The Southeastern Conference has long been regarded as the premier league in college football. And for good reason.
The league has won seven straight national championships and just had a whopping 63 players selected in the NFL Draft.
As dominant as it may seem, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops doesn’t seem too impressed. During a recent caravan stop, Stoops reportedly called the SEC’s dominance “propaganda” and said the gap between it and the rest of the conferences isn’t as wide as people may think.
Stoops referred to the bottom half of conference as evidence.“Well, it depends on what gap you’re talking about,” Stoops said. “What are the bottom six doing? “So they’ve had the best team in college football,” Stoops said. “They haven’t had the whole conference. Because, again, half of ‘em haven’t done much at all. I’m just asking you. You tell me.”In a way, Stoops does have a point, as flawed as it seems. The five SEC schools, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Auburn, and Tennessee, who failed to go to a bowl game last year were a combined 19-41. Meanwhile, the bottom half of the Big 12, Texas Tech, TCU, West Virginia, Iowa State, and Kansas, combined to go 29-35 overall.“It depends on who you want to listen to,” Stoops told the Tulsa World. “Listen, they’ve had the best team in college football, meaning they’ve won the national championship. That doesn’t mean everything else is always the best. “So you’re listening to a lot of propaganda that gets fed out to you,” he said. “You’re more than smart enough to figure it out. Again, you can look at the top two, three, four, five, six teams, and you can look at the bottom six, seven, eight, whatever they are. How well are they all doing?”
Former West Virginia football coach Bill Stewart, who was hailed as Rich Rodriguez’s successor but wound up leaving the school in a messy split, died Monday of what athletic department officials said was an apparent heart attack. He was 59.
Stewart’s family notified the university and said Stewart had been out golfing with the longtime friend who hired him as head coach, former athletic director Ed Pastilong. West Virginia spokesman Michael Fragale said he had no further details, and Pastilong couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
“Coach Stewart was a rock-solid West Virginian and a true Mountaineer,” athletic director Oliver Luck said in a statement released by the university. “His enthusiasm and passion for his state’s flagship university was infectious. We join all Mountaineers in mourning his passing.”
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who was governor at the time Stewart became head coach, said Stewart was a longtime friend who “leaves behind a lifetime of memories and love for our state.”
“Bill was a proud West Virginian in every sense of the word,” Manchin said, “and he was the best cheerleader this state ever had.”
The West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association held its annual golf tournament Monday at Stonewall Jackson Resort in Roanoke.
Ryan Crook of Beckley said he was playing in the tournament behind a group that included Stewart and Pastilong. Crook said he saw Stewart collapse on the 16th hole. Members of Crook’s group drove their carts to Stewart’s side, and ambulances were called, Crook said.
Stewart went 28-12 in three seasons after taking over when Rodriguez left for Michigan after the 2007 regular season, but resigned last summer and was replaced by Dana Holgorsen the same night.
In December 2007, Mountaineer fans unleashed their fury on Rodriguez for breaking his contract early and taking the Michigan job. He left the Mountaineers not long after a painful loss to rival Pittsburgh cost them a shot at the national championship and two weeks before the Fiesta Bowl game against Oklahoma, taking recruits and assistants with him.
It was Stewart, a deeply religious family man, who stepped in and guided the team to a surprising 48-28 victory over the Sooners.
In the euphoric aftermath, he was given the job full-time – to the surprise of many – but the Mountaineers didn’t go to another BCS bowl under his leadership and Stewart couldn’t match the production of Rodriguez. In Stewart’s three seasons, West Virginia averaged at least 79 fewer yards per game than the 2007 team.
In December 2010, Luck – then just months into his tenure – decided to hire Holgorsen as offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting for the 2011 season. Holgorsen would run West Virginia’s offense while Stewart would coach the team one final season before moving into an administrative job.
Wins and losses weren’t the only issue for the coaching change. Luck said season-ticket sales had declined in the year after Stewart became head coach.
Luck said he’d modeled the transition after those done when Bret Bielema took over at Wisconsin and Chip Kelly assumed control at Oregon. Luck said he had no doubt it would be handled professionally, noting both coaches said they supported the idea.
And Stewart was diplomatic about the hire, saying the team would let Holgorsen “implement ideas and schemes in preparation of getting the finest offensive staff we can compile.”
Six months later, the arrangement had fallen apart, and Stewart’s departure became difficult. Both he and Holgorsen made unwanted headlines in the weeks leading up to the shake-up.
An intoxicated Holgorsen was escorted out of a casino, then a former newspaper reporter said that Stewart had approached him shortly after Holgorsen’s hiring to “dig up dirt” on his eventual successor.
“At the time I thought it made a lot of sense, I thought it was good management practice,” Luck said last June. “With hindsight, folks could certainly disagree.”
