Which of these running backs, Noel Devine or Isaiah Pead, has a touchdown run of 80 yards to his credit and is averaging 7.0 yards per carry this year? Well, based on Devine’s career 6.5 yards-per-carry average before this season and the fact that he came into this year with nine runs of more than 50 yards, he would be the logical choice.
But actually it’s Pead, who leads the Bearcats in rushing with 618 yards and burned the Mountaineers last year with 175 yards and a touchdown in Cincinnati’s 24-21 win at Nippert Stadium.
Pead is currently fifth in the Big East in rushing averaging 88.3 yards per game. Sixth on that list is Devine averaging 86.6 yards per game. So far this year Devine is averaging a career-low 4.8 yards per rush.
The four runners above them are Connecticut’s Jordan Todman (136.3 ypg.), Louisville’s Bilal Powell (133.4), Pitt’s Ray Graham (97.9) and Syracuse’s Delone Carter (93.2).
Devine certainly hasn’t been the same runner since getting rolled up on out of bounds during West Virginia’s 20-14 loss at 15th-ranked LSU on Sept. 25. Hopefully another week of healing can get Noel back to full strength for the team’s stretch run against Cincinnati, Louisville, Pitt and Rutgers.This Week's Notes ... Quarterback Geno Smith was rolling along through the first six games of the season, completing 68.4 percent of his passes for 1,358 yards and 14 touchdowns. But in his last two games against Syracuse and Connecticut the sophomore has thrown just one touchdown pass to go with three picks.
The biggest disparity is in Geno’s yards per pass attempt: through the first six games Smith was averaging 7.7 yards per attempt but in his last two that number has declined to just 4.8 yards per attempt.
Last year, Jarrett Brown went through something similar near the midway point of the season.
Heading into the Marshall game, Brown was completing 68.8 percent of his passes for 1,190 yards and eight touchdowns with a passer rating of 153.16. In his last eight games, Brown was 92 of 158 for 954 yards and three TDs. Once again, Brown’s yards per pass attempt declined dramatically in the latter part of the season from 8.6 yards per attempt through his first five games to 6.0 yards per attempt in his last eight.
Perhaps with an extra week of video tape study Geno can get things turned around against Cincinnati and get the Mountaineers back into the end zone.
Something to consider when you watch teams throw a lot of bubble screens – the respect the linebackers give the quarterback for taking off and running with the football. One of the reasons the bubble screen was such an effective weapon for West Virginia in years past was the fact that if Pat White didn’t like what he saw on the outside then he had the ability to pull the ball down and take off running.
That tends to keep those linebackers a little more honest, and that also makes the island on the outside a little bit smaller for those DBs trying to tackle those slot receivers.
I could be wrong on this, but come to think of it, I believe White’s game-winning touchdown run against Louisville in 2007 was an aborted bubble screen.
West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said earlier this week that he took the time to make a comprehensive review of what his football team is doing in all three phases of play after last Friday’s 16-13 loss at Connecticut. He spent time with coordinators Jeff Mullen and Jeff Casteel trying to figure out ways to get the team out of their current two-game funk.
“We are looking at what we have done well, what we have done OK and what we have not done well,” Stewart said. “I came up with a few things that were informative to me.”
The one obvious area West Virginia needs improving is holding onto the football. Seven turnovers in its last two games have led to close losses to Syracuse and Connecticut. West Virginia is next to last in the Big East in turnover margin at -0.62; right behind the Mountaineers is next weekend’s opponent Cincinnati at -1.00. West Virginia has given up a conference-worst 17 turnovers so far this year while the Bearcats are second with 15.
In addition to giving up the ball, Stewart wants to see his defense come up with more turnovers. The Mountaineers are sixth in the Big East creating just 12 turnovers so far this season.
“We have worked hard this week on getting turnovers,” Stewart said. “We have gotten some picks this season (eight) but we haven’t stripped the ball.”
Stewart is also not very pleased with his team’s open field tackling. “We have given up too many big plays on (missed) open field tackling,” he said.
And speaking of close losses, West Virginia’s three-point loss at Connecticut last Friday night was the fifth conference game in the last two seasons the Mountaineers have dropped by less than a touchdown margin.
Twice, West Virginia has lost by field goal margins to Cincinnati; West Virginia lost by four to Pitt in 2008 and dropped a five-point decision to Syracuse earlier this season … not to mention, the Mountaineers had leads in four of those five games.
Overall, Bill Stewart’s teams have been involved 14 games that have been decided by a touchdown or less in his 35-game coaching career at West Virginia.
After four weeks of regular season play, there are only two Big East teams with winning records – 3-0 Pitt and 3-1 Syracuse. USF improved to 2-2 after last night’s come-from-behind 28-27 victory. The rest of the league has identical 1-2 records.
How about these records for your traditional college football powers? Tennessee is 2-6, Georgia is 4-5, Texas is 4-4, and Michigan, Miami, USC and Florida all show 5-3 records.
Three of the top five teams in the country this week are TCU, Boise State and Utah. Can someone say anarchy?
