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Weekend Notebook


CAMPUS CONNECTION
By John Antonik for WVUsports.com
December 13, 2013 04:13 PM

Charles Sims
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Earlier this week, West Virginia’s Charles Sims was named the Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year after rushing for 1,095 yards and finishing second in the Big 12 in all-purpose yardage with 1,549 yards.
 
Sims becomes the second Mountaineer player in as many years to earn a major Big 12 honor. Last season, wide receiver Tavon Austin was named the conference’s Co-Special Teams Player of the Year along with Oklahoma State’s Quinn Sharp.
 
And now some more notes to get you ready for this weekend's Chesapeake Energy Capital Classic in Charleston ...
 
* Who would have ever thought Dana Holgorsen would go through a football season without a 3,000-yard passer, let alone a 2,000-yard thrower. But that’s what can happen when you are forced to use three different starting quarterbacks in a season.
 
The last time West Virginia had three different starting QBs was in 1985 when the Mountaineers went 7-3-1 but failed to go to a bowl game – primarily because WVU lost by a combined 82-7 to Maryland, Penn State and Virginia that season.
 
We’ve all heard the old football saying if you have two quarterbacks then you have no quarterbacks, well, what does having three starting quarterbacks constitute?
 
If you recall, it took West Virginia about three years to fully resolve its murky quarterback situation when Major Harris began playing well late in the ’87 season. Hopefully, Dana Holgorsen and Co. can get things resolved at that spot more quickly this time around.
 
* Speaking of Tavon Austin, he has been sidelined for the last two practices with an ankle injury suffered in the St. Louis Rams’ 30-10 loss against Arizona last Sunday. In 13 games this year the rookie has caught 40 passes for 418 yards and four touchdowns and has also carried the football nine times for 151 yards and a touchdown. Austin has scored touchdowns three different ways so far, including a 98-yard punt return in week 10 against Indianapolis.
 
Geno Smith
* West Virginia’s other big-name draft choice last year, quarterback Geno Smith, has rebounded from a series of bad games with a 16-of-25, 219-yard, one-touchdown performance in the New York Jets’ 37-27 victory over Oakland last weekend. In Geno’s prior three games against Buffalo, Baltimore and Miami (all losses), he completed 21-of-55 passes for 259 yards with six interceptions.
 
For the year, Smith has completed 195-of-352 passes for 2,475 yards with nine touchdowns and 22 interceptions. Geno’s 2,475 passing yards are already a club record for a rookie quarterback.
 
* West Virginia used to play in the best basketball conference in the country in the Big East. In fact, some once regarded the Big East as the best basketball league ever assembled.
 
Now, Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford has made the same claim when his league announced the recent additions of Louisville, Syracuse and Pitt. Well, can you guess which conference has the No. 1 RPI in the country this week?
 
That would be the Big 12 with a .762 overall winning percentage, according to CBSSports.com bracketologist Jerry Palm. No. 2 is the Big Ten, followed by the Big East and then the Pac 12 at No. 4. The new best league ever assembled comes in at No. 5.
 
By the way, six Big 12 teams are ranked in the top 40 this week.
 
* I have seen almost all of the Big 12 teams play on TV so far this year with the exception of Iowa State, which is now 7-0 following last Saturday’s 91-82 overtime win over Northern Iowa. The Cyclones also have wins over Michigan, BYU and Auburn. Veteran coach Fred Hoiberg has done wonders with transfers there and he has another good one in former Marshall guard DeAndre Kane, who is currently second on the team in scoring with an average of 15.4 points per game.
 
I am also curious to see how much better Texas is this year. The Longhorns are four points shy of an undefeated record with victories over DePaul, Vanderbilt and Temple. We will get a better idea where the Longhorns are at on Wednesday night when they play North Carolina and then face Michigan State three days later on Saturday. Both of those games will be on national TV.
 
* West Virginia’s annual meeting with Marshall in Charleston will once again bring together the top two college programs in the state. I enjoyed reminiscing with Frank Giardina on the telephone yesterday afternoon as we went over many of the games the two schools have played since they began playing annually in 1978.
 
The Marshall teams I specifically recall were the ones Rick Huckabay had in the mid-1980s with Skip Henderson and John Taft. Of all those good Huckabay teams, Giardina thought Marshall’s ’84 squad with LaVerne Edwards, Robert Eppes, Sam Ervin, David Wade and Jeff Battle was his best. If you remember, that team was leading NCAA champion Georgetown by six with five to go in a midseason tournament out in Las Vegas before the Hoyas eventually won by 11.
 
That year Marshall defeated West Virginia, 78-67, in Huntington.
 
In last night's column, thanks to our stats guru Mark Devault, I was able to give you the top career scorers in the West Virginia-Marshall series. Today, here are the top rebounders and playmakers for both schools:
 
Marshall Rebounds
JR VanHoose, 56
Ken Lebanoski, 42
George Washington, 39
Rodney Holden, 28
David Wade, 27
 
West Virginia Rebounds
Greg Nance, 42
Chris Brooks, 35
Junius Lewis, 33
P.G. Greene, 32
Phil Collins, 31
 
Marshall Assists
Greg White, 25
Sam Henry, 18
Cornelius Jackson, 18
Shaquille Johnson, 15
Damier Pitts, 13
 
West Virginia Assists
Marsalis Basey, 25
Lowes Moore, 20
Joe Fryz, 16
Sheldon Jefferson, 16
Dale Blaney, 15
 
You can make up one heck of an all-star team from that list of players, that’s for sure.
 