In Holgorsen’s first season, the Mountaineers went 10-3, were Big East co-champions and beat Clemson 70-33 in the Orange Bowl.
“The State of West Virginia, our University and our football program has lost a true Mountaineer who gave his native state university a decade of coaching service and a lifetime of guidance and inspiration to thousands of young men over a 33-year career,” Holgorsen said Monday. “Though Coach Stewart achieved many great milestones on the field, we will most remember his kindness and compassion.”
Former West Virginia running back Steve Slaton, who entered the NFL draft after his junior season in 2007, said he was at a loss for words. “I am honored to have had him as a friend and coach,” Slaton said. “I know every player that has had the opportunity to be around him would say the same.”
Stewart, a native of New Martinsville, attended Fairmont State and earned a master’s degree in health and physical education from WVU in 1977.
He had assistant coaching stints at seven colleges before becoming head coach at VMI in 1994, going 8-25 in three seasons. After a two-year stint in the Canadian Football League, Stewart was hired by Don Nehlen as an assistant at West Virginia.
“Bill was such a great Mountaineer and a great addition to our staff,” Nehlen said. “It was a terrific hire – he did a great job not only for me, but for Rich and as a head coach. Bill was such a great husband and a great father. Bill Stewart was a great Mountaineer.”
Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin got his first coaching job when Stewart hired him as an assistant at VMI, and Tomlin was elated when Stewart got the West Virginia job.
“We are saddened by the passing of Coach Stew,” Tomlin said in a statement released by the Steelers. “He was a great coach and a tremendous person. We not only lost a good football person, we lost an even better family man.”
Stewart and his wife, Karen, have one son, Blaine.
West Virginia lost to LSU 47-21 over the weekend in Morgantown but the real story was that some Mountaineers fans were selling t-shirts that made a reference to Hurricane Katrina and FEMA.
West Virginia is negotiating a buyout for coach Bill Stewart but the only holdup in the negotiations is the buyout money. Coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen will take over as head coach.
In the last week, Stewart and/or his wife, Karen, have been accused of a smear campaign against Holgorsen. A West Virginia paper reported last week that Holgorsen has been kicked out of six different establishments in the six months he has been at West Virginia VU, all for alcohol-fueled inappropriate behavior.
Athletic director Oliver Luck said he investigated and told a Pittsburgh radio station “there were a lot of inaccuracies” to the claims, then said he was investigating the source of the leak to the West Virginia newspaper. Also this week, a former writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said Stewart asked him in December to dig up dirt on Holgorsen.
Stewart won 27 games in three seasons at WVU, but never has reached the level of success previous coach Rich Rodriguez attained. When Luck brazenly announced the coach-in-waiting plan in December, he did so by stating WVU should be winning conference championships and that he didn’t think Stewart could lead the program there.
Holgorsen’s offenses have been among the nation’s best the last three seasons, with his quarterbacks at Houston and Oklahoma State combining to throw for more than 125 touchdown passes.
Every Thursday Sports Grind Entertainment will present you with the Mama Margie’s Major Meltdown. The recipient of this honor goes to the Big East Conference for it’s performance so far in this years NCAA March Madness tournament. The Big East Conference entered the tournament of 72 teams with 11 teams representing their 16 team conference however before the Sweet 16 the conference was left with only 2 teams playing. The Big East watched as it lost number one seed Pittsburgh, number two Notre Dame, number 3 Syracuse, number 4 Louisville before the first weekend of play had even finished. The rest of the conference seeds to be sent home included number 5 West Virginia, number 6 Georgetown, number 6 St. John’s, and number 9 Villanova.
The Big East is only left with number 11 seed Marquette in the East Division and number 3 seed Connecticut in the West Division to play in the second week of the March Madness tournament.
Back on september 19, 2010, we posted the report that former West Virginia quarterback and all around school record holder was giving up his dreams of playing any further in the NFL after being cut by the Miami Dolphins. White having been a baseball standout all throughout high school and being picked multiple times in the MLB Amateur Draft, went on to sign a minor league contract with the Kansas City Royals.
After spending just a short while in the Royals minor league system the former Mountaineer quarterback has decided to ended his pursuit of a career in baseball. He participated in the Arizona Instructional League and was assigned to the Burlington Royals but found hitting a curveball even in the minor league level was no easy task.
White led the Mountaineers to four consecutive bowl victories while running for 5,576 yards and passing for over 6,000 in his Mountaineer career.
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features West Virginia University Mountaineers taking on North Carolina State University Wolfpack in the 21st annual Champs Sports Bowl features at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium.
West Virginia, 9-3, 5-2 Big East, earned a share of the Big East title this season, but lost out on the tie-breaker with UConn. West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart Mountaineers won its last four games of the regular season has its offense came alive down the stretch, scoring 35 or more points in three of its final four games and cracking 500 total yards in a finale win over Rutgers. Turnovers however, have been an issue for the Mountaineers, as they have committed 23, including 16 lost fumbles.