Do you remember when everyone was saying how bad Virginia Tech was after it lost 21-16 to James Madison on Sept. 11 to begin the season 0-2? Well, Tech has won six in a row, is back in the national rankings, and has scored more than 40 points in consecutive games against NC State, Central Michigan, Wake Forest and Duke.
Tech has tough contests remaining against Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Miami and Virginia, but who doesn’t like the Hokies’ chances of winning the ACC now?
Former Mountaineer Devin Ebanks saw his first professional action against Golden State on Oct. 31, scoring four points at the free throw line, and he got his first pro field goal against Memphis on Nov. 2 in LA’s 124-105 victory. Most recently, Ebanks saw two minutes of action in Los Angeles’s 112-100 win over Sacramento last night.
Joe Alexander has yet to see action for New Orleans in the team’s first four regular season games.
In its most recent issue, Baseball America lists former Mountaineer Jedd Gyorko as its third-best prospect in the Northwest League.
"His feet are quick, his hands are outstanding and he has plenty of arm strength, and it's accurate too," said Eugene manager Greg Riddoch of Gyorko's move from shortstop in college to third base in the pros. "He makes the tough plays look easy."
At the plate there are little concerns with Gyorko, who one pro scout compared to Brett Wallace.
Coach Marlon LeBlanc’s men’s soccer team certainly enjoys playing at home. The Mountaineers finished the season 9-1 at Dick Dlesk Stadium after last night’s 2-1 victory over South Florida in the first round of the Big East tournament. Twenty four of the team’s 28 goals this year have come at home.
West Virginia, now 10-6-2, advances to the Big East tournament quarterfinals to play second-ranked Louisville on its home field on Saturday night.
With an RPI of 28 heading into this week’s action, the Mountaineers may have done enough to earn their way into the NCAA tournament, regardless of Saturday’s outcome.
The women’s soccer team is rolling along with a 10-game winning streak, which is the eighth longest in the country right now. The Mountaineers face Connecticut, upset winners over Notre Dame last Sunday, on Friday evening in one semifinal match at Rutgers’ Yurcak Field. The other semifinal match will pit Marquette against South Florida.
West Virginia defeated Connecticut 3-0 in Morgantown earlier this year, played South Florida to a scoreless tie in Morgantown and dropped a 2-1 decision at Marquette on Sept 23 – the last time WVU lost a match this season.
The WVU women, ranked 16th this week in one of the two polls, is now an NCAA tournament lock making it the 11th consecutive season Nikki Izzo-Brown’s Mountaineers have made the NCAA tournament - a truly remarkable achievement.
Some leftovers from my interview with former Ohio State coach Eldon Miller …
- On what he will tell UNC Pembroke’s players on what to expect when the Mountaineer fires his musket at the start of the game … “If we’re distracted by those things then we’ve got the wrong game going,” he chuckled. “It’s a great atmosphere for basketball and it is when you’ve got someone like Bob Huggins running the program who has such a great passion for West Virginia.
“I couldn’t be happier for him being there and I’m happy for West Virginia because I know they are going to continue to have great basketball.”
- On taking over a struggling Ohio State program in 1977 that had won only six games the year before he arrived there during Fred Taylor’s last season with the Buckeyes … “There were about two guys in the program that could have played for me when I was at Western Michigan,” Taylor admitted. “It was a tough time at Ohio State then because they hadn’t been recruiting, but I had 10 great years there.”
- On his son Ben’s third season coaching at UNC Pembroke … “He finally has players that he recruited now,” said Miller. “He only has two seniors on the team, but his junior class and sophomore class are pretty strong for a school like this one. Our team was still picked last in our league this year but it won’t happen. They don’t really know and we love that.”
- On Bob Huggins’ adaptability as a basketball coach … “He’s going to take the players he has and build a team. He has enough flexibility to understand what they can and can’t do and he’s not going to try and have them do things they can’t do,” said Miller. “Players are going to understand their role, and I also think they are probably going to try and guard somebody, too.”
Spanning the Web …
Mickey Furfari in today’s Beckley Register-Herald points out the great foresight the late Fred Schaus had when it came to conference affiliations …
Don’t forget, Fred was heavily involved in the CFA when it was negotiating television deals with the networks in the early 1980s and he sat alongside all those schools that were anxious to cash in on the riches expanded TV coverage could bring.
How many times can you think of a team coming off a Final Four appearance not making the preseason Top 25 the following year? Well, I don’t know the answer either but that’s the case with West Virginia this season. However, the Mountaineers did make the Rivals.com preseason hoops poll at No. 23 …
Some proud football programs are in the midst of downswings this season …
Here is what some others are writing about the possibility of Big East Conference expansion …
This from Syracuse …
This from CNNSI.com’s Andy Staples …
This from the Boston Globe’s Mark Blaudschun …
This from one of my favorites, Jack Bogaczyk of the Charleston Daily Mail …
And this from New York’s Dick “Hoops” Weiss …
Some interesting reading, that’s for sure.
Have a great weekend!