Car Care anyone
Well, the regular season is over and West Virginia University's football team finished 8-4. That is a far cry from the possible undefeated season and a shot at the national championship some people had predicted for this team. The Mountaineers held on last Saturday to beat South Florida 13-7 in the much ballyhooed Whiteout. The win earned WVU a berth in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte on December 7. The Mountaineers will face North Carolina at 1 p.m.
Cincinnati will represent the Big East in the BCS as they will meet Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. West Virginia pretty much lost the conference race when a furious comeback against the Bearcats fell short on November 8, in Morgantown. In that game West Virginia came from nowhere in the final minutes to force Cincinnati into overtime, only to come up short 26-23.
That point total by the Bearcats represents the most points scored by a Mountaineer opponent this year. Going into this season if someone told you West Virginia would not allow more than 26 points in a game in 2008, you, if you were a WVU fan would have to think there could be no more than two losses, and maybe none.
That is because prior to the season the focus was on a young, suspect defense, not the offense which returned Pat White, Noel Devine and the entire offensive line. It seemed logical to think teams would struggle to outscore WVU, that the Mountaineers would continue to light up the scoreboard like they did in 2007.
Not enough consideration was given to the effect a new coaching staff would have. While some exciting talent was returning on offense, not enough consideration was given to the departure of Steve Slaton, Owen Schmitt and Darius Reynaud. Schmitt gets my vote for the biggest loss, by the way.
Probably the biggest surprise/disappointment though was the offensive line. It would seem we fans were duped over the last two years into believing these guys were better than they were. The speed of White, Slaton and Devine, along with the blocking and strong running ability of Schmitt masked what was actually a very mediocre offensive line.
What had been perceived a strength was exposed time after time this year as a weakness when WVU would line up in short yardage situations and get no push at all. West Virginia seemingly had as much chance to go 40 yards on second down as they did getting a yard on third down. Weird, but accurate.
Pass blocking was no better. Over the last three seasons pass blocking was not too much of an issue because there was little need with White not throwing out of the pocket much. With more emphasis on keeping White in the pocket this year, the pass blocking was exposed as poor as well. White often made great plays with his feet when the protection broke down, but just as often he got stuck there because he was basically a relative newcomer to the philosophy and it took him some time to figure out when to bail out.
As for the aforementioned defensive numbers. By themselves they are impressive, but the lack of points allowed may be somewhat skewed. Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel deserves plenty of credit with this group and they should be much better next year. Still, in a couple of the games when the defense was holding teams to less than 20 points it was in part because opponents like Colorado, Cincinnati and Pitt were in close games and content to play ball control and keep White and Devine off the field. In short, the defense struggled at times getting opponents off the field. The defense did have a knack of playing very well in the red zone though.