Running the offense for the Mountaineers is sophomore Geno Smith, as he was in his first season as a starter, completed 65.8 percent of his pass attempts with 23 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions. Jock Sanders served as Smith’s safety outlet with a team-high 64 catches, while Tavon Austin provided a deep threat with 757 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. The Mountaineers also have a threat in the backfield with Noel Devine, though his season was slowed by ankle and foot issues. The speedy back totaled just 884 yards after entering the season as a possible Heisman Trophy candidate.
Defensively the Mountaineers have been outstanding for the most part this season and they rank second in both run with 85.1 ypg and scoring defense at 12 ppg. Bruce Irvin leads the team with 12 sacks while Julian Miller adds 8 to go with a 13 tackles for loss. In the secondary Keith Tandy has a team high 6 interceptions.
NC State, 8-4, 5-3 ACC, suffered a 38-31 loss to Maryland in its regular-season finale that cost the team the Atlantic Division title and a spot in the ACC Championship game. Head coach Tom O’Brien’s offense revolves around Russell Wilson, who is one of the most talented quarterbacks around with a strong arm and mobility. Wilson has thrown for 3,288 yards and 26 touchdowns while adding 394 more yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground. Wilson does lack accuracy as he has only completing 58.1 percent of his pass attempts with 14 interceptions.
Owen Spencer is Wilson’s favorite target in the passing game, as he leads the roster with 57 catches and 868 receiving yards. Jarvin Williams is another option and he ranks second behind 46 receptions for 636 yards. The ground game is lead by Mustafa Greene as he has amassed only 584 yards on the season.
Defensively the Wolfpack averages nearly 8 tackles for a loss per game to limit opponents to 115 yards on the ground. Nate Irving has been outstanding for NC State as he has 20.5 tackles for loss on the season and leads the team with 6 sacks.
The Mountaineers own a 13-16 all-time record in bowl games and are coming off a loss to Florida State in the Gator Bowl last season. NC State owns a 12-11-1 record in bowl games with their last postseason appearance came in 2008 and was loss to Rutgers. The Mountaineers and Wolfpack have met previously nine times including twice in the postseason where the Mountaineers holds a 5-4 edge in the series.
PICK: West Virginia University Mountaineers
Another edition of an athlete in the sporting word having his last name spelled incorrectly. This time it happened to West Virginia’s Danny Jennings but misspelled Jeninngs.
This game goes down on the ESPN2 network and it features West Virginia University Mountaineers taking on the University of Connecticut Huskies at Rentschler Field.
Head coach Bill Stewart will travel to Connecticut at 5-2 overall and 1-1 in the Big East after losing at home last weekend to Syracuse 19-14. The defeat snapped a 12 game home winning streak by West Virginia and knocked them from the national rankings. The Mountaineers success now and in the future rest on sophomore quarterback Gino Smith, 1536 yards 15 touchdowns 5 INTs, who is completing 65.9 percent of his throws. Smith still has the luxury of having senior running back Noel Devine, 626 yards 4 touchdowns, but he hasn’t been nearly as explosive as his past seasons.
The Mountaineers offense calls for a lot of quick slant routes for its receivers to run and that benefits sophomore Tavon Austin, 445 yards 3 touchdowns, and senior Jock Sanders, 370 yards 2 touchdowns, as they both have over 35 receptions on the year.
Defensively the Mountaineers have surrendered 7 passing touchdowns while coming up with 8 interceptions to rank 5th in the nation at being scored upon with just 13 points per game by its opponents. Junior defensive back Keith Tandy has recorded half of the team’s interceptions.
Head coach Randy Edsall has his Huskies ready for tonight’s matchup with a 3-4 overall record and 0-2 in conference play. The Huskies have a two game losing streak on their hands as they get ready for tonight, the latest being to Louisville in which they where shutout 26-0. Prior to last weekend’s game, junior Cody Endres, 471 yards 5 touchdowns, was suspended for the season following violations of school policies. Redshirt freshman Mike Box, 65 yards 1 INT, made his first career start under center but struggled and eventually was replaced by senior Zach Frazer, 605 yards 2 touchdowns 1 INT, who had begun the season as the starter.
Whomever does get the call this weekend the Huskies should get use to handing the ball off to junior Jordan Todman, 841 yards 8 touchdowns, as he is one of the top running backs around.
The UConn defense has trouble stopping the run but it does have senior linebacker Lawrence Wilson and his 78 tackles on the season to be on the lookout for.
West Virginia has won all previous six meetings between the two schools.
