Friday, February 19, 2010

#8) West Virginia Finally Bests The Fridge: #7 West Virginia-19 #21 Maryland-16, OT

Sept. 18, 2004

Recap – In an early season showdown between top 25 border rivals, Maryland and West Virginia fought tooth and nail down to the wire to try and claim bragging rights and national acclaim. West Virginia RB Kay Jay Harris got things started for the Mountaineers with a 6 yard TD early in the first on his way to 142 yards for the day. Sandwiched in between several field goals by both teams was Maryland wide receiver D. Fenner beating WVU star corner “PacMan” Jones for a 27 yard touchdown reception in the third. The game nearly ended very poorly for the Mountaineers as Maryland’s Nick Novak just missed on a 49 yard field goal with 1:15 left in the game that would have given the Terrapins the lead. In overtime, the Terps converted a field goal, putting the pressure on WVU’s offense. However, QB Rasheed Marshall found Chris Henry in the endzone for a 7 yard scoring strike that sent the 60,000+ Mountaineer fans in attendance into wild celebration.

Impact on Season – WVU came into 2004 with a lot of hype, but many analysts were questioning their strength of schedule, so it was important to win against ranked teams at every opportunity. Secondly, since the Big East had just been raided for three teams by the ACC, this game had an extra feeling of animosity. West Virginia would go on to what many consider a very disappointing finish to the season, losing three straight games to end the year. This win was a high point in a season that didn’t come close to living up to the hype.

Impact on Program – West Virginia had lost four straight against the border rival Terrapins from 2001-2003, most by embarrassing margins. That humiliating streak included two losses in the 2003 season by a combined margin of 75-14, one coming in the Gator Bowl. The 2004 win put an end to the embarrassment at Maryland’s hands and shifted the momentum of the series back to West Virginia, who would go on to win the 2005 and 2006 matchups.

Memorable Quote – “When you go out and perform above what other people think that you will, it satisfies you, and I did that today” – Rasheed Marshall, referencing a quote from a Maryland player in a local newspaper questioning Marshall’s abilities.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

#9) “They’re the Best Team We’ve Played:” West Virginia-34 Auburn-17

Oct. 23, 2008

Recap – West Virginia overcame a terribly slow start to come back and soundly dominate the Auburn Tigers from the mighty Southeastern Conference. The game started out poorly as a Pat White interception ended a promising first drive. Early mistakes allowed Auburn a 17-3 lead in the second quarter, but the Mountaineers didn’t panic and cut the lead to 17-10 before halftime on a White TD pass to Alric Arnett. Pat McAffee tacked on a field goal early in the third and, after a defensive stand, WVU drove down the field to the 2 yard line where White found Dorrell Jalloh wide open in the corner of the end zone, opening up what would quickly become a WVU rout. Noel Devine torched the Tiger defenders for 207 yards, including a 36 yard TD where he all but walked the last 10 yards into the endzone. Jalloh scored again in the 4th after catching a short toss from White and juking, spinning, and leaping for a ridiculous 32 yard TD.

Impact on Season – The start of the 2008 campaign was nothing short of disaster for the Mountaineers. A lackluster performance against 1-AA opponent Villanova followed by back-to-back embarrassing losses to East Carolina and Colorado had Mountaineer fans in panic mode, calling for Bill Stewart’s head only four games into his head coaching stint at West Virginia. Although the team came into this game with a 4-2 record, the wins were against Nova, Marshall, Rutgers, and Syracuse. WVU had yet to beat a quality team and, although Auburn would go on to have a down year, they still carried the weight of their program and the banner of the Southeastern Conference to Morgantown that night. It gave WVU a chance to redeem their season by beating a real opponent on national t.v., and the Mountaineers seized the opportunity and did it in a big way. As this game ended, one could hear a sigh of relief across the entire state as Mountaineer fans thought “this is how we are supposed to play.”

Impact on Program – From 2005-2007, the Mountaineers were a legitimate top 10 program and BCS contender. The poor start to ’08 threatened to undo all that in one fell swoop. This win stopped the bleeding and gave West Virginia the momentum it needed to put together a respectable top 25 season and take some pressure of first year head coach Bill Stewart.

Memorable Quote – “They are the best team we have played all year.” – Tommy Tuberville, Auburn Head Coach 2008

Thursday, February 4, 2010

(Best Wins of the decade) #10. Nehlen Leaves as a Winner: West Virginia-49 Ole Miss-38

December 28, 2000

Recap – The Mountaineers, fully aware of the eight game bowl losing streak they carried into this game, came out emotionally charged up, determined to send legendary coach Don Nehlen out in style. They succeeded. Early in the first quarter, junior Brad Lewis connected with monstrous fullback Wes Ours, who rumbled 40 yards for the score. Lewis stayed hot en-route to winning mvp honors for the game, tossing for 318 yards and 5 touchdowns while leading a West Virginia onslaught that ran up a 35-9 halftime score. WVU continued where they left off after the break, as Shawn Terry ran back the opening kick-off of the second half 99 yards for a score and the Mountaineers extended the lead to 49-9 before an Ole Miss 4th quarter rally brought a degree of respectability to the final score. WVU’s all-time leading rusher, Avon Cobourne, contributed 125 yards on the ground.

