Friday, August 23, 2013

8 Days Away from Mountaineer Football

We all can remember a play that stands out in our mind over the years. It is a moment that is engraved in your mind. It is an experience you share with your friends and will share with your children. Since we are 8 days away from kickoff, I will rank the 8 Plays That Shaped Mountaineer Football in the BCS Era. As you are reading them, think back to where you were and what you were doing.This list was incredibly hard to make. I didn't know whether to include negative plays like Michael Vick's scramble in '99, the Miracle in Morgantown, or Kellen Winslow Jr. shoving a dagger into my soul with a 4th and 13 catch that moved the chains with 1:05 on the clock. Also, the game that shall not be mentioned had a few plays that left me too shocked to cry. I didn't know which plays to leave out because it's like ranking your favorite offspring. Anyway, I'm digressing again. On to the list.

 8 Plays That Shaped Mountaineer Football in the BCS Era

8. Pat White's 50-yard scamper
In weeks prior, West Virginia had lost all National Championship hopes when they lost to South Florida in Tampa. The spotlight was off of the Mountaineers up until this game. We had dismantled Syracuse, Mississippi State, and Rutgers and were ranked #6 coming into the Thursday night rivalry game. WVU got out to a large lead early. Pat White proceeded to fumble WVU back into a tie game with 1:35 remaining in the 4th quarter. But, in typical Pat White fashion, he made up for it.  

What did it mean: The Mountaineers won the game 38-31, making it back into the top 5 with wins over Cincinnati and UConn. West Virginia had its first ever #1 ranking ever, which is pretty significant. Once again, WVU was back in the National Championship picture, which is obviously great for recruiting. Most of us were there watching it live. Current players on the team watched it on ESPN and fell in love with the Pat White/Steve Slaton combo that will never be forgotten in College Football. 

7. Tron Martinez's unfortunate fumble :(
Marshall has never beaten WVU (and never will) in football, but they came awfully close on September 10. 2010. It was a warm night in Morgantown and all of my friends gathered to watch the game excited to see our #23 Mountaineers destroy the Herd. The first 51 minutes were pretty sobering, that's for sure. But in typical Marshall fashion, up 21-6 inside WVU's 10 yard line, they choked. It would have been the greatest win in Marshall's history, but a guy named "Tron" shouldn't be expected to hold on to a steering wheel, let alone a football in front of a national audience. He fumbled and Geno Smith led an unbelievable comeback that crushed all of the souls in Huntington that night. WVU won 24-21 in overtime. Yes I watched the rest of that youtube video.

What did it mean: I think the pure fact that we avoided losing to Marshall is good enough. Morgantown was ablaze, as all of our students celebrated an improbable victory. WVU stayed in the rankings, which later produced a big matchup in Baton Rouge against LSU. What it really did was show Mountaineer fans the future of the program. It gave us promise for years to come. Geno Smith was an outstanding leader that night and had a great career. Stedman Bailey had a couple of clutch 4th quarter grabs, per usual. Tavon Austin had a few catches and would eventually become a first round draft pick. I still love you Tay-Tay.

6. "Owen a runaway beer truck down the sidelines!"
Out of all of the plays on the list, this is probably my favorite. Owen was such a good Mountaineer and a great character that fans around the country loved. After the Fiesta Bowl, Owen had a postgame interview with Fox  that we still love watching. I remember this hilljack Sooner fan and his idiot 8 year-old son were sitting in front of me talking smack the entire first quarter of the game. This was the first play that shut them up for good. It was one of many plays that the Fiesta Bowl produced that could have been on the list, including Pat White's numerous touchdown passes and Noel Devine's touchdown runs. WVU won the Fiesta Bowl 48-28 over the Oklahoma Sooners.

What did it mean: West Virginia was not expected to win, obviously. We were a long shot to even compete. Rich Rodriguez had left the program after choking away the biggest game in our history. What this game really proved was that WVU was a prominent program. Schools have great years and bad years. Winning this game meant three straight 11-win seasons for the Mountaineers and would give them a preseason top 10 ranking the following season. While this game wasn't the most important win, it was our program's finest hour in my opinion. All the negativity that followed us through December was overcome by Bill Stewart, Pat White, and Owen Schmitt's leadership. It gave us a speech that will be replayed for the rest of our lives. It gives us all chills and sometimes a tear. Rest in peace, Stew. 

5. Brian King's interception in Blacksburg
God, do I love this play. WVU went into the game 7-3 against the #12 Virginia Tech Hokies in 2002. If you were like me, you stayed up all night to watch this Wedneday night rivalry game and screamed your head off much like Tony Caridi and the MSN staff did on the call.  Earlier that year, we lost to #1 Miami, the eventual National Champions, in Morgantown in a relatively close game. Virginia Tech only needed a field goal to tie and they were in our red zone with plenty of time left. Brian Randle, the Hokies' quarterback, didn't need to make a stupid throw like that. But he did. The play is so great, because it was so unexpected. I remember sitting on the couch waiting to watch us lose. We won the game 21-18 and it created a matchup of two top 25 teams the following week when we played Pittsburgh at Heinz. 