PICK: West Virginia University Mountaineers
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features the University of South Florida Bulls taking on West Virginia University Mountaineers in Morgantown.
Head coach Skip Holtz, who is in his first year of coaching the Bulls after guiding East Carolina to consecutive Conference USA titles, brings his team into this Big East matchup 3-2 overall and 0-1 in conference. The Bulls are coming off a shocking loss at home to Syracuse 13-9, who only won won game last year, but have beaten West Virginia in three of their past four games and that includes last year 30-19 at home.
The offense is lead by sophomore quarterback B.J. Daniels, 684 yards 4 touchdowns 7 INTs, has struggled so far completing 52.6 percent of his throws. Besides Daniels high number of interceptions for so early in the season also comes with an alarming number of 10 sacks he has given up. Daniels will take off with the ball though at times if he can’t find either senior wide receiver Dontavia Bogan, 219 yards 2 touchdowns, or sophomore Evan Landi, 215 yards, open. Daniels is third on the team in rushing at 186 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The Bulls prefer to keep the ball on the ground and do so by giving the ball to senior Moise Plancher, 289 yards 4 touchdowns, and sophomore Demetris Murray, 253 yards one touchdown. The Bulls are averaging 176.2 yards per game on the ground and 4.6 yards per carry.
The Bulls have been great on defense this season and have only allowed over 14 points just one time which came in their 38-14 loss at Florida. Senior defensive end Craig Marshall, 6 tackles for loss 4 sacks, is one to watch on this side of the ball.
Head coach Bill Stewart has his Mountaineers ready to play in their first Big East conference game and 4-1 overall. The Mountaineers lost to LSU in Baton Rouge 20-14 but rebounded with a 49-10 victory over UNLV this past weekend.
The offense is a two headed monster of sophomore quarterback Geno Smith, 1139 yards 12 touchdowns 2 INTs, who has completed 66.4 percent of his throws and one of the top backs in the nation with senior running back Noel Devine, 475 yards 4 touchdowns, who is averiaging 5.3 ypc.
When Smith looks down field he usually looks in the direction of fellow sophomore wide receiver Tavon Austin, 366 yards 2 touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Jock Sanders, 286 yards 2 touchdowns, is another of his favorite targets and has looked for him in crucial situations this season. Smith benefited by having junior wide receiver Brad Starks,100 yards 3 touchdowns, back in the lineup last week after missing the first four games with a groin injury
The Mountaineers have really thrived on the defensive side of the ball this season, holding opponents to only 254.6 ypg and a mere 13 ppg, which is 7th best in the nation. The Mountaineers are only giving up 86.8 rushing ypg and just one rushing touchdown this season.
PICK: University of South Florida Bulls
This game goes down on the ESPN2 network and it features the West Virginia University Mountaineers taking on Louisiana State University Tigers in Baton Rouge.
West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart brings his Mountaineers into SEC territory 3-0 after defeating Maryland 31-17. West Virginia is lead by sophomore quarterback Geno Smith, 800 yards 7 touchdowns one interception, who has completed 70.3 percent of his throws. At Smith’s disposal are several top wide receivers like sophomore Tavon Austin, 281 yards 2 touchdowns, and senior Jock Sanders, 214 yards one touchdown.
Besides the talented wide receiving core Smith has, he is helped by having senior Noel Devine, 354 yards 2 touchdowns, the nation’s active rushing leader with 3,735 yards. Devine has gone over the century mark in each game this season and is averaging 118 rushing ypg.
The Mountaineer defense dominates against the run and is holding opponents to just 62.8 ypg. Furthermore the unit has yet to surrender a rushing touchdown this season. The Mountaineer defense has also added 8 sacks with 3 coming from junior defensive end Bruce Irvin.
For head coach Les Miles and the Tigers they enter tonight’s game 3-0 and 2-0 in the SEC. The Tigers also hold the distinction that no team outside the SEC has won on its home field since University of Alabama at Birmingham did so on Sept. 23, 2000, a streak of 28. The Tigers offense shoulders itself on junior quarterback Jordan Jefferson, 344 yards 2 touchdowns 2 INTs, who has failed to throw for 100 yards in back-to-back games. Jefferson has only completed 57.9 percent of his throws. The Tigers have a good rushing attack led by junior Stevan Ridley, 318 yards 2 touchdowns, and sophomore Russell Shepard, 128 yards 2 touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball the Tigers are lead by junior defensive back Patrick Peterson and sophomore Morris Claiborne, who both have 2 interceptions each. The run defense for Miles has been it’s strength allowing just 80.3 ypg on the ground and just 2.2 yards carry. Senior linebacker Kelvin Sheppard leads the defense with 27 tackles while senior defensive tackle Drake Nevis has accounted for 3.5 of the team’s 11 sacks.