Impact on Season – WVU came into the game with a 6-5 record, so the win was the difference in a winning record and an even one. Overall, the season was good but fell short of excellence as the Mountaineers dropped games against the better competition, including conference rivals Virginia Tech and Pitt. This win gave the Eers a victory over a good team from a strong conference with two future NFL stars in RB Deuce McAllister and QB Eli Manning.

Impact on Program – It was only appropriate that the winningest coach in WVU history have his last game marked down as a “W.” Nehlen had brought the program a long way, establishing tradition and longevity along the way. While rarely spectacular, Nehlen’s teams were solid, and the program he built provided a foundation for the explosion of WVU football over the next decade. He left the field that night with 202 career wins to the sounds of Mountaineer faithful chanting his name.

Memorable Quote – “I was going to sleep win, lose, or draw, but I’ll probably sleep better since we won” - Don Nehlen

Saturday, January 30, 2010

West Virginia vs. Louisville Thoughts

In today's game against the Louisville Cardinals, the Mountaineers once again did just enough to pull out a last second victory and cover up another subpar performace. WVU played well for the first five minutes and the last five minutes, leaving a very forgetable 30 minutes in between. The Mountaineers were very fortunate to come out of this game with a win, as Louisville outshot (52% to 40%), outrebounded (32 to 30), and generally outhustled WVU for most of the game. Continuing an alarming trend, West Virginia was often rattled by Louisville's full court pressure, giving up several turnovers that resulted in easy Cardinal buckets. WVU also had trouble against the zone defense, not moving the ball well and dribbling on the perimeter without driving to the basket. After a hot shooting start, the Mountaineers began looking for three's instead of trying to penetrate for higher percentage shots. On the other side Louisville seemed to have no trouble driving on West Virginia's defenders and either getting good looks close to the rim or kicking out to wide open shooters outside. Through all this, West Virginia still came out on top, but they were helped by a large free throw differential (26/35 vs just 9/13 for UL), some questionable calls on out-of-bounds rulings by the officials, and foul trouble for Louisville. However, to their credit, the intensity was high down the stretch, and the call to switch to the 1-3-1 zone with just over 5 minutes left was brilliant and threw UL's offense enough to let West Virginia catch up. Once again Butler was key, hitting clutch shots late in the game, including the go ahead bucket with less than 20 seconds to play. Moving on deeper into the ruthless Big East, West Virginia must improve ball movement against zone defenses and learn not to panic against full court pressure. Playing a variety of defenses throughout the game may also be helpful as most teams seem to be able to drive against West Virginia's man-to-man, switch every screen defense. The Mountaineers also need better production from the bench, as reserves contributed just 5 points in today's effort.

Player of Game: Da'Sean Butler - 27 pts.

Next entry will begin the countdown of top 10 WVU football wins of the decade. Games will be picked based on their excitement level, their impact on that season, and their impact on the overall football program.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

First Entry/Comments on WVU vs Ohio St.


As a fairly avid sports fan, I finally decided to start this blog so I could vent and share my feelings, predictions, and opinions of my favorite teams. This will mostly entail West Virginia Mountaineers football and basketball, though I will also touch on Atlanta Braves Baseball and Phoenix Suns basketball. Now, not to waste time.

Today's West Virginia vs. Ohio State basketball game started out in the same sluggish fashion West Virginia fans are becoming uncomfortably accustomed to. Lethargic defense, stagnant offense. No energy. Too much dribbling on O. The Buckeyes jumped on top early and controlled the first half, as Evan Turner systematically picked apart the Mountaineer defense. OSU led by 12 at halftime and the hometown fans feared for the worst. However, unlike in games against Seton Hall, Purdue, and Syracuse, West Virginia came out inspired in the second half. They moved the ball well against OSU's zone, using a high post man at the top of the key to distribute the ball to shooters. DaSean Butler made the clutch shots he needed to, and Kevin Jones was strong on the glass with 11 boards. Defensively, WVU controlled Turner in the second half, allowing him just 5 points after intermission. Joe Mazzulla, who continues to show incredible toughness game in and game out, hounded Turner, who all but ran over Mountaineer defenders on several occasions to no call from the officials. Another noteworthy fact was that the Mountaineers did not catch up on a single huge run fueled by momentum and a highly partisan home crowd, but rather by a steady and relentless effort on defense and a patient and effective offense. If West Virginia can start playing entire games like they played the second half today, they really will be the final four contenders the preseason media talked them up to be.
P.O.G. - DaSean Butler: 21 pts. 8 rebs. 5 assts. 1blk.

Also, over the next month or two, I will be counting down the best Mountaineer football wins of the decade, from 2000-2009.