What did it mean: Well, for starters, it was the first time we were ranked in quite a long time. You will have to fact check me on that one, but it produced a ton of excitement for the Mountaineer program. It was our first 9-win season since 1993. It got the Mountaineers out of the rather boring pit they had sat a decade in. We would eventually get crushed in the Continental Tire Bowl by Virginia, but it was Rich Rodriguez's first prominent victory as head coach. It also started a streak of 11 straight bowl game appearances by the Mountaineers.

4. Quincy Wilson's "unbelievable run"
I know, I know. How can you possibly rank the greatest run in our history at #4? Simply put, we lost the game. That is not saying the play was insignificant, because it still made it into the top 4. As mentioned earlier, Kellen Winslow Jr. shoved a hot knife into my heart that night. WVU lost 22-20 in what is still the most painful defeat I have witnessed in my life. Sure, the "game that will not be spoken of" was worse but not as painful. The Pitt game left me in shock and disbelief. The Miami game made me want to off my 12 year old self in the back alley of Casa. I cried a thousand cries and didn't sleep for a week. Anyway, Quincy ran around and through future NFL starters in a truly unbelievable display of heart and determination. I still watch the play to this day and wonder to myself, "How the hell did he do that?" What is even more mind-boggling is that Rich Rod called a half back screen on 3rd-and-long. 

What did it mean: It showed that WVU was no longer a "gimme" win. We were no longer that cellar dweller that would be a cake-walk for Miami or anyone. After the game we were 1-4, but it felt like we were 11-0. The Mountaineers would rattle off a 7 game winning streak and win a share of the Big East Championship, which was pretty cool. "The Run" gave us some national publicity. To be fair, it is definitely the best overall play in Mountaineer history. There are others that were more significant, but not as impressive. It didn't shape our program, however, as much as these final 3.

3. Adam Bednarik's Foot Sprain
I'm sorry Adam, but your injury was one of the best things to happen to Mountaineer football. That is a distasteful statement, but it's true. I liked Bednarik, don't get me wrong. He was a decent quarterback and used to truck through Syracuse defenders. In the 4th quarter of WVU-Louisville in 2005, Adam Bednarik went down with a foot injury that would give Pat White the permanent reigns to the Mountaineer football team. The first half of the season, both players split time at quarterback (with Bednarik starting and getting most of the reps). Pat White, as noted, took over. It was the most amazing comeback in recent WVU history. Did you leave early? I'll be honest. I couldn't or I probably would have. I was a young buck and was outside the stadium passing football with my friends. When their fathers left, I was left alone. So, naturally, I went back into the game. I kid you not, I remember sitting back in my seat with 9 minutes left in the game. I remember everyone around me saying that Bednarik looked to be hurt. Pat White came in, and we had nothing to lose. We got to see the redshirt freshman from Alabama give us a taste of the future. No one expected us to come back and win, though--especially not 46-44 in triple overtime. 

What did it mean: Shit, it meant everything. We went 10-1 that year and won the Sugar bowl. Pat White won multiple Big East Offensive Player of the Year awards, and set school, Big East, and national records. The golden age of Mountaineer football was created by Adam's foot sprain. Crazy to think, huh?

2. Steve Slaton's first 52 yard touchdown run
If you are a true Mountaineer fan, you can probably recite Brad Nessler's call pretty accurately. West Virginia was 10-1 and ranked #11. We were matched up against #7 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl and were set to play the game in the Georgia Dome, the Bulldogs' backyard. I remember the days leading up to the game creating a weird set of emotions for me. It was a combination of Christmas morning and your last meal before execution. It was the biggest game I had ever witnessed in my life. The media told us we had no shot, and I sort of believed them. The build-up to the game was crippling. My nerves were getting the best of me and my heart was pounding hours before. We forced a punt to start out the game, which was great. Still, Mountaineer fans had no idea what to expect. Our offense was actually moving the ball well, but a holding penalty halted us. 2nd and 20...our own 48 yard line...draw play to Slaton. We would eventually hold a 28-0 lead in the second quarter. We literally could not be stopped. My family and I were pretty speechless. Somehow, they came back. The lead was 38-35. Now we had to punt. No way we hold on for the victory.

1. Phil Brady's fake punt
"And now they're gonna fake it!" Yes. YES. No one expected it. It was the ballsiest call I've ever seen. It was a display of coaching brilliance. 

