Musings Of A Mountain Man: November 22, 2011 - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Musings Of A Mountain Man: November 22, 2011



   It's late in the season and WVU has to beat Pitt in order to stay in contention for a Bowl Championship Series bid and is favored to do so.
   However, considering what has transpired for the WVU football team the past several years, being favored against Pitt doesn't mean much.



in 2004, and if they had they would have gone to a BCS bowl. Pitt -- aided by some questionable officiating -- ruined those dreams by pulling off a 16-13 upset over WVU in Pittsburgh and went to the Fiesta Bowl, where the Panthers got blown out by Utah.

   WVU was favored to beat a 4-7 Pitt team by 28 points in 2007 in Morgantown and earn a trip to the national championship game.

   As we are painfully aware, the Mountaineers -- despite getting some favorable officiating of its own late in the game -- somehow managed to lose to Pitt, 13-9.

   WVU STILL WENT to the Fiesta Bowl and pole-axed talent-laden Oklahoma that year, bringing one of the biggest wins in program history and landing Bill Stewart a quick, euphoria-driven battlefield promotion to head coach.
   As exhilarating as was the Oklahoma victory, it was not enough. The Mountaineer Nation always will balance it off unfavorably to the preceding Pitt defeat.
   If WVU was good enough to beat Oklahoma 48-28 in the Fiesta Bowl, it was good enough to beat Ohio State in the national championship game.
   WVU was as good as anybody that year.
   Except for that damn Pitt game.

   THE 2007 PITT COLLAPSE is to us the most devastating loss in WVU football history, considering what could have been had WVU won.
   To add insult to injury, Pitt in 2008 upset WVU again in Pittsburgh, 19-15, and doused the 'Eers chances at a BCS bowl.
   WVU turned the tables on Pitt in 2009 by toppling the top-10 ranked Panthers, 19-16, in Morgantown and setting the stage for the Panthers to lose the Big East's guaranteed BCS spot to Cincinnati.
   Though it was nice to see that happen, we would trade that win and the big alimony bucks Rich Rodriguez still owes WVU to get back that 2007 game.


   SO PARDON US IF WE APPROACH this week's Pitt game with a bit of trepidation.

   The Mountaineers should win over a Pitt team with a questionable running game and a quarterback prone to mistakes when pressured, but recent and past history disturbingly hangs from the rafters like a rabid bat.

   The recent history we just discussed.
   The past history includes the fact that no first-year WVU head coach since H.E. Trout in 1903 (Trout only coached one year) has beaten Pitt.
   This doesn't mean that first-year coach Dana Holgorsen can't, or shouldn't, beat Pitt on Friday in Morgantown.
   We're just saying that in this rivalry ..... well, you know ..... Pitt can happen.

   ALL THE QUALIFYING PLACED ASIDE, we do think that WVU will beat Pitt and will stay alive in the 2011 BCS bowl chase.
   We also believe that WVU will beat South Florida on Dec. 1 to finish 5-2 in the conference and 9-3 in the regular season.
   A loss by Louisville at South Florida on Friday would help the cause immensely.

   IF THAT DOESN'T HAPPEN, WVU needs for Cincinnati to beat Syracuse on the road on Saturday and Connecticut at home Dec. 3.
   That would create a three-way tie for first in the Big East and likely would give WVU the BCS bid because the Mountaineers would be the higher-ranked team in the polls.
   If Louisville wins Friday at USF and Cincinnati loses to either Syracuse or UConn, it will become a two-way tie between WVU and Louisville and Louisville would get the BCS bid because the Cardinals beat the Mountaineers this season.
   Geez, like we need to be reminded of that.
   Let's keep our fingers crossed.
   ITEM: Former WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez is hired as the new Arizona head coach.
   INSIGHT: This might be a good move for Rodriguez because Arizona is a basketball school that doesn't set the bar all that high in football. Rodriguez can keep his job in Tucson a long time if his teams play .600 or even .550 ball there.
   The question is, can he win at that level at Arizona?
   We are not so sure that his run-oriented spread offense will work consistently in a conference known for speed on defense and for coaching staffs that can make quick adjustments against one-dimensional offenses.
   To win consistently in the Pac-12, a team has to be able to throw the ball consistently, more so than in the Big 10, the conference where Rodriguez coached Michigan for three years before being asked to leave.
   The thought here is that Rodriguez will have to diversify his offensive philosophy in the Pac-12 and we don't know if he is up to that.
   It may be like trying to teach a cat to bark.

   DEFENSE, OR A CONSISTENT LACK of it, ultimately is what cost Rodriguez his job at Michigan, where his pass defense was noticeably vulnerable.
   At Arizona, he is inheriting a defense that has not given up less than 34 points in any of its eight losses this season and has surrendered 42 points, 48 points twice and 56 points in losses along the way.

   WE HAVE NO INSIDE INFORMATION to base this upon, so call it an educated hunch, but it would not be a surprise here if Rodriguez talked current WVU defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel into joining him in Arizona.
   Rodriguez has a history with Casteel and knows that Casteel's 3-3-5 defense can be used to hide deficiencies, especially along the defensive line and in the defensive backfield, where many a team in the pass-happy Pac-12 has torched Arizona this season.
   Plus, we're not certain from watching at a distance that there isn't some friction between Casteel and Holgorsen, in a classic new boss vs. successful set-in-his-ways department manager kind of dynamic.
   It's just something that we sense, or perhaps something that we think we sense.

   THE MAIN CHALLENGE in a successful rejuvenation of a college football program is recruiting.
   We have noticed over the years that the team with the best players usually wins -- the 2007 Pitt game notwithstanding.
   We we wonder if Rodriguez -- whose contacts mainly are in the South, East and Midwest -- can cobble together a staff that can quickly cultivate contacts out west in a search for players.
   This will be especially important in farming the talent-rich California recruiting ground well enough to compete with the likes of Oregon, USC, UCLA, Stanford and Arizona State, among others.
   WHETHER RODRIGUEZ succeeds or fails, Arizona officials better have a go-to short list of possible successors.
   If Rodriguez fails, they will need to find a new head coach.
   If Rodriguez succeeds, they probably will need to find a new head coach -- sooner than later, if you catch our drift and we think you do.
   We suggest that they become familiar with any fine print in his contract.
   That may come in handy.
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