at least among halves in which Sam Bradford went the distance behind center.

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It's picking up

GLENDALE, Ariz. - The Fiesta appears to be waking up from its siesta. Still, West Virginia can do this all night long.

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Slogging along

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Updates across the board ...

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Sooners fortunate to only trail 6-0

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Pat McAfee just kicked his second field goal and that's the good news for Oklahoma.

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Sooner losses more than previously known

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Although it had been reporter Oklahoma wide receiver Malcolm Kelly had sustained a thigh bruise not long after the Sooners had arrived in Arizona, it wasn't thought to be serious. Well, think again.

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Welcome to the dome with the hole in the top

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Soon the only game on today's college football schedule will kick off. Oklahoma and West Virginia, No. 3 and No. 11, meet at the Fiesta Bowl inside University of Phoenix Stadium. And for a game that might seem to be of little consequence beyond the season's final polls - assuming LSU and Ohio State don't play a 3-0 overtime snorefest thus opening the door for an Associated Press national champion other than the Tigers and Buckeyes - one gets the feeling it has real significance to both teams. Perhaps historical significance to both teams.

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December 01, 2007

Pitt stuns No. 2 WVU

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The impossible happened.


In a college football season that defies belief or explanation, another upset has thrown the national picture into disarray.

No. 2 West Virginia, a 30-point favorite, was upset at home by unranked Pittsburgh, 13-9, in the 100th Backyard Brawl before a stunned sold-out crowd.

The Mountaineers needed to win to have a chance to advance to the BCS championship game.

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WVU fighting for its life

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- No. 2 West Virginia, playing with its starting quarterback Patrick White out since the middle of the second quarter with a dislocated thumb on his right hand, was looking an upset in the eye after three quarters of the 100th Backyard Brawl.

The 4-7 Pitt Panthers, 28 1/2-point underdogs, led 10-7 after three quarters.

The Mountaineers (10-1) needed a victory to have a chance to advance to the BCS championship in New Orleans on Jan. 7.

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Brown provides WVU with spark

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. -- Just when it appeared that entire season's work was about to go for nothing, reserve quarterback Jarrod Brown came off the bench and gave West Virginia's No. 2-ranked Mountaineers a spark that allowed them to take a 7-3 lead over Pittsburgh at halftime of the 100th Backyard Brawl.

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The curse of No. 2

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- One game from a date for the national championship and favored by more than four touchdowns, West Virginia University found that the 100th Backyard Brawl against Pittsburgh was not going to be any walkover.

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Mountaineers go for it all

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. -- West Virginia football coach Rich Rodriguez spent the entire week trying to convince his team that the game they were about to play Saturday night on their home field was just like any other game they'd ever played.


And the birth of your first born child is just like any other day you've ever spent. Graduation day is like any other day. The day Ed McMahon knocks on your door with a check for $1,000,000 is just like any other day, too.

Folks, if this weren't for a shot at the national title in New Orleans on Jan. 7 this would not have been like any other game West Virginia had played.

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November 24, 2007

WVU wins Big East title

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The Big East title safely tucked away in a championship rout of Connecticut, West Virginia University's third-ranked Mountaineers stand one victory away from the BCS championship game.

Using their speed and depth and a heroic performance from quarterback Patrick White, who is running his way into the Heisman Trophy race, the Mountaineers ran around and through UConn to take their fourth title in the last five years by a rather ridiculous 66-21 score before a sellout crowd of 59,701 at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium.

With No. 1 LSU having been upset by Arkansas, 50-48, in triple overtime on Friday night, WVU is in line to play for the national title if it can win the 100th renewal of the Backyard Brawl against Pitt next Saturday night.

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UConn caught in WVU speed trap

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia University took a big step -- and a very fast one -- toward the BCS championship game Saturday as the Mountaineers caught Connecticut in a speed trap and raced to a 66-14 victory in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated.

The victory clinched WVU's fourth Big East championship in the last five years, but more important put it at the doorstep of the championship game.

WVU previously had two shots at a potential national title, first in 1988 when it lost to Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl and tghen in 1993 when it lost to Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Both times the Mountaineers were undefeated entering the game.

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WVU speeds toward title

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia turned on the speed in the second half and was on the verge of winning it's fourth Big East title in five years, leading Connecticut, 52-14, before a sellout crowd at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium early in the fourth quarter.

A victory over Pitt next week in the annual Backyard Brawl would launch WVU into the BCS championship game, thanks to Arkansas' 50-48 upset of No. 1 LSU on Friday night.

Both Patrick White and Noel Devine had gone past 100 yards, White reaching a season high with 186 yards through the third quarter. White had run for two touchdowns and passed for one. Steve Slaton added two touchdowns while Darius Reynaud and Devine, a true freshman, had one each.

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WVU closes in on Big East title

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia moved to within a half of the Big East championship as it shook off an early Connecticut touchdown to snatch a 24-14 halftime lead before a sold out crowd at Milan Puskar Stadium at Mountaineer Field.

