- By John Antonik
- January 11, 2011 09:53 PM
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – With the crowning of Auburn as this year’s national champion we can finally close the book on the 2010 football season.
West Virginia, which finished 9-4 and outside the top 25 for the first time in five years, had the nation’s No. 2-ranked run defense, allowing 86.5 yards per game, according to final NCAA team statistics released Tuesday.
The Mountaineers also finished second in sacks per game (3.46), third in scoring defense (13.54), third in total defense (261.8), 11th in pass defense (174.62) and 13th in pass efficiency defense (110.49).
Offensively, West Virginia cracked the top 50 in just one category – rushing, averaging 159.69 yards per game to rank 50th. The Mountaineers ranked 67th in passing offense averaging 213 yards per game and 67th in total offense averaging 372.69 yards per game.
The Mountaineer offense figures to get a big boost when new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen takes over this spring. Holgorsen’s Oklahoma State offense finished No. 2 in passing averaging 345.85 yards per game, No. 3 in total offense averaging 520.33 and No. 3 in scoring averaging 44.23 points per game.
Individually, Bruce Irvin finished second in the country in sacks averaging 1.08 per game. Quarterback Geno Smith ranked 27th in passing efficiency with a 144.70 passer rating, Keith Tandy was tied for 10th with an average of 0.46 interceptions per game, Julian Miller was 30th in sacks averaging 0.69 per game, Jock Sanders was tied for 44th averaging 5.31 receptions per game, Smith was 48th in total offense averaging 229.23 yards per game and Gregg Pugnetti was 48th in punting averaging 41.82 yards per boot.
This year marked only the second time in school history West Virginia finished among the nation’s top 10 in three key defensive statistical categories: run defense, scoring defense and total defense. Steve Dunlap’s 1996 defense finished first in total defense allowing 217.5 yards per game, second against the run giving up 61.5 yards per game, fourth in scoring allowing 12.4 points per game and was fifth against the pass giving up 156 yards per game.
Those figures only account for regular season games and do not include West Virginia performance against North Carolina in the 1997 Gator Bowl.
Casteel’s defense has been ranked among the nation’s top 11 in scoring defense in three out of the last four years, finishing eighth in 2007 giving up an average of 18.1 points per game, 11th in 2008 giving up 17 points per game, and third this year surrendering 13.5 points per game.
West Virginia was the only team in the country to go the entire season without giving up more than 23 points in a single game. The Mountaineers have given up 30 points just once in their last 18 games dating back to last year.
EARLY BIRD TOP 25
ESPN’s Mark Schlabach has West Virginia ranked No. 25 in his “way too early” Top 25. Here is what he wrote about WVU:
The Mountaineers will have to overhaul their defense after losing eight starters from 2010. But their offense should be more consistent with the addition of former Oklahoma State coordinator Dana Holgorsen, who was named coach-in-waiting. The losses on defense are especially heavy, with linemen Scooter Berry and Chris Neild, linebackers Anthony Leonard and J.T. Thomas and safeties Sidney Glover and Robert Sands departing. Top playmakers Noel Devine and Jock Sanders also are leaving. Quarterback Geno Smith will have to carry much of the load on offense in 2011. The Mountaineers play nonconference road games against Marshall and LSU at home and Maryland on the road.
SENIOR BOWL INVITEES
West Virginia’s Noel Devine remains the only player from the Big East Conference listed on this year’s Senior Bowl roster. The inclusion of Devine makes it eight straight years the Mountaineers have had at least one player invited to college football’s most prestigious all-star game.
WVU had three players invited in 2007 (Dan Mozes, Brandon Myles and Boo McLee) and 2009 (Ellis Lankster, Pat McAfee and Pat White).
If media reports are accurate, three former members of Rich Rodriguez’s West Virginia staff will be joining Todd Graham at Pitt. According to ESPN’s Brian Bennett, Calvin Magee will coordinate the Panther offense and Tony Gibson will join Pitt’s defensive staff. Also, Paul Randolph, who worked with Graham while the two were at West Virginia, will serve as co-defensive coordinator.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Paul Zeise is reporting that Tony Dews and Bruce Tall could be part of Graham’s staff as well.
If this happens, that would make six Pitt coaches with some sort of previous WVU tie.
Something like this happened once before in 1940 when Pitt graduate Bill Kern was hired from Carnegie Tech to coach the Mountaineers and he brought Panther graduates Ed Hirschberg, Emil Narrick and Mike Nicksick with him to Morgantown.
Other previous WVU football coaches with Pitt ties include: Hal Hunter, Frank Cignetti, Larry Holton, Desmond Robinson, Steve Bird and Tony Pierce.
There are likely others I am missing.
BIG EAST NFL DRAFT ENTRANTS
Here is the list of the Big East players that have opted to forgo eligibility to enter this year’s NFL draft:
Cincinnati – Vidal Hazelton
Connecticut – Jordan Todman
Pitt – Jon Baldwin, Dion Lewis, Henry Hynoski
West Virginia – Robert Sands