West Virginia's home loss to long-standing rival Syracuse can be summed up in two short sentences:
The third quarter was frustrating. The fourth quarter was completely surreal.
The Orange offense squeezed each valuable second out until the snap. A long handoff ensued, as every run—Syracuse threw the ball only five times—seemed to be in slow motion, milking still more essential ticks off the clock.
Every player got up even more slowly, as if it were a never-ending game of flag football with 50-year-old men...getting up even more slowly.
Syracuse defensive backs and linebackers covered eligible West Virginia receivers well, actually better than "well"—more accurately, like a tarp.
Mountaineer quarterback Geno Smith had nearly four seconds of pocket time, but no one would be open. Smith would shake loose, scramble, find the rare open man, mostly throw the ball into the turf, sometimes run for a couple of yards. Or, most often, suffer a sack.
I don't know how many sacks, or pass attempts. I think there may have been three, or perhaps four interceptions of Mountaineer passes. I don't know, and I don't really care.
I don't need to have a list of numbers to tell me West Virginia's daunting offense, with nine returning starters driven by one of the most talented passing quarterbacks in the nation, was totally dismantled Saturday afternoon by Syracuse, a two-touchdown underdog.
I don't even need to know the score to let me know that this game is a bellwether, letting us all know in no uncertain terms that West Virginia football is in trouble.
As my older daughter and I drove away from the Sheetz in Sabraton, Syracuse head football coach Doug Marrone was being interviewed on ESPN Radio.
When asked how he knew his Orange had arrived, Coach Marrone said it was over a year ago when his team was going through a leadership training program and a life skills program he and his assistant coaches had set up. He knew then, he said.
Sounds a lot like men becoming great sons, husbands, fathers and men of faith.
This is my point: Bill Stewart is a fine man. So is Doug Marrone. They, along with other major college coaches, one particular coach excluded, want to have their hand in developing fine men. They look at that development as their job.
It's their job, alongside winning football games.
Would you think that a head football coach can use his pursuit of college football game victories to teach young men how to be outstanding men? Teach them how to do their jobs?
Now, I'm finally getting to my point: I sat in Section 214, Row 13, Seat 30, and didn't see the pursuit of a college football victory coming from the guys in navy and gold. I saw confusion on the West Virginia sidelines. I saw West Virginia players not being put in a position to win, just not knowing where to go. I saw Mountaineer coaches trying the same things over and over hoping for a different result.
Noel Devine began the season a Heisman candidate. Geno Smith came of age as he quarterbacked his teammates on two huge, long drives to gain an overtime victory at Marshall. The offensive line grew at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. And WVU receivers began dominating their field.
But, today, folks, West Virginia took a giant leap backwards, and has but a short week to head in the right direction.
The problem is with the coaching. Admit it.
It is the charge of West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck to put 60,000 people in the seats at Milan Puskar Stadium seven times every season. In that way, the university makes money.
To consistently sell 420,000 tickets year after year, West Virginia University has to have a great product.
It's not happening.
Hey, thanks to all of you for your comments. I apologize to everyone for the lack of a timely response to your comments. The Day Job and Life in General has been demanding, really good, and fulfilling. I intend to get to all of you in the next couple of days.
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