What did it mean: That run basically meant that WVU was not screwing around. We didn't show up to enjoy what Atlanta had to offer. We weren't happy just being there. We came to win. The first Steve Slaton touchdown eased the nerves and helped build a 28-0 lead. Slaton would later have another 52 yard run that I thought, at the time, closed out the game. We won our first of three BCS games. The other 2 were definitely a product of this first one. West Virginia was a pretty big afterthought. Georgia had to play Big East Champion West Virginia? Who is there quarterback? Who is their running back? I've never heard of them. They're both freshman? Pat White, Steve Slaton, Owen Schmitt, and Darius Reynaud built off this monumental victory and escalated the program to levels we hadn't seen in a long time. The Mountaineers were on magazine covers and on the front page of ESPN. All of this  was in light of the devastating Sago Mine Disaster  that affected the entire state of West Virginia. iThe Sugar Bowl win made West Virginia University Football relevant, and it wouldn't have happened without Phil Brady's fake punt.

Honorable mention: Grant Wiley's goal line stop vs. Virginia Tech, Chris Henry's overtime touchdown catch against Maryland, Rasheed Marshall to Travis Garvin to upset Virginia Tech, Bitancurt's field goals against Pitt and USF, Pat White's touchdown run at South Florida in 2005, Wes Ours diving touchdown in Don Nehlen's last game, and John Pennington's acrobatics against Pitt.

If you read through all of this, thank you and I hope you enjoyed it. There are probably a few spelling errors, but get over it. If you think one missed the cut, leave a comment or shoot me an email. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

10 Days Away from Mountaineer Football

Today, I will be doing something a little different. Everybody is excited for Mountaineer Football being 10 days away. Why not make a few lists as the season nears closer?

The Top 10 Forgotten Soldiers of WVU Football (players who once had promise but fizzled out rather quickly or left the team)

Before I begin, let me note that there are no players before 2000. Let's face it. WVU football from 1998-2001 was not very good, therefore there are few promising players that are memorable. Anyway let's begin.

10. Mark Rodgers: A running back from California, this guy was touted as a speedster that would compliment Jock Sanders and Noel Devine pretty nicely. Unfortunately, Rodgers had the field vision of a Saturday night at Crockett's. Wearing #23, his go-to move was returning kick-offs into his own blockers, opposed to open space. 

9. Pernell Williams: His freshman year, he showed so much promise backing up Kay-Jay Harris and Jason Colson (mostly mop-up duty). He had a couple TDs against Rutgers and Temple that gave Mountaineer fans a glimpse of the future. Himself, another player on this list, and Jason Colson, were set for a 3-running back attack in 2005. Unfortunately for Pernell, but fortunately for WVU fans, Steve Slaton came on the scene and took over.

8. Jordan Roberts: This one is a bit sensitive, considering he was the Kennedy Award winner and had a great spring game at WVU. To this day, fans will talk about Jordan with spite. Personally, he just wasn't better than the running backs on the roster ahead of him. Some of you believe he didn't get a fair chance to play or show the coaches what he could do. Who knows? Maybe if he stuck around, he could have produced. Anyway, he had an extremely productive Division II career and is currently on the Kansas City Chiefs roster as of today.

7. Evan Rodriguez: No, this one never produced any statistics. However, his recruiting film was impressive and he was on campus briefly. After an altercation, he left the team and enrolled at Temple where he switched to tight end. He was drafted in the 4th round by the bears, but is currently taking first-team reps in camp with the Miami Dolphins.

6. Barry Brunetti: In 2009, WVU got their second consecutive Elite 11 quarterback commit (traditionally, the ESPN RISE Elite 11 is a list of the top 12 high school senior QB's in the country). However, he sat behind Geno Smith collecting dust on his shoulder pads. Honestly, he was not that good to warrant a competition. He did not show any flashes of potential, and Geno was never going to lose the job. He was best known for screaming like an idiot in the MountainLair. No one really blamed him for transferring to Ole Miss (instead of taking the Jarrett Brown route and being a back up for 3 years). In fact, he was slated to start in 2011 against BYU after the quarterback in front of him was arrested. He had an underwhelming first half and was pulled in the second quarter. He is still a back-up and received a drug-related misdemeanor this summer. You do you Barry.

5a., 5b. The Roberts Twins (Vance and Vernard): Vance, a 4 star cornerback, and Vernard, a 3 star running back, were two of the biggest recruiting pick-ups for WVU in 2011. WVU was thin at running back, and Vernard actually saw significant playing time as a freshman, including a TD at Maryland. These two, along with Trey Johnson, left the team that year as WVU won the Big East and Orange Bowl. We probably could have used Vance these past couple of years as he is having a somewhat successful junior college career.

