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December 02, 2007

Props To Pitt

I bragged about the mighty Mountaineers at the start of the week, as a run of bad luck for a whole series of teams in recent weeks vaulted us to a shot at a national title. It's only fair that I now take my lumps publicly.

Props to the Pitt Panthers for stuffing West Virginia University on the football field tonight. It's late in the fourth quarter, and WVU is down 13-7, but I feel pretty safe in saying this game is over. Pitt came to play and WVU didn't -- and even if we don't win, I'm not sure the 'Eers have earned a trip to the national championship game.

Pitt entered this game 4-7, so from my perspective, they've already won by embarrassing my alma mater on national television.

Pitt really has earned major kudos. WVU's success as a football team in recent years has revolved around its offense, and Pitt's defense has stopped us cold. We had -5 yards the whole third quarter!

We only win when we don't make mistakes, and it's true that we've made many tonight -- three fumbles, two missed field goals by a kicker who had only missed two all year, a stupid unsportsmanlike penalty. We also lost Pat White, our star quarterback, to a dislocated thumb in the second quarter.

But Pitt has controlled the line of scrimmage and dominated the game. If we lose, and I believe we will, it ultimately will be because Pitt won, with a minor assist from our mistakes.

UPDATE: White made what all of us 'Eers hoped would be a triumphant return, but tonight, it wasn't meant to be. He drove the team down to almost Pitt's 20 but then fumbled on third-and-10. White got a lucky bounce and recovered, but he threw a horrible pass to the end zone on fourth-and-17. Pitt is running out the clock now.

UPDATE II: It's over. Pitt was able to take a safety to run out the clock. Final score: 13-9.

The worst upset in WVU history -- and it really stings that it was to Pitt, our oldest rival, in a year when we've shown ourselves to be far better than them.

I can't believe we beat then-No. 20 Connecticut by 66-21 last week and lost 13-9 this week. If we hadn't missed two field goals, we could have at least forced the game into overtime and figuratively crossed our Mountaineer fingers with Pat White's dislocated thumb.

I'll be sick at my stomach all night over this loss and won't get any sleep.

Oh, and it also looks like Missouri, which rose to No. 1 overall last week, is going to lose to Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game. Two weeks in a row that the top two teams will have lost. At this point, it looks like it will be Ohio State and Georgia playing for the national title by default, though other teams with two losses (other than WVU) can't be ruled out until the final rankings are released tomorrow.

What a rollercoaster football season.

UPDATE III: No reason to go to bed right now, so I'm watching the post-game show on ESPN. They're now predicting that Louisiana State University, which won the SEC championship game over Tennessee today, will play Ohio State for the national championship. I'd like to see that.

Having grown up only three hours from Columbus, I have been an Ohio State fan since I was a child and legendary coach Woody Hayes was there. That's who West Virginians cheered for until the 'Eers became more competitive in the 1980s, with the likes of Oliver Luck, Jeff Hostetler and Major Harris at QB.

I've also been an LSU fan since high school, when the brother of one of my teachers was an assistant for the Tigers' basketball team. A boy from my hometown (Paden City, W.Va.) who was several years younger than me also was recruited to play basketball at LSU. And in 1995, I became a stronger LSU fan by marriage: My wife, Kimberly, is from Louisiana.

She didn't go to school at LSU but does cheer for them to the extent that she cares anything at all about college sports. Two weeks ago, the two of us had been hoping for a miracle turn of events that would pit WVU against LSU in the national championship.

Kimberly was going to buy WVU and LSU sweatshirts, cut them into pieces and stitch together a combo sweatshirt -- her way of cheering for both teams. The Third Way of sports politics.

Wondering whether I would have done the same? Yeah, right. I bleed blue-and-gold; you'd have to catch me dead before you saw me wearing purple on game night if WVU were playing for a title.

UPDATE IV: This season has been the strongest argument yet for a playoff system in college football. Too many unranked or lower-ranked teams have upset the teams that pollsters always pick for championships to believe that the Bowl Championship Series is better than a playoff.

If a 4-7 Pitt team can beat a 10-1 WVU team on the final game of the season, in a game with national title implications, there's no reason to believe that the teams still in the top 10 or 12 this year couldn't be competitive in a playoff system against any of the top teams. That's especially true this year, but it's actually true any year.

I want to know what the presidential candidates think about this pressing national issue. We need leadership now! Time for another CNN/YouTube debate so I can ask this very important (read: silly) question via video. I'm sure that CNN, the network that thought the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry was important enough to ask Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani about it this week, would air my question.

And now that I've brought a therapeutic sports entry on a politics blog back to a deep discussion about politics, I can go to bed.

UPDATE V: This headline represents what galls me most about last night's loss to Pitt: "National Championship Of Choke: Only Title WVU Will Win."

My alma mater, already in the NCAA football history books as one of the teams tied with the most consecutive bowl losses (eight of them from 1987 to 1998), now has the dubious distinction of being labeled as "chokers of the century" -- and it's not a slam that any rational 'Eers fan can contest.

Now after having choked against Pitt and dropped from No. 2 to No. 11, we will have to play Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. Oklahoma knocked off No. 1 Missouri on Saturday. The good news, I guess, is that now we're the underdogs. The last time we played Oklahoma, in 1982, we were the underdogs and beat them convincingly at home, 41-27.

I remember that game well. It's when WVU became famous for couch-burnings on campus to celebrate football victories. I've never condoned such raucous behavior and never participated in it as a student, but I do hope we Mountaineers will have reason to resist the urge to torch a few couches come January.

Posted by Danny | 09:33 PM


What a waste. It makes me want to stop being a fan because I'm always getting let down.

WVU is like an absentee father. They come around and do some things to get your hopes up, but when it matters most they never show. Ever.

And on top of this, I have to console my Motown native girlfriend. She nearly brawled with about 30 drunken frat idiots in a Marshall campus bar tonight. Good times.

elwood | 12.01.07 11:47 PM

A playoff system would surely be as fun as it sounds but it is not possible. With all the money that each bowl game brings in, especially to the city that it's in, a playoff system is not in the near future. When it comes down to it, West Virginia is not ready for the big game and they showed it on saturday night.

walick | 12.03.07 02:00 PM

This was one of the special games of the night. The big ego of WV against the season-spoiler Pitt. A team that was favored by 4 touchdowns could barely score one as they lose at home to an unranked opponent. West Virginia still got their BCS bowl game, but they have not proven that they should have played for the national championship.

Walick | 12.03.07 02:09 PM

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Beltway Blogroll, by K. Daniel Glover, gauges the policy and political impact of blogs. Glover is the editor of National Journal's Technology Daily.
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