The winner of the game would win the Big East title. With Arkansas' stunning 50-48 upset of No. 1 LSU in triple overtime on Friday night, WVU is in position to play in the national championship game with victories over Connecticut and arch-rival Pitt in next Saturday's Backyard Brawl.

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WVU fights back

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Stunned when Connecticut went 93 yards with its opening drive to take a 7-0 lead in a game that had the Big East championship riding on it, West Virginia's third-ranked Mountaineers came roaring back with a pair of touchdowns to grab a 14-7 at the end of the first quarter Saturday before a sellout crowd at Mountaineer Field.

Arkansas' triple overtime upset of No. 1 LSU on Friday night opened the door for WVU to give them a chance at making it to the BCS championship game by beating UConn and arch-rival Pitt in next week's Backyard Brawl.

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A wild beginning

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia University's No. 3-ranked football team, given a shot to reach the national championship game thanks to Arkansas' thrilling triple overtime victory over LSU on Friday night, was stunned early by a University of Connecticut early, roared back on its first possess to score and tie the game that will decide the Big East championship, 7-7.

Uconn put together one of the strangest drives of the season on its first possession, overcoming three penalties. Starting at its own 7, UConn went 93 yards withoiut so much as facing a third down.

The touchdown was scored by Brad Kanuch when he latched onto a 6-yard TD pass from quarterback Tyler Lorenzen.

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WVU being hogish about BCS

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. -- It was a Friday night here and, as is normal on the night before a football game, the bars around town were filled to capacity, as were the patrons.

True, the West Virginia University students were off on Thanksgiving break, but the town had filled up with fans preparing to celebrate a football victory over Connecticut that would clinch the Big East championship and a BCS bid, but nothing more.

Oddly,though, the cries in the bars were not "Let's Go" ... "Mountaineers", as WVU fans often chant, one side of the room shouting the former, the other side replied with the latter. Those cries, though, had given way to "Soo-ey, Pig, Pig, Pig."

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November 18, 2007

WVU escapes late scare

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November 17, 2007

Spreading the wealth

CINCINNATI -- They are the new kids on the block, upstarts in the world of big time football, these Cincinnati Bearcats who have crashed the Top 25 and are looking to crash what was supposed to be West Virginia Big East Conference championship season.

Oddly, they are mirror images of each other, although it sometimes seems to be one of those fun house mirrors that distort images. They both, for example, run out of the spread offense, but West Virginia's has evolved into a running offense centered around quarterback Patrick White that ranks third nationally. Cincinnati'sdiffers in that it relies more on the passing of quarter Ben Mauk.

The coaches, too, have followed similar paths to the top, starting at the lowest levels of college football, WVU's Rich Rodriguez at Salem and then Glenville State and U.C.'s Brian Kelly at Grand Valley State and Central Michigan.

They are alike, too, in their ability to sell their program and inspire players.

Rodriguez has proved this by the way his team risen to the top of the college football, winning 30 of its last 34 games. As for Kelly, he has done it at Central Michigan and Cincinnati.

"He's a salesman, is what he is," said Grand Valley State Coach Chuck Martin, who worked under Kelly at the school. "I remember at Central Michigan, someone asked him how long the rebuilding cycle would be. He said, 'About 10 seconds.'"

Now he has Cincinnati thinking it can play in a BCS bowl and win the Big East, but first it must find a way to beat WVU, the nation's No. 5 team.

November 09, 2007

All that glitters ...

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November 08, 2007

The Gold Rush

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A not-so-instant replay?

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Two years ago the Louisville Cardinals came to West Virginia to face a Mountaineer football team that was on the verge of becoming a national contender, but that was missing the explosiveness that was necessary.

It discovered that explosiveness in this game as WVU unveiled both running back Steve Slaton and quarterback Pat White. Trailing 28-7 with less than 10 minutes to play, White engineered an incredible rally after replacing injured Adam Bednaric that took the game into three overtimes with the Mountaineers winning, 46-44.

Slaton, who had never before started a game, scored six touchdowns and rushed for 188 yards.

"That was the beginning for me," Slaton said as he completed preparations for Thursday's night's nationally televised meeting that figured to have a strong bearing on the Big East championship picture.

It was a game Louisville Quarterback Brian Brohm could not forget, either, as he was stopped by WVU's Eric Wicks on the goal line as he tried to scramble for a two-point conversion to tie the game.

"I remember everythning about that play," Brohm said. "It was a five-wide set, 2-point play. The three inside guys went across the goal line and turned around and we had two end cuts in the back. West Virginia covered it up and I tried to run and tghe linebacker got me at the 1. Yeah, I remember that play pretty well."

Now Brohm is a senior and his Louisville team is in dire straits, standing at 5-4, 2-2 in the Big East but riding a three-game winning streak. Slaton and White are juniors ahd have led WVU to a 7-1 record, 2-1 in the conference and a No. 6 natioinal ranking.

October 27, 2007

Rutgers sees stars .... named Slaton and White

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Slaton, White cook Rice, Rutgers

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Stuffed Rice

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Turns out that all those people who thought that this game between West Virginia's 7th-ranked Mountaineers and Rutgers would turn out to be a head-to-head showdown between WVU's tailback Steve Slaton and his Scarlet counterpart Ray Rice, especially in what was a driving rain at times, were missing the point.

