West Virginia Football: It's Eerie, WVU 2010 Looks Like 2005 Sugar Bowl Champion

Tim McGheeCorrespondent IIIOctober 13, 2010

West Virginia is taking a one loss non-conference record into its Big East league season.  The team's lone defeat was at the hands of a nationally-ranked opponent from a strong Bowl Championship Series conference. 

With the Big East looking battered and weakened, its member teams are getting no respect.  BCS experts and bloggers are calling for heads to roll.

Yeah. That's West Virginia 2010.  It's pretty sad.

But, that's the eerie resemblance to where WVU was in early October 2005, just three months before finishing with a Sugar Bowl upset victory and a number 5 final national ranking.

Here's how:

Little respect for the head coach of both teams

Although 2005 offensive genius head coach Rich Rodriguez had shared two consecutive Big East championships, he had not played on the big stage in a Bowl Championship Series bowl game.  In early October, Rodriguez resumed league play at Rutgers with his team of speed merchants and slim hopes of garnering a third title.

Bill Stewart is a genius at motivation, but after he prepares for the game and hits the field with his talent-laden 2010 team, the execution seems to fall flat.  Too many members of the media have placed Stewart on the hot seat. That's incredible, considering he has a 23-9 record.


At times, the talented offenses sputtered against decent defenses

In the first five games in 2005, Syracuse, a surprising East Carolina, and number three Virginia Tech held the speedy, dynamic Mountaineers' spread option to under a total of six touchdowns.  The Hokies manhandled the Mountaineers in Morgantown, but Rodriguez' biggest embarrassment was the win against a suspect East Carolina that shut the running game down scoreless in the second half.

In spite of FCS Coastal Carolina, Maryland and UNLV giving up over 30, the 2010 team was frustrated at LSU and at Marshall.  Against the Tigers, WVU could not capitalize on takeaways, but LSU scored 10 points when West Virginia coughed the ball up twice.

The Herd bound and dragged Jeff Mullen's offense deep into the fourth quarter until the Mountaineers broke free for two long, commanding scoring drives.

The Mountaineer defenses dropped the hammer as the offenses found their land legs

The 2005 edition of West Virginia's stack defense held opponents to 16.4 points per game, despite the 17-34 rout at the hands of Virginia Tech.  In the two games before resuming the Big East slate, WVU's offense was stymied.  

The answers to the clues to victory were there.  Freshman Pat White led the Mountaineers to three fourth quarter touchdown drives against Maryland, but was essentially on the sidelines after that.

In his first four games in 2010, including FCS Coastal Carolina and LSU, the offense of Bill Stewart and Jeff Mullen managed to get 25 points per game.  For all its talent, the scoring unit lacked consistency and an overall general philosophy.  But, defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel buckled down for a 3-1 record in those four games, allowing only six touchdowns.  The offense had room to grow.

The Big East Conference was and is being castigated as many were and are calling for the executives of the Bowl Championship Series to cut and run on the league.

West Virginia went 7-0 in the Big East in 2005 for sole possession of the league's championship.  When matched up in Atlanta's Sugar Bowl with Georgia of the mighty Southeastern Conference, experts predicted Rodriguez' Mountaineers would fall and fall hard.

Try 38-35 West Virginia.

The 2010 Mountaineers are sitting in the driver's seat with a 4-1 mark and a USA Today coaches' 25th ranking.  They're amazingly similar, the two circumstances. 

Thing is, as much as the denizens of this state despise him, Rich Rodriguez put West Virginia football on the map and he did it when no one thought he could.

It remains to be seen if Bill Stewart can focus enough to win out and force the BCS committee to give him a BCS bowl berth.  The talent is there.  The schedule is there. 

The man has to drop the folksy platitudes and coach his butt off.  We don't want to hear excuses and drawn-out stories.  Right now, the best way to build sons, husbands, fathers, and men of faith is to show his men through football how to commit and execute and succeed.


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