Boy was I wrong...and a preview of the FedEx Orange Bowl
So much for the thought that all the instability surrounding the West Virginia program would lead to their downfall. 349 yards on the ground, and that's with Steve Slaton being lost for the game after his first play. We can all hypothesize on what the loss of DT DeMarcus Granger did to Oklahoma's run defense, but this was more about an explosive offense showing what many thought would happen in the Backyard Brawl against Pitt. Just like USC's Joe McKnight the day prior, Noel Devine must have Mountaineer fans salivating at the possibilities in 2008. The best thing about WVU's win was the sheer emotion on display, from their love for head coach Bill Stewart, to Tito Gonzales' crying tears of joy after his 79-yard touchdown reception, to FB Owen Schmitt trying to explain on national TV the feelings of ending his collegiate career. Coach Stewart had the interim tag removed this morning, which is good for the continuity of this program. Of course, some assistants will join Coach Rodriguez in Ann Arbor, but this time inserting a "West Virginia man" as the head coach may indeed work for many years to come.
Stewart has been through the carousel of moving around the country for different assistant coaching gigs, so you have to feel that the offer of a larger paycheck down the road from another school won't sway him. Many of the coaches who end up on the carousel tend to be younger, with fewer seasons of experience coaching at this level, so the jumping around tends to be expected. I wouldn't be too worried about recruiting right now as this is a dead period, but there are some positives that Stewart can sell. They're in a league that they are contenders in every season, play an exciting brand of offense, and you'll have a hard time finding more passionate (yet rational) fans in America. The key now is putting together a staff, and figuring out whether or not Steve Slaton is headed to the