2009 WVU Football: Struggles Early, Sweeps the Big East

Tim McGheeCorrespondent IIIAugust 25, 2009

BOULDER, CO - SEPTEMBER 18:  Head coach Bill Stewart of the West Virginia Mountaineers leads his team against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field on September 18, 2008 in Boulder, Colorado. Colorado defeated West Virginia 17-14 in overtime.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Liberty (from Lynchburg VA) in Morgantown, Saturday, Sept. 5: In 2007 and 2008, the Flames could have pulled an Appalachian State right here in Appalachia. With only seven returning starters total, the late Jerry Falwell’s church school doesn’t have a prayer.

The WVU offensive line will sputter in the first half as the boo birds come out early.  Then, raw athleticism will take over.  Scoring four, the Mountaineers will get a shut-out.  West Virginia 28-0.  

East Carolina in Morgantown, Saturday, Sept. 12: Quarterback Patrick Pinkney is back, along with eight starters on defense. Thinking of the waxing WVU suffered last year in Greenville, I don’t care about youth in the offensive line.  Well, yes, I do.

The o-line as a unit will struggle, not affording Jarrett Brown and Noel Devine the protection and the holes they require.  Both defenses will score twice, but the Pirates take the win on the virtue of a late field goal.  East Carolina 17-14.

Auburn at Jordan-Hare, Saturday night, Sept. 19: The Tigers also have a new offensive line which could hinder their quest for more consistent output from the quarterback.  However, it will be a hot, muggy night on the southern plains. 

Auburn is conditioned for that, as well as being conditioned for taking on national championship quality teams.  This game is going to be tough for both schools. The outcome will be crucial.

Win or lose, it will expose each team’s potential, good or bad, telling the tale for the Tigers and the Mountaineers for the remainder of the season.  Fortunately, the West Virginia offensive line will find itself in the fourth quarter.  Alas, it will be too late.  Auburn 17-14.

Colorado in Morgantown, Thursday night, Oct. 1: Good news: the Buffs’ defense has a new line, making it a battle of youth and inexperience.  Bad news: Colorado comes from the extremely tough Big 12 and thinks nothing of facing big-time schools on the road.  More good news: that doesn’t matter.

The Mountaineers will have had 12 days to think about being 1-2.  The offensive line will have had several practices to draw upon on the successes at Auburn and will simply kick butt.

Amazingly, Jarrett Brown and Noel Devine will uncork several big plays, as the defense punches in its typical stellar game.  Besides, it’s Thursday night in Morgantown on ESPN, folks, and you know what that means.  West Virginia 42-0.

Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, Saturday, Oct. 10: The Orange will be toughened up—or beaten up—after opening with Minnesota, Penn State, Northwestern, and South Florida in four of their first five games.  However, when the highlight of a Syracuse game is the punter with the 43.9 yard average, you know it’s time for trouble. 

Going into this game, the West Virginia defense has allowed only 20 points.  The offense will be rolling again, silencing the Carrier crowd.  As well, the ex-Dukie, Orange quarterback Greg Paulus, will face Reed Williams and the crew and wish he were back on Tobacco Road.  West Virginia 31-7 (a late cheap, meaningless TD pass).

Marshall in Morgantown, Saturday, Oct. 17: I’ve called this game between the two state FBS schools a toss-up since its re-emergence in 2006.  Man, have I been wrong! However, this year, eight starters return to The Herd’s defense with the front four intact, including Albert McClellan.  Not good.  Two of three linebackers are back, as well as the two corners.  Doubly not good.

Also, the head man Mark Snyder has his job on the line.  He’s a players’ favorite.  No better way to save him than to beat West Virginia in its own backyard.  I see the Mountaineers with the ball driving late against that D for the win, breaking the hearts in Thunderclap land.  West Virginia 14-13.

Connecticut in Morgantown, Saturday, Oct. 24: The Huskies will display a new hurry-up offense that the West Virginia defense will readily snuff out.  The Connecticut defense won’t help things, either.  The Mountaineers have gonged UConn for a total of 106 basketball-like points the past two seasons.  As well, WVU defense will hit and hit hard, scoring yet another shut-out.  West Virginia 35-0.

South Florida at Raymond James, Friday night, Oct. 30: Two words: George Selvie.  Mr. Selvie also has two other D-linemen brethren returning.  And, at quarterback is senior Matt Groethe, USF’s answer to Pat White.  He can run well and pass even better and has led the Bulls to victories over West Virginia two out of three years. 

Tampa is Heartbreak City to the Mountaineers, with the 2007 loss revealing to others how to beat the WVU spread.  It’s not a national ranking year for South Florida, but they have enough horses to make West Virginia’s life miserable.  This will be an overtime test against a tough Big East opponent.  West Virginia 30-27.

Louisville in Morgantown, Saturday, Nov. 7: The once-and-recently-dominating Cardinal program has its fans clamoring for a head coach change.  If last year’s staff firings don’t help, and the defense doesn’t get it together, Louisville could be absolutely disheartened by the time they make the early November trip. 

Not the case here.  The Cards will pull out one more pride game, challenging West Virginia on both side of the ball.  The Mountaineers will have to scramble for the home win.  West Virginia 23-20.

Cincinnati at Nippert, Friday night, Nov. 13: It won’t be “Freaky Friday” for the Bearcats, but it will for the Mountaineers.  West Virginia will have a difficult time of it. Cincinnati has cracked the WVU code in a way that would make Dan Brown proud.  A big Cincy comeback fell short during WVU’s Fiesta Bowl year, but they got the Mountaineers back with an overtime road win to take the Big East. 

The offense, led by quarterback Tony Pike, is fine, but the defense will be challenged.  However, the ‘Cats always bring it.  Look for the new darling of the conference to try their best to show last season was no fluke, yet fall short.  West Virginia 31-17.

Pittsburgh in Morgantown, Friday, Nov. 27: It’s the Backyard Brawl.  After 2007’s shocker, everyone knows that anything can happen in this rivalry.  Dave Wannstedt currently has the advantage.  The Panther players have West Virginia’s number.  Three of four defensive linemen are back along with the entire defensive backfield.  Nothing much else to say, except (and to borrow from Rich Rod) pull the straps on tighter. 

However, the Mountaineers find themselves on a Big East streak, playing for the league title and the automatic BCS bowl bid.  Several of the starters were around for the huge upset.  They’ll know what to do this time.  West Virginia 24-10.

Rutgers at Rutgers Stadium, Saturday, Dec. 5: If all the stars align in the Mountaineers’ way, this game could be meaningless with regard to the Big East title and an automatic inclusion in a BCS bowl.  Rutgers will lay it all out, but West Virginia still plays with abandon, remembering 2007 like it was the Alamo.  West Virginia 31-7.

Not bad.  After hearing a lot of boos on September 12 and a plethora of questions in the days between September 19 and October 1, coach Bill Stewart’s West Virginia will reel off nine in a row and take its 10-2 record to play for the big money after New Year’s Day. 

Not bad at all.