This game represents the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
PICK: West Virginia University Mountaineers
This game goes down on the ESPN2 network and it features the University of Oklahoma Sooners taking on the University of Cincinnati Bearcats at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.
Head coach Bob Stoops takes his Sooners on the road for the first time this season and hopes to finally get a balanced attack from the defensive side of the ball after getting run up on the ground by Air Force and through the air by Utah State. After outlasting Utah State in the opener, 31-24, the Sooners made light work of Florida State, 47-17, but watched as Air Force gave Oklahoma all it could handle last weekend 27-24.
The Sooners defense gave up 351 rushing yards to Air Force it’s most under Stoops since 349 yards by West Virginia in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl blowout. The defense still has NFL caliber players like San Antonio Robert E. Lee High School Volunteer junior linebacker Travis Lewis who leads the team with 27 tackles and one interception. Junior defensive back Jamell Fleming is second on the team in tackles with 25 and senior defensive end Jeremy Beal has 5 tackles for a loss including 2.5 sacks.
The offense for the Sooners at this stage has no question marks as they have gotten stellar play from sophomore quarterback Landry Jones, 851 yards 7 touchdowns and 2 INTs, who is completing 61.9 percent of his passes. Jones has multiple targets likes junior wide receiver Ryan Broyles, 382 yards 3 touchdowns, and senior running back DeMarco Murray, 369 yards 6 touchdowns. Murray is helping the Sooners rushing attack to 133.7 ypg as he turns out an average of 123 ypg.
Back to back Big East champions, the Bearcats have gotten off to a rocky start under new head coach Butch Jones as Cincinnati has lost two of its first three games. The Bearcats are scoring about two touchdowns less per game and have allowed more sacks than any team in the nation.
The Bearcats have moved the ball with a balanced attack that features 117.7 ypg rushing and 219.7 yards passing. Junior quarterback Zach Collaros, 659 yards 6 touchdowns and zero interceptions, has completed 60.7 percent of his passes thus far. Collaros lost his top target senior wide receiver Vidal Hazelton to a season-ending knee injury in the first week of the season. The attention has been turned towards senior D.J. Woods, 264 yards 3 touchdowns, and senior Armon Binns, 209 yards 2 touchdowns. Despite the success through the air the Bearcats are have problems on the offensive line in the area of protection allowing 15 sacks.
Defensively Cincinnati gives up 21 ppg and has been particularly vulnerable to the pass but is led by junior linebacker J.K. Shaffer who has a team high 32 tackles and sophomore linebacker Maalik Bomar is with 17.
These two teams have met just one prior time with Oklahoma posting a 52-26 victory in 2008.
PICK: University of Oklahoma Sooners
After a failed experiment in the NFL, former Miami Dolphins quarterback Pat White will try his hand at professional baseball. White, who was cut by Miami last weekend, signed a minor league contract with the Kansas City Royals. The former West Virginia star has been picked multiple times in the MLB Amateur Draft, most recently by the New York Yankees in 2009.
Since his release came in the last round of cuts and his 13 appearances last season make him ineligible for a practice squad spot, White generated “no interest” in the free agent market. The 24-year-old still plans to pursue a career in the NFL in 2011, and the Royals will show some flexibility to see that he has that option.
The Dolphins drafted White 44th overall in 2009, thinking his athleticism and versatility would make him a great addition to the team’s unique Wildcat offense. However, White struggled to adjust to the professional game and was rarely used outside the formation.
White was a baseball standout all throughout high school, but turned down a six-figure salary offer from the Anaheim Angels to play college football at West Virginia.
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features West Virginia University Mountaineers taking on Marshall University Thundering Herd in Huntington home of the Herd.
The Mountaineers are led by Bill Stewart, now in his third season at the helm and they cruised past Coastal Carolina as expected by a 31-0 final. There are 16 starters back between the offense and defense. While many starters do return for West Virginia, Geno Smith is a fresh face under center. In the opener against Coastal Carolina, Smith was 20-27 for 216 yards 2 touchdowns and 1 INT.
Senior running back Noel Devine ran for 111 yards and one touchdown and the speedy back now has nearly 3,500 rushing yards in his brilliant collegiate career. Senior Jock Sanders was the leading receiver for the Mountaineers as his pulled in 8 catches for 71 yards and one touchdown.
Defensively West Virginia held the Chanticleers to 186 total yards on 60 offensive plays. Of the 14 third-down conversion attempts that Coastal faced in the tilt, only two of those were successful. Sophomore defensive back Terence Garvin lead the way with 7 tackles.
As for Marshall, which is a member of Conference USA, it had the unenviable task of taking on Ohio State in Columbus to open the season last week. The Thundering Herd fell to the Buckeyes in a 45-7 that lopsided defeat spoiled the debut of head coach Doc Holliday.