4. Brandon Barrett: If you take a look at the Rivals top 100 recruits from 2004, you will see Brandon Barrett, wide receiver from Martinsburg, at #45. Notice the players in front of him. He was 8 spots behind Calvin Johnson and 17 behind Marshawn Lynch. After failing to qualify his freshman year and failing to stay in shape his sophomore year, Brandon came back his junior year in a good position. He had one of the more memorable spring games in WVU's recent history and looked to be a potential contributor to WVU's National Championship campaign for 2006. Unfortunately, he wasn't and left Mountaineer fans asking, "What if?"

3. Gino Gradkowski: When Gino Gradkowski, an offensive lineman from Pittsburgh, chose WVU over Pitt, he was an instant favorite to Mountaineer fans. Gradkowski was rated a 4-star by for the class of 2007. He redshirted his freshman year, but saw limited action the following year. In the spring, he went the way of Joe Flacco. He transferred to Delaware, became a star at the FCS level, and was drafted by the eventual Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens. Currently, he is fighting for the starting center position for Baltimore. WVU really missed out on this gem.

2. Quinton Andrews: This one still frustrates me. Quinton was an absolute monster. Basically, he was a Jahmile Addae clone. He could do it all. He was second on the team in tackles his freshman year (led in interceptions with 5), fifth his sophomore year (led in pass break-ups), and second his junior year. Quinton always had off-the-field issues though. He hit Pat White in spring practice when it wasn't allowed. Andrews was arrested in 2007 and dismissed from the team his senior year and enrolled at North Alabama for Terry Bowden. To this day, it bothers me how good he could have been with the right guidance.

1. Jason Gwaltney: Yeah, everybody knows the story here. A 5-star running back out of New York, Gwaltney was supposed to skyrocket the WVU program when he chose the mountaineers over USC on ESPN. The WVU faithful saw multiple Heisman Trophies in his future when Jason committed to the Mountaineers. In the fall, Gwaltney had 2 touchdowns against Maryland. However, Jason had more issues than we knew at the time. Jason was injury prone. He had academic and attitude issues. He couldn't keep his weight down and was just flat out lazy. He was arrested this February as he tried to make a run at the NFL and remains one of the biggest recruiting busts of all time. Jason Gwaltney and Jonathan Hargett would probably be pretty good friends.

Do you disagree or have any others you believe should have been on here? I don't want to hear about it so don't send me an email. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Dear Cork: August 2, 2013

Sorry everyone. I have been a little busy, so I haven't gotten back to your questions in a couple of weeks. With that said, I have received tons of submissions but I can only answer 4. Here are my favorites:

I ordered a rubber oven mitt in the mail. Upon receiving, I discovered that the item was not what I ordered. I was expecting more of a catcher's mitt design because I play hot potato on Wednesday nights. What gives?
(the author requested to remain anonymous) 
Well friend. I can understand your frustration. Let me guess, UPS Ground? Anyway. After further researching the matter, the word "mitt" is a root of the word "mitten." Mittens traditionally separate the thumb with the other 4 fingers encasing them in a cotton womb for your hands. Next time, email the website asking for a preview of the item you are ordering before purchasing it. I had this problem when I ordered a "Vibe Rater" to gauge some of my family members' attitudes come Christmas time. Let's just say Aunt Rita won't be spending the holidays with us anymore!

I have a pressing issue. I desperately want to tell the girl I have been dating, not my girlfriend, that I have a vicious foot fetish that simply cannot be tamed unless I get my fill for feet every morning before I start my day. Even brushing my teeth has to incorporate the foot or I won't be able to concentrate at work. Do you prefer Qdoba or Chipotle?
 -Brian D., Morgantown
Well Brian D., this is a matter that could have its own blog post. I have given Chipotle numerous opportunities to blow me away, but it hasn't. My first trip was a positive one. Pretty decent meal. My second was when I walked across the Clemente Bridge after the Kenny Chesney concert. It was subpar (even after a few lime spritzers). The third trip was terrible. Limited menu item with limited toppings and gristly steak. I have been there 5 times and it gets worse every single time. So I refuse to go back. Qdoba is awesome. Thanks for the question Brian D. 

I don't appreciate some of your views in this blog. I actually love steak sauce and you are probably a douche in real life. Lindsey 
Probably? If you only knew.

So Clark,

I'd consider myself a good looking guy.  But I have my eye on this girl who is just drop dead gorgeous.  I'm afraid she may be too hot for me and I'm not trying to compete with other guys for her.  What should I do?
Best wishes,
Sexy Greg 
I believe in divine intervention. You will run into her eventually and have a conversation.You seem like a straight shooter. And you are a good looking guy greg! I can tell by the way you write. No shame in being cocky. Women love a guy who will put on his sunday bests and cut-a-rug on the dance floor. Next time you see this girl at your local watering hole, approach her. Compliment her slacks or something. Personally, I wouldn't do that. But that seems like something sexy Greg would do! Thanks Gregory!

Send your questions to and I will answer them next time.