My journalistic responsibility compels me to point this out: As the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail’s Mike Casazza correctly observes, Auburn is not a very good team.
That being said, Thursday night’s 34-17 victory over Auburn was an exceptionally solid victory over an SEC team on national television. It was enough to almost squeak WVU back into the Top 25 (WVU is No. 26 in the AP poll, mere points behind Maryland). If WVU beats UConn next week, surely WVU will re-crack the Top 25.
More to the point, it was exactly what WVU and its fans needed. The return of a healthy Pat White combined with six games’s worth of experience in calling plays by offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen and a steadily improving defense that, in the second half, actually looked dominating, gave WVU fans the feeling like a chiropractor had just cracked out a six-week kink.
The game produced some astounding statistics that I didn’t realize were being compiled:
- Granted Auburn was a terrible offense, but it moved the ball well in the first half. In the second half, however, WVU’s defense held Auburn to a stunning 33 yards.
- Middle linebacker Anthony Leonard had a jaw-dropping 16 tackles.
- Defensive back Sidney Glover introduced himself to WVU fans and Auburn’s offense with what seemed like a dozen tackles.
- WVU had one—ONE—penalty all night. I can’t remember a WVU game with only one penalty.
- WVU scored 31 straight, unanswered points.
A few observations:
- How great was it to see good-guy Dorrel Jalloh have a nice game? He deserves it. His leap into the end zone after his whirling-dervish touchdown run was a lovely explosion of joy.
- Jalloh’s first touchdown catch was the play WVU hired Mullen for. A great rub play where the two outside receivers crossed Jalloh, rubbing his man off—almost a pick, which I’m still not sure why it’s illegal—and leaving Jalloh wide open in the corner of the end zone.
- How tough is Pat White for hanging in and delivering the strike to Alric Arnett a second before getting leveled? Reminded me of his touchdown pass to Tito Gonzalez in the Fiesta Bowl.
- It is astonishing how Noel Devine can stop and start instantly.
- Have Ellis Lankster’s hands suddenly turned to concrete? It’s worth noting that even after Lankster intercepted the last pass of the game, he coughed it up when he was tackled.
- What’s with WVU’s kickoff coverage? It gives up two 60-yard returns then nothing after.
- You know how you know WVU is correctly executing the 3-3-5 scheme? Because it looks like WVU has 14 defenders on the field. On several plays in the second half, three or four bad things nearly happened to Auburn on every play—either the quarterback almost got sacked or the pass was nearly knocked down at the line or, if the pass was delivered, it was thrown into three to five blue unis.
- Bill Stewart’s quote of the day after the game on Devine: “He’s a strong little man.” Images of circus strong men with big barbells come to mind.
- There was a nice AP photo from after the game of Pat and little brother Coley White standing side-by-side pointing to the crowd. The present and the future? Note: Coley is No. 8. Remember it.
- Someone please, please, put Lou Holtz out of his misery. No court in the land would convict you.
Now, WVU is 5-2 and headed into the second half of its season and the meat of the Big East schedule.
After last weekend’s games, the Big East is anyone’s guess. After Louisville’s upset of South Florida, Rutgers’s where-did-that-come-from? Out of Pitt and UConn’s blowout of Cincinnati, WVU is the sole remaining undefeated team in the Big East.
If WVU wins out, it gets the BCS bowl so the team’s fate, as they say, is in its hands.
Of the five remaining games, three are on the road—UConn, Louisville and Pitt—and two are at home—Cincinnati and South Florida. It will be very, very nice to have South Florida at home. In December.