Holliday’s offense posted just 199 total yards and recorded 11 first downs against Ohio State, which possesses one of the best defenses in all of college football. The Thundering Herd were 4-of-14 on third-down conversion attempts and turned the ball over three times.
A major problem for Marshall was that its receivers dropped far too many passes. Both Brian Anderson and backup Eddie Sullivan saw time under center, and both were victimized by the drops. Anderson was 17-28 for 135 yards 1 INT.
On the defensive side of the ball Marshall was simply over powered by the Ohio State offense. The Thundering Herd were thrashed for 529 total yards as the Buckeyes where able to hold the ball for nearly 35 minutes of the contest. If there was one bright spot on the defense it was the performance of senior linebacker Mario Harvey who recorded 10 total tackles and junior defensive end Vinny Curry who had 2 sacks.
West Virginia has won all nine previous meetings with Marshall, including double-digit victories over the Herd in each of the last four seasons.
PICK: West Virginia University Mountaineers
Nike has say they will change the image associated with advertising their new Pro Combat uniforms for West Virginia University Mountaineers after being challenged by mining activists in the state because it features strip mining, a controversial and highly debated form of mining. Environmental activists argued that the ad appeared to be a tacit endorsement of the controversial form of strip mining.
West Virginia University and Nike said the uniform was designed to honor the 29 victims of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster in April.
The uniforms will be worn just once by the Mountaineers for the annual Backyard Brawl, the team’s Nov. 26 battle with in-state rival Pittsburgh.
Vice President Joe Biden was among the attendees at the memorial for the 29 miners who were killed in a West Virginia explosion earlier this month. The vice president managed to work in a Rich Rodriguez blast, who left West Virginia University for Michigan after the 2007 season, saying
“They loved hunting, fishing, riding horses and four-wheelers. They hated the way Coach Rodriguez left West Virginia for Michigan.”
Looking for a rim shot at a memorial, real smooth.
West Virginia University men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins made a surprise visit to the families of miners who have been killed or are missing following an explosion in his home state. Huggins, who is affectionately known as “Huggy Bear,” arrived by helicopter to give support and deliver food.
The families have been waiting word on their loved ones since Monday’s blast at Upper Big Branch Mine. Twenty-five miners have been killed and two are injured. Rescue crews are working to try to reach four who are missing.
Huggins is among the state’s most recognizable and perhaps popular residents. Last week, he led the Mountaineers to their first Final Four since 1959.
What is West Virginia doing stealing Daniel Tosh’s “I’m Better Than You Na-na Na-na Boo-boo, Stick Your Head in Doo-doo” segment?
There’s the story of when Jerry West was at West Virginia University and had his nose broken on a play. Barley able to breathe West dribbled over to the sideline and grabbed a towel to whip the blood off his face while continuing to dribble the ball only to go on to score 19 more points in beating the University of Kentucky.
We’ve already seen Phoenix Suns Steve Nash with the bloody nose when he collided with San Antonio Spurs Tony Parker and now comes the bloody lip when his mouth caught the elbow of Indiana Pacers guard Earl Watson and a tooth went through Steves upper lip in the first quarter. Nash received seven stitches; four on his upper lip and three on the inside of his mouth. Nash eventually returned to the game and finished with 20 points, nine assists, and four rebounds and went 1 for 4 from long range.
The 47th annual Gator Bowl will see the West Virgina Mountaineers take on the Florida State Seminoles in the iconic coach Bobby Bowden’s last game. Bowden’s historic 44-year career as a head coach reluctantly comes to a close.
The Seminoles (6-6) are in postseason play for the 28th straight year, but it was a difficult season for the affable Bowden. Florida State failed to win more than two in a row and fell for the sixth straight time to Florida, 37-10 on Nov. 28, to finish third in the ACC’s Atlantic Division. Two days later, Bowden, 80, said he hadn’t decided on his future and still had career options – one of them being to remain the head coach. After meeting with university officials Dec. 1, though, Bowden said the Gator Bowl would be his last game.
Regardless of the .500 season, Bowden’s accomplishments while building a powerhouse over 34 seasons in Tallahassee are staggering. Following several near-misses in the 1980s, he won national titles with the Seminoles in 1993 and most recently in 1999, when they went unbeaten and became the first to go wire-to-wire as the top-ranked team in the AP poll. Another big achievement is a string of 14 straight seasons, ending in 2000, during which Florida State won at least 10 games and finished ranked in the top five. The Seminoles were 152-19-1 in that span.
He has a 315-97-4 record with Florida State.
Florida State has long had a plan in place for Bowden’s successor, naming offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher in 2007. But first, Bowden will get a send-off in a bowl game where he’s yet to lose. The Seminoles are 4-0 under him in the Gator Bowl, including double-digit wins over West Virginia in 1982 and 2005.
