Friday, September 19, 2008

West Virginia Football is Self-Destructing

Many of us saw this coming. But not this soon.

West Virginia was made into a powerhouse by Rich Rodriguez. From 2005-2007, the Mountaineers had a combined 33-5 record including BCS wins in the 2006 Sugar Bowl over heavily favored Georgia and the 2008 Fiesta Bowl under interim head coach Bill Stewart over heavily favored Oklahoma. By all means, with Rodriguez only 44-years-old and the fact he was a WVU alum, the Mountaineers looked like they could rule the Big East for years.

Then, because of inner problems in the athletic department, Rodriguez left WVU for Michigan before the '08 Fiesta Bowl. He had been offered the Alabama job in 2006, but declined then. WVU hired interim head coach Bill Stewart shortly after the Fiesta Bowl win, a coach with only three years head coaching experience.

During the offseason, many players had liked Bill Stewart's new system. Some even said that with Rodriguez that they were afraid to come to practice. Now workouts weren't as tough. And the Mountaineers had Heisman watch quarterback Pat White and speedster Noel Devine back in what should be a powerful offense. But the results of a change in style are very clear already.

The Mountaineers are already 1-2, losing on the road to East Carolina and Colorado in OT, which equals their number of losses all last year. And the reasons are clear. Almost every throw Pat White had, all 14 of them, were short passes and/or behind the line to a running back. And WVU may be a rushing powerhouse, but 52 rushes with 14 short passes is a terrible offense. They look undisciplined and there is no leadership on the field. WVU got the ball back with 2:09 left and two timeouts in a tie game, and horrible clock management was used and with they didn't have a chance to score, ending regulation with a timeout. They would lose the game when their kicker missed a 23-yarder in OT and Colorado hit their 25-yarder.

I don't claim to know Rich Rodriguez's practice runs well, but the fact is he had his team ready everytime they took the field. The three times I saw the Mountaineers face Maryland, Steve Slaton, White, and eventually Devine would tear the Terps apart with a strong and tactical rushing attack. To be honest, I don't care that some players were "scared to come to practice." With WVU's very low academic standards and Rodriguez's track record, the Mountaineer football team is a nice place to play. If you don't like it, get better grades or play for a worse football team! It is easy to see why Michigan would want a guy like Rodriguez, and I have no doubt he'll get that program in top form.

Now under the player's choice of Stewart, WVU looks like an average college football team that is completely undisciplined. But West Virginia did this to themselves. They had a tremendous coach who wanted a lot of control over the team, which isn't an unreasonable request, and fantastic players despite an average history before Rodriguez. But now, they have a head coach with no useful experience and who's unable to control his team. But they did this to themselves. In the words from the movie Cool Runnings, "You had it all! Why'd you do it?"

I guarantee Big East teams and Maryland are laughing at West Virginia right now. We just didn't think it would happen this quickly.

(Photo credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

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