Posted by John Antonik on Monday, August 31, 2009
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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.
Maybe it's just me, but why is it that everyone seems to be more worried about players that are not here? If you are into worrying, why not worry about the ones that are here?
Do you like West Virginia being in the underdog role this year? Or, do you prefer the Mountaineers being the top dog as in recent years?
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?
Is it a coincidence that West Virginia's two offensive linemen with the highest ceiling both hail from the Mountain State - Josh Jenkins and Cole Bowers? The word I am getting is that Bowers could be a star in the making.
This is just one man's opinion, but I believe there are enough explosive weapons in the program for West Virginia to have a pretty effective offense this season. The guess here is that play calling will be tailored to West Virginia's young offensive line until offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen feels completely comfortable with them.
It has been a mixed bag for West Virginia in football games played on Sept. 5. The Mountaineers have won once (20-3 to Ohio in 1987), lost once (34-17 to Ohio State in 1998) and tied once (29-29 to Miami, Ohio in 1992).
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?
Don’t take Liberty for granted, says Bill Stewart. The coach correctly pointed out last Thursday evening that the Flames were 10-2 last year.
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.
ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit picked Rutgers to win the Big East this year. CNNSI.com has Rutgers, West Virginia and Pitt at the top of the league with 9-3 records. Rutgers is listed first among the three, so I presume the Scarlet Knights are SI's pick.
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.
There are some interesting Big East games this weekend, with the headliner being Cincinnati at Rutgers on Monday, Sept. 7 to kickoff the conference season. Also, Syracuse plays host to Minnesota and UConn goes on the road to Athens, Ohio to face Ohio University.
If Bill Stewart can win this weekend's season opener against Liberty, his record at WVU will improve to 11-4 through his first 15 games. Here is the record of some other coaches through their first 15 games at WVU:
Rich Rodriguez, 6-9 (2001-02)
Don Nehlen, 9-6 (1980-81)
Frank Cignetti, 8-7 (1976-77)
Bobby Bowden, 11-4 (1970-71)
Jim Carlen, 7-6-2 (1966-67)
Gene Corum, 2-11-2 (1960-61)
Art Lewis, 6-9 (1950-51)
Dudley DeGroot, 11-4 (1948-49)
Bill Kern, 7-7-1 (1940-41)
From the Blackberry of our own Nate Zinn:
… 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.