The Mountaineers have won four consecutive bowls since that last loss to Florida State and two of those victories have been under coach Bill Stewart, who is among the many ardent Bowden supporters.
West Virginia (9-3) appeared to be out of the mix for a New Year’s bowl following late-season losses to South Florida and Cincinnati. However, with three-point wins over then-No. 8 Pittsburgh and Rutgers to close the regular season, the Mountaineers finished tied with the Panthers for second in the Big East behind the 12-0 Bearcats.
The Mountaineers’ best player is running back Noel Devine, who finished second in the Big East with 1,372 yards and fourth with 12 touchdowns. Jarrett Brown was third in the conference with 2,129 passing yards, but threw only 11 TDs with eight interceptions in 12 games.
Brown’s counterpart is EJ Manuel, who has started the last three games after Christian Ponder was lost for the season due to a separated shoulder. Manuel has appeared in six games, throwing for 616 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions.
His top targets are Rod Owens and Bert Reed, who tied for fifth in the conference with 58 receptions, but Owens had only three touchdowns while Reed had none. Jarmon Fortson topped the team with four TD catches. Jermaine Thomas led the Seminoles ground game with 711 yards and 7 TDs.
PICK: Florida State University Seminoles
The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl previously called the Motor City Bowl before this season takes place in Detroit for the 13th time and this year it will see Ohio University Bobcats, who are making just their second postseason appearance since 1968, take on the Marshall Thundering Herd who will be lead by interim coach Rick Minter. The Thundering Herd gave West Virginia assistant John “Doc” Holliday a five-year contract to coach the team.
Marshall is no stranger to this bowl, as the team played in the first four Motor City Bowls posting a 3-1 record. Overall the Herd are 5-3 in bowl games, but have not played in one since 2004 when the team was defeated by Cincinnati, 32-14, in the Forth Worth Bowl. Marshall opened its season with four wins in its first six games, but lost four of its last six games to finish 6-6 overall and 4-4 in conference.
The Thundering Herd was nothing special offensively this season, as the team produced just 21 ppg. Marshall did enjoy success on the ground averaging 138.8 ypg and the majority of the yards came by Darius Marshall, who led the squad with 1,054 yards and 11 touchdowns on an impressive 5.1 yards per carry. At quarterback Brian Anderson was very inconsistent this season passing for 2,561 yards with 14 touchdowns but almost matched in 13 interceptions. Receiving most of the catches where Antavio Wilson who had 57 receptions and 706 yards and Cody Slate who hauled in 50 catches for 607 yards and 4 touchdowns.
The Thundering Herd also dealt with plenty of problems defensively and surrendered on average 392.5 yards per matchup. The Herd gave up 145.1 ypg on the ground and 247.4 ypg through the air and allowed 19 passing touchdowns. The most alarming stat is that the Herd are allowing opponents to convert on 40 percent of their third down attempts. Mario Harvey is the lone bright spot on the defense with 105 tackles and 5 sacks.
As for the Bobcats, this will be just their fourth-ever bowl appearance, but the team’s second in the last three years. Ohio has lost all three of its bowl matchups, including a 28-7 loss to Southern Mississippi in the 2007 GMAC Bowl. Ohio started off the season 2-2 but turned things around by winning seven of its last eight regular season games but lost in the Mid-American Conference title game to Central Michigan 20-10 to finish 9-4 overall and 7-1 in conference.
Frank Solich’s Bobcats where led by Theo Scott who passed for 2,258 yards and 19 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. Scott had numerous wide receivers to choose from like Taylor Price who has 52 catches for 735 yards and 5 scores and LaVon Brazill who has 50 catches for 689 yards and 6 touchdowns. On the ground Ohio was lead by Chris Garrett who ran for 591 yards.
Ohio has been lead by a defense that held opponents to 21 ppg and collected 20 interceptions while also forcing 36 turnovers. Noah Keller is the heart and soul of this defense with 138 tackles but Dak Notestine is leading the team with 10 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks while Gerald Moore has grabbed 6 interceptions.
Before heading over to the Conference-USA the Thundering Herd were part of the MAC, so these two schools are no strangers to each other. Ohio currently holds a 29-17-6 edge over Marshall in the all-time series, but the Thundering Herd have won 10 of the last 12 meetings.
PICK: Ohio University Bobcats
The University of Cincinnati went right back to Central Michigan University for its next coach and hired Butch Jones to replace Brian Kelly, who came from Central Michigan three years ago.
Jones familiarity with the Big East and the wide-open offense were major factors in getting him to Cincinnati. He worked under Kelly for one year at Central Michigan before going to West Virginia as offensive coordinator for two years under Rich Rodriguez. The Mountaineers had one of the nation’s top offenses while he was there in 2005-06. When Kelly left for Cincinnati, Jones went back to Central Michigan. Jones announced he added Kerry Coombs to his coaching family. Coombs will work with the secondary, just as he did this season under Brian Kelly.
