WVU 24, Rutgers 17: An Unseen Victory

Frank AhrensSenior Writer IOctober 6, 2008

I was in L.A. for a friend's wedding last weekend and missed WVU's victory over Rutgers. I live in an age where I've been trained to believe that I can get any content I want whenever and wherever I want and when I can't, it's really frustrating.

My friend in L.A. has Time Warner cable and Internet. On the TV, apparently you can no longer purchase individual games on the ESPN GamePlan so I would have had to have purchased the entire season ($129) to see the game. I couldn't watch it on the Internet, because ESPN 360 is not supported by Time Warner ISP.

So, I had to watch it, play-by-play, on ESPN's GameCast. (Which is very close to how the public had to follow out-of-town baseball games prior to the TV and radio—each play was transmitted by ticker tape, and wooden men were moved around a big board on a wall. To see a fine recreation of this, rent "Eight Men Out.")

At the same time, I was texting a buddy who was in the stands at Mountaineer Field watching the game live and another in Charleston, W.Va., watching it on TV. I told my friend in L.A., "All I need now is to be on the phone with someone who's listening on radio and I'll have all media platforms covered."

So, that's a long way of saying that I haven't seen the game, so I only know what I read and what I saw on the ESPN highlights. (Also, my DirecTV proprietary DVR failed to record the game. I'll be calling them tomorrow.)

To wit:

Pat White's first touchdown pass to TE(!) Tyler Urban was perfectly executed, and was reminiscent of White's touchdown pass to Darius Reynaud in the Fiesta Bowl.

White's touchdown pass to Jock Sanders was all Sanders, from the moment he leaped to reel in White's high pass to the slalom moves he put the enter left half of the Rutgers defense, a run that was reminiscent of Major Harris's slalom through the Penn State defense in 1988. (Members of that team were on hand at Mountaineer Field on Saturday.)

Scooter Berry wins defensive MVP honors for the first half of the season with his bat-down of Mike Teel's pass on fourth-and-five.

Maybe he'll be a great corner some day but Brandon Hogan got burned for another touchdown. This time, and you can see it in the ESPN highlights, he froze in no-man's land, unsure whether to go forward or backward, allowing the Rutgers receiver to run behind him to the back corner of the end zone to catch the pass.

Now, a couple of observations:

It seems every game so far brings a call by Coach Bill Stewart that is so puzzling, sports writers can't wait for the game to end so they can ask, "What were you thinking?" Against Colorado, it was clock management.

Against Rutgers, it was two calls: A squib kick that gave Rutgers the ball at midfield and even more puzzling, the decision to go for a first down on fourth-and-inches in the fourth quarter when up by seven points at home when your punter could have pinned Rutgers (with no timeouts) at least 80 yards away from a tying score after they've shown all day they are incapable of driving the length of the field. Instead, Stewart decided to go for it by running Jarrett Brown out of the shotgun—wha?—and he was sacked for a nine-yard loss.

After the game, Stewart showed that he may have the heart of a gambler, but, to paraphrase Kenny Rogers, Stew doesn't seem to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em.

He said he will always play to win and never play to not lose.

Well, that's all fine and dandy when the game's on the line and a coach is forced to make a gutsy call. But here the safe call was the right call and the call to win the game: You're up by seven. At home. At midfield. Punt. The. Ball. Not hard.

With the squib kick, after the game, Stewart said he didn't want to kick deep because that could have risked a long return for a touchdown because he remembered Reynaud did the same thing in 2006 against Maryland.


It's sort of like a person getting sick by eating an apple once and vowing never to eat another apple.

I've been a supporter of Stew and I suppose I still will be—every new coach gets one year to show what he can do. But he sure is producing some head-scratchers.

I also note that there has been no criticism so far of Mark Johnson, the new offensive line coach imported from Georgia.

The offensive line has been a problem all season, as they apparently forgot how to block since the Fiesta Bowl, or perhaps they have been given too many new blocking schemes to learn. You know it's bad when the Saturday injury of true freshman offensive guard Josh Jenkins spells trouble. (Kneecap, reports the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail's Mike Casazza.)

So I wonder if Johnson's tutelage is too difficult or opaque for the veteran Mountaineer offensive line to pick up, or if he's not teaching them the right things. Stewart said after the Rutgers game that the reason he put Brown in the shotgun on fourth-and-inches was because during the Colorado loss, the offensive line couldn't push the defense forward one inch. He was counting on Brown to find a hole and freelance.

News flash: If Pat White can't pick up one inch by freelancing, Jarrett Brown can't.

I think Johnson's coaching so far this season of the offensive line deserves some scrutiny.