And now, some Deep Thoughts …
I sometimes wonder how heavy-handed coaches like Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes or Bo Schembechler would have reacted to Internet blogging and the message board bantering that goes on today. Back when Bryant and Hayes coached the dog always wagged the tail; today the tail sometimes wags the dog.
I wonder, too, how some people can form ironclad, set-in-stone opinions after observing a football coach for only one year.
Joe Paterno was a horrible hire at Penn State. Only you gray bears will remember Paterno's record was 5-6 after his first 11 games at Penn State. The gray beards may also recall Paterno once going for it on fourth and one from his own 15, leading Florida State 17-0 in the second half of the 1967 Gator Bowl. The Lions didn't make it and Florida State scored 17 unanswered points to tie Penn State.
Of course, Paterno went on to a disastrous coaching career in Happy Valley with 383 victories, two national titles and 23 bowl wins heading into this season - his 60th in some capacity.
Bobby Bowden couldn't lead a one-car funeral. Bowden's first year at West Virginia was a comedy of errors, beginning with his decision to punt the football on fourth and one at the Duke 31 yard line during a tight game the Blue Devils were winning. However, Bowden forgot to tell his backup punter to angle the ball out of bounds and try and pin Duke deep in its own territory. So his young punter launched one high into the stratosphere, the ball nearly traveling over the end zone bleachers and down onto Beechurst Avenue. The punt netted just 11 yards and Duke went on to win the game.
A week later, Bowden sat on a 35-8 halftime lead at Pitt and West Virginia lost the game 36-35.
Of course, Bowden left Morgantown a martyr and went on to win two national championships at Florida State - and depending on the decision of others, may still be in the race with Paterno to become the all-time winningest coach in NCAA history.
Don Nehlen couldn't spell cat if you spotted him the C and the T. During Nehlen's final year at Bowling Green in 1976, his Falcons snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when confusion on the sidelines caused Bowling Green to forgo a game-winning field goal at the Miami one-yard line with time running out. Nehlen thought it was third down and chose to take one more crack at the end zone. Bowling Green didn't make it, and Miami held on for a 9-7 victory.
Of course, Nehlen went to West Virginia in 1980 and turned around a sagging football program, taking the Mountaineers to the national championship game in 1989 on the way to a hall of fame coaching career.
Paterno, Bowden and Nehlen - three dumb coaches who managed to get out of their own way to have decent careers.
There are benefits to both. Some prefer the underdog role as a means of motivation. Others embrace the hype and recognition that foster a culture of high expectations.
Which do you prefer?
I bring this up because West Virginia opens the season on Sept. 5 against Liberty.
How's that for the stupid stat of the day?
Thirty five years ago in 1974, West Virginia took Richmond for granted. There were big expectations in Morgantown that year with Danny Buggs, Jeff Merrow and a host of talented players returning.
But the Spiders had a quarterback named Harry Knight, who surgically dissected West Virginia's secondary and led Richmond to a 29-25 upset victory. Defensive backfield coach Alex Gibbs, today one of the top offensive line coaches in the NFL with the Houston Texans, was so embarrassed with his players' performance that he failed to show up for a coaches' party afterward. It was said that Gibbs broke out into hives.
The Sporting News likes Pitt, followed by West Virginia, South Florida and Rutgers.
Speaking of The Sporting News, Matt Hayes believes emotion played a part in the hires of Mike Sherman (Texas A&M), Bill Stewart (West Virginia), Bill Snyder (Kansas State), Randy Shannon (Miami) and Frank Spaziani (Boston College).
He also believes those five programs are on the decline.
… Did you know that Steve Slaton led the AFC with 1,659 total yards from scrimmage last year as a rookie? Steve must have regained the step he supposedly lost in 2007.
… Last year, West Virginia attempted its most passes (305) since 2001 when the Mountaineers tried 357 during Rich Rodriguez's first season with the Mountaineers. WVU had tried more than 300 passes six straight years from 1996-2001.
… And last year was the first time in 10 years that three different receivers had at least five touchdown catches - Jock Sanders (seven), Alric Arnett (six) and Dorell Jalloh (five). In 1998, it was Shawn Foreman (eight), David Saunders (eight) and Khori Ivy (six).
Hope to see you Saturday afternoon at the stadium. And WVU students … don't forget kickoff is noon so set your alarms for 11:30 at the latest.
|John Antonik is responsible for coordinating the official athletic web site WVUsports.com, as well web sites Mountaineer Athletic Club.com, WVU Game.com, WVU Varsity Club.com and Shop WVU.com for the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Antonik first began working for the athletic department during the 1988 season as a student assistant. Antonik is the author of West Virginia University Football Vault: The History of the Mountaineers and he has a new book coming out this fall: Roll Out the Carpet: 101 Seasons of West Virginia University Basketball published by WVU Press.|
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