Seems that football games still revolve around quarterback play and as the teams headed to the locker room the reason the Mountaineers held a 17-3 advatage was because WVU's quarterback Patrick White was overwhelming while Rurtgers' Mike Teel was quite underwhelming.

Not that Slaton and Rice weren't doing their thing. Slaton did break away on a 38-yard touchdown scamper that was mostly ad lib. Staton started to his left, saw a greeting committee of black clad Rutgerians, and decided that a change of plans was in order.

Reversing field and helped by a nifty fake, Slaton found himself running down the right sideline and diving into the end zone.

Rutgers was trying to rely on Rice, its Heisman Trophy candidate. On his first carry, he became the first Rutgers back every to surpass 1,000 yards in three straight seasons. They kept giving him the ball, 16 times in all, during the first quarter but had nothing to show for it.

They cut back on the carries in the second quarter, giving him just three more tries. At halftime Rice had 19 carries for 76 tards, Slaton eight for 62 and his touchdown.

But White was the difference, rushing for 72 yards on 12 tries, including a 1-yard touchdown, and throwing for 54 yards on six completions in 9 attempts. White had come into the game with just two career carries against Rutgers for minus-3 yards, having been a backup to Adam Bednarik as a freshman and having been injured last year.

At the same time, Teel was but 3 for 9 for 27 yards passing, leaving Rutgers with Rice as the only bullet in their gun.

Rutgers, rain, Rice await WVU

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- The tipoff to what kind of day it is going to be as you approach Rutgers Stadium from New Jersey Route 18 is there before you as you sit idling in traffic.

"Roadway flooded" says the sign.

Now you know where all the rain from California has gone. For the third time in their four visits, West Virginia University's football team was greeted by a downpour and an upset-minded Rutgers football team that hopes the foul weather can slow down the No. 7 Mountaineers' dynamic duo of quarterback Patrick White and running back Steve Slaton.

The Mountaineers come into the game with the nation's No. 2 rushing offense, averaging 304.1 yards a game but they don't hold the patent on the running game, facing in Rutgers' tailback Ray Rice a bonafide Heisman Trophy candidate who needs one yard to reach 1,000 for the season.

"Ray Rice is one of the best in the country and we think Steve is one of the best as well," West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said. "It should be a lot of fun for the fans to watch."

Do not, however, think the two are similiar in anything but results and that the game boils down to a head-to-head battle between the Big East's two best running backs.

"This is not Ray Rice against Steve Slaton because neither one plays defense," Rodriguez said. "A lot of times it's too much of this guy against that guy. They're in different systems going against different guys, not themselves. I don't even know if the comparison thing is fair to either guy."

WVU comes into the game at 6-1, 1-1 in the conference, while Rutgers is 5-2, 2-1 in the conference.

September 28, 2007

South Florida holds on to upset No. 5 WVU

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Big game, big crowd, maybe a big upset

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Mountaineers on a slippery slope

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A game of TOs, not TDs

TAMPA, Fla. -- As play began, Raymond James Stadium was filled with electricity, which was a good thing, considering it had already turned dark and they needed the lights on.
After watching No. 5 West Virginia and No. 18 South Florida perform before a sellout crowd, it might have been kinder if they had left the lights off.
No one could hold the ball.
By the time the first quarter was over, South Florida had turned the ball over three times.
And the No. 18 Bulls were in front.
It turns out that they weren't the only team turning things over.
The USF defense had the Mountaineers totally stymied, recovered a fumble of their own by Steve Slaton after a killer hit by linebacker Tyrone McKenzie and then got the game's first score when quarterback Patrick White's third-down pass was deflected bydefensive end Jarriet Bowie and intercepted by linebacker Ben Moffitt and run 27 yards into the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

USF enters the big time, and that's no Bull

TAMPA, Fla. -- This is a city that has hosted the Super Bowl and a Final Four, you'd think a regular season college football game would draw nothing more than a yawn from the populace, but the entire Sun Coast area has gone ga-ga over No. 5 West Virginia invades the Ray J. to face the No. 18 University of South Florida Bulls.

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September 13, 2007

A Devine Victory For WVU

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- He was immortalized on YouTube, this high school phenom out of North Fort Myers High School in Florida.

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Terps start is disastrous

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- A year ago West Virginia stunned Maryland with 28 first-quarter points in a runaway victory. Apparently, nothing changed in a year.
On the first play of the game following a touchback, Maryland quarterback Jordan Steffy fumbled the snap and West Virginia's Johnny Dingle recovered at the Terp 20.
The game was four seconds old.
After stuffing Steve Slaton on the first play following the fumble, Maryland bit on a fake to fullback Owen Schmnitt.
WVU's elusive quarterback Pat White tucked the ball and snaked his way around left end, cutting left and then right and went into the end zone untouched. That gave West Virginia a 7-0 lead.
The game was 45 seconds old.

WVU-Maryland Pregame

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- For inter-conference opponents who are as familiar with each other as are border rivals West Virginia and Maryland, this game came in with any number of different twists.

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