* It’s been five years since the winning team scored more than 80 points in the Capital Classic, but that will likely change tomorrow night. Marshall is currently tied with Oregon State for 22nd in the country with an average of 84.8 points per game. West Virginia is just 13 spots lower than the Herd at No. 35, averaging 82.8 points per game.
 
The Capital Classic record for combined points in a game is 194 established on Dec. 17, 1996, which could be challenged on Saturday night if both teams are hitting their outside shots.
 
Nikki Izzo-Brown
* The Mountaineer football team may have been down this year, but some of West Virginia’s other fall sports posted very strong seasons.
 
The WVU women’s soccer team captured its second consecutive Big 12 regular season title while also claiming its first league tournament championship. After advancing past Rutgers in the first round of the NCAA tournament, WVU fell to Virginia Tech, 1-0, in Blacksburg. The Hokie women reached the Women’s College Cup this year where they lost, 3-2, to Florida State.
 
The Mountaineer women finished ranked No. 12 in the country in the coaches’ poll, making it the highest finish for WVU in that poll since 2007 when WVU ended the season ranked seventh and advanced to the NCAA tournament Elite Eight.
 
The WVU women’s cross country team also made a return trip to NCAA nationals where the Mountaineers finished 24th. Veteran coach Sean Cleary has had four Top 10 finishes at nationals in the past six years, the most recent one coming in 2011. WVU has made NCAA nationals in six out of the last seven years under Cleary.
 
And the West Virginia volleyball team had its most victories in 22 years under fourth-year coach Jill Kramer, going 20-13 overall with five wins in the always-tough Big 12. WVU’s conference wins this year came against Kansas State, Texas Tech, TCU and Baylor.
 
In the case of all three, the vast majority of their key contributors will be returning in 2014.
 
* Congratulations to the WVU wrestling team for its recent road victory at No. 25 Indiana. The Mountaineers knocked off the Hoosiers, 22-21, giving them their first victory over a ranked team since upsetting 10th-ranked Edinboro in 2012. West Virginia is now 8-2 in dual-meet action and will have a bunch of home matches at the Coliseum beginning with Lock Haven on Jan. 4.
 
NC State, Oklahoma State, Pitt and Oklahoma will also bring teams to the Coliseum this year.
 
* The WVU gymnastics team is receiving votes in the preseason coaches’ poll and will face eight teams in the preseason Top 25, including No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Alabama. No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 7 Michigan.
 
The Mountaineers will open their season on Jan. 10 at Kentucky.
 
Christal Caldwell
* The WVU women’s basketball team is also collecting votes in this week’s AP poll. The Mountaineers are now 7-1 following last Saturday’s 94-47 victory over Fairleigh Dickinson. West Virginia has wins this year over Ole Miss, Washington State, Hawaii and Virginia and has four more non-conference games remaining against Marshall, Delaware State, Duquesne and Elon before opening Big 12 play on the road on Jan. 2 at Kansas.
 
Senior guard Christal Caldwell leads the Mountaineers in scoring with an average of 15.5 points per game. She was a preseason all-Big 12 honorable mention pick.
 
Senior Asya Bussie, returning to the lineup after missing all of last year with a knee injury, shows averages of 12.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Bussie is considered one of the top post players in the Big 12.
 
* Finally, I have to admit I haven’t been paying close attention to the Nick Saban-to-Texas Internet rumors, but some of the crazy talk going around does remind me of a story I once heard about another done-deal situation that didn’t quite materialize at West Virginia.
 
The year was 1947 and the Mountaineers were shopping for a name coach when Bill Kern stepped down after a season-ending victory against Pitt.
 
NFL All-Pro tackle Joe Stydahar was in line to get the WVU job, with West Virginia athletic director Roy “Legs” Hawley going through the trouble of getting Athletic Council approval to hire Stydahar. Alumni Association secretary Dave Jacobs even called a Clarksburg newspaper reporter asking for a photo and some background information on Stydahar for a story on his appointment as West Virginia’s new football coach.
 
But Dud DeGroot also had his eye on the Mountaineer job, and during a brief stopover on campus he met with G. Ott Romney, head of the school’s physical education department, and later observed a WVU basketball game where he saw the great support Lee Patton’s team received from the WVU student body. The smooth-talking DeGroot then won over the Board of Governors and Hawley was soon forced to hire DeGroot instead of the homegrown favorite Stydahar.
 
It was said that relations with Stydahar and WVU were never quite the same after that.
 
The point is anything can happen whenever a group of people get involved in hiring a football coach. I remember the late Dick Martin telling me once about how secretive he was when he hired Don Nehlen to replace Frank Cignetti because he said committees very often divide up into factions. His goal was to steer the process toward a unanimous vote for Nehlen, which he was able to do.
 
Yet having written all of this, the last time I checked Mack Brown was still the Texas football coach.
 
Have a great weekend!
 
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