Pitt 19, WVU 15: Stewart & Co. Fail Final Exam

Frank AhrensSenior Writer INovember 28, 2008

Today’s loss reminded me of the great line by the feral Cajun Rob Schneider character in “The Waterboy:” “Oh no! We suck again!”

All you needed to know about WVU’s dismal offensive performance today was this: In the fourth quarter, with 8:04 to go, with WVU nursing a 15-13 lead, the offense could not turn a second-and-1 situation into a first down, thanks to inept play-calling, poor execution and a penalty.

That pretty much sums up the season.

Coach Bill Stewart took last year's 13-9 loss to Pitt as his example for what he would not do this season. He would not run with eight or nine men in the defensive box. He would develop a sophisticated, diverse offense. He would not just tell Pat White to run in every crucial situation.

Today was Stewart & Co.'s one-year exam.

They failed on all counts: They get an F.

Everything wrong with WVU’s offense this year was on display today.

With only one game to go on this sickening season, Stewart, offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen, offensive line coach Dave Johnson and the WVU offense have:

a) Failed to come up with a solution -- any solution -- for third-and short. How do you know that you have failed to develop such a solution in either spring or summer camp? By, on the fly, halfway through the season, making your backup quarterback your third-down back. In many ways, the backup quarterback is the most important player on the team -- especially this team -- and Stewart and Co. make him the tough-yardage back, risking severe injury.

b) Not decided what this offense should be. Should it be a passing-only offense (Villanova?) Or a running-only offense (Colorado)? Or a hybrid (second-half of Auburn)? There is no identity.

c) Not devised a better play than “Pat White runs to the near side” on crucial downs.

d) Failed to create and maintain a kickoff return or coverage team. Both are weak to embarrassing. And, most importantly:

e) Failed to adjust to defenses that have now adjusted to WVU’s speed and spread-option. The era of that dominance ended this season. Hats off to Pitt’s defense: It proved today that last year’s 13-9 stuffing of WVU last season was no fluke. As one Pitt player was quoted today saying: “Now we’re quick and athletic enough” to stop White and Co.

I feel reasonably certain that White’s two interceptions today were the result of his frustration with this offense and his lack of confidence in its ability to maintain drives that he was trying to create plays on his own and forcing the ball.

It would not be unreasonable to say that Mullen should be fired as offensive coordinator for pouring sugar in the gas tank of what was once a Ferrari of a WVU offense. He had never been an offensive coordinator, had never called a game and was in over his head. But then what do you do? Hire another offensive coordinator in the offseason who installs another new system? Constant turnover is a sure recipe for year after year of mediocrity.

Both Pitt and WVU left points on the table today. But WVU couldn’t score from the one-foot line after Jock Sanders’s rush ended there.

Isn’t that the story of this season? Of course Sanders doesn’t score -- he falls one foot short. Of course White’s option pass to Wes Lyons is complete -- but his foot comes down out of bounds. Of course Bradley Starks’s double-pass attempt against Colorado to a wide open Sanders falls to the ground nowhere near him when, if completed, likely would have given WVU a 21-14 win.

But, as Bill Parcells says, you are the team your record says you are. WVU is a 7-4 team and will be lucky to finish 8-4.

Sanders drops passes when he’s wide open.

Noel Devine trips over his own feet trying to cut too hard.

White forces balls into coverage trying to make something happen.

The offensive line cannot open holes, cannot not hold and kills drives with other penalties.

The coaching staff cannot manage the clock.

The special teams coach cannot coach its kickoff team to cover or return.

On the other hand, WVU’s basketball team blew out Iowa in a Las Vegas tournament tonight, 87-68.


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