The Chippewas had some of the best offenses in their history under Jones, who led them to the Mid-American Conference title this season and their first national ranking. Central Michigan is preparing to face Troy in the GMAC Bowl on Jan. 6. The Bearcats are preparing to play Florida on Jan. 1 in the Sugar Bowl with Jeff Quinn being the coach.
He’s 26-13 at Central Michigan, with Mid-American Conference championships in 2007 and 2009.
ESPN averaged a 1.9 U.S. rating and 2.9 million viewers for college football coverage during the 2009 season, up 12% in ratings and viewership from last year 1.7, 2.6 mil, and the most-viewed college football season on ESPN since 1994 which turned out 3.1 million.
The top game of the season on ESPN was USC/Ohio State on September 12, which drew a 6.3 U.S. rating and 10.6 million viewers. USC/Ohio State ranks as the most-viewed college football game ever on ESPN, regular season or postseason.
Meanwhile, ESPN2 averaged a 1.0 U.S. rating and 1.5 million viewers for its college football coverage, up 11% in ratings and viewership from last year 0.9, 1.4 mil, and the most-viewed college football season ever on the network.
ESPN2′s top game was Pittsburgh/West Virginia on the day after Thanksgiving, which drew a 2.5 U.S. rating and 4.1 million viewers. The game stands as the most-viewed college football game ever on ESPN2.
In addition to the records set by USC/Ohio St. and Pittsburgh/West Virginia, ESPN and ESPN2 set other milestones during the 2009 season including the third-most viewed game ever on ESPN Miami/Florida St., 8.4 mil, the most-viewed Thursday night game ever on ESPN Texas/Texas A&M, 6.7 mil and the most-viewed Saturday game ever on ESPN2 Florida/Kentucky, 3.6 mil.
Pittsburgh’s shocking upset of West Virginia in Morgantown two years ago was a positive end to an otherwise disappointing season. There have been few low points for the Panthers since.
Pittsburgh will try to avoid looking too far ahead when it visits West Virginia on Friday night in the 102nd meeting of the teams’ intense rivalry. Pittsburgh (9-1, 5-0 Big East) attention is focused on their annual showdown with the Mountaineers, a game often referred to as the “Backyard Brawl.”
Pitt has won the last two meetings with West Virginia (7-3, 3-2), including a 13-9 victory in Morgantown in 2007, which kept the Mountaineers from playing for the national title.
Coach Dave Wannstedt acknowledges the Panthers’ 2007 win over the Mountaineers as a turning point for his program. Pittsburgh had come into that game 4-7. In the two years since, the Panthers have gone 18-5, and they have been a consistent presence in the Top 25.
West Virginia, meanwhile, saw coach Rich Rodriguez leave two weeks after that upset defeat. The Mountaineers went 9-4 under Bill Stewart last season and have spent only two weeks in the rankings this season. This is the first time since 2003 that the teams have met with the Panthers in the Top 25 and the Mountaineers unranked.
Dion Lewis, the freshman running back leads the Big East with 129.1 rushing yards per game. Lewis needs only 38 more yards to surpass Pitt’s LeSean McCoy for the Big East’s freshman rushing mark.
Handing off the ball to Lewis is quarterback Bill Stull, has silenced doubters with his effective play this season. Stull has completed an efficient 66.3 percent of his pass attempts and has thrown 18 touchdowns with just 4 interceptions. Stull’s favorite targets are wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin and tight end Dorin Dickerson. Baldwin is obviously the deep threat, catching 40 balls for 840 yards, while Dickerson is a red zone target, with 10 of his 43 catches resulting in a touchdown.
The Mountaineers are sure to test Pitt’s run defense, as they are churning out 183.5 ypg on the ground this season. WVU is averaging 4.8 yards per carry and has scored 23 of its 35 offensive touchdowns on the ground.
The speedy and elusive Noel Devine leads the run game, although the 5-8, 176- pounder has been slowed by some minor injuries of late. Still, Devine has enjoyed a standout campaign with 1,098 yards and 10 scores, and his 5.7 yard per carry average is indicative of his explosiveness.
Helping to take some of the pressure off Devine is quarterback Jarrett Brown, who has proved too be an effective runner in his own right, gaining 366 yards and five scores on the ground. Brown has had success with his arm as well, hitting on 65.1 percent of his tosses with 11 more touchdowns. Jock Sanders is clearly the favorite target of Brown, as his 62 catches are nearly double the next closest player on the roster.
Friday is West Virginia’s final home game. It’s trying to go undefeated in Morgantown for the first time since 1993.
PICK: University of Pittsburgh Panthers