Mountaineer Field—Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here

RG YohoCorrespondent INovember 7, 2008

Although West Virginia has lost only one night game at Mountaineer Field since Don Nehlen retired, that is certainly no guarantee that West Virginia will win this game with Cincinnati on Saturday. Still, I have to like our chances.

As the “wizards” of Wall Street are repeatedly telling us: “Past performance is no indicator of future results.” So the games of the previous seasons may have no affect on the outcome this Saturday.

However, the point to be made here is that Mountaineer Field is an extremely tough venue for any visiting team to win a football game. It is even a bigger challenge in a night game. The crowds are raucous and partisan.

But nothing puts a crowd into a frenzy quicker than a tough, aggressive, and opportunistic defense.

A great scoring play will get the crowd out of their seats for a moment. Goal line stands and third-down stops will keep them standing and screaming for the whole game!

And this Mountaineer team has a defense—young, tough, and getting better by the week.

If you have followed football for any time at all, then you have heard it said that “defense wins championships.” Over the years, I have repeatedly seen the truth of that statement.

As a long-time West Virginia Mountaineer fan, I was used to seeing some outstanding defenses under Coach Don Nehlen. Then along came Coach Rich Rodriguez with his spread offense, which placed more value on scoring points than defense.

I won’t say that Nehlen cared nothing about offense or that Rodriguez cared nothing about defense. However, I have repeatedly said that if Rodriguez had any of Nehlen’s defenses to go along with his 2006 and 2007 Mountaineer squads, then West Virginia would have two National Championships in football.

When the defenses aren’t playing well for the West Virginia Mountaineers, you are routinely bombarded with people calling for the head of Defensive Coordinator Jeff Casteel and the elimination of the 3-3-5 defense. When the defense is playing up to expectations or possibly exceeding them, then the 3-3-5 is lauded.

As any coach could tell you, that is the nature of the business. It matters not what you have done for me; it matters what you have done for me lately!

Increasingly, I have come to believe that good defense doesn't have as much to do with playbooks and schemes as it does with "mean."

It doesn't matter what the formation, every team needs a guy who routinely can be counted on to put a wallop on the quarterback. Also, a hard hitter or two is necessary in the defensive secondary.

And I am not talking about dirty hits; I am talking about tough, clean, and effective ones! I am talking about hits on the quarterback and receivers that leave them thinking about it later in the game.

If you have some guys who can administer those hits during a game and other teams can experience them first-hand or see them on their upcoming game films, it will make them cautious and tentative during a football game.

If the receiver is trying to run a pass pattern while wondering where a certain defensive back might be, then he might very well drop the pass he would normally catch.

In addition, a quarterback won’t be nearly as effective if he is wondering about the presence of a defensive end who knocked out his mouthpiece in the first quarter.

Like Don Nehlen, Coach Bill Stewart is clearly a disciple of defense.

While not abandoning the idea of a high-powered offense, Stew’s hiring of Steve Dunlap and Dave Lockwood has shown that he is committed to putting athletes on the field who can quickly put the ball back in the hands of the Mountaineer offense.

That is how real West Virginia Mountaineer football ought to be played!

When our defenses have been good, we have "hitters" out there: Ryan Mundy, Eric Wicks, Marc Magro, Grant Wiley, Mike Lorello, Darryl Talley, and Tim Agee.

This Mountaineer team has found the players who will administer some earth-quaking, lighting-flashing, bone-jarring, tooth-loosening, ball-fumbling hits on someone! Anyone.

And since we started doing that, we have seen this team start becoming all that it can be this season!

Therefore, the resurgence of a tough Mountaineer defense is going to make it even tougher for visiting teams to win a game in Morgantown.

In short, it should be a bad week for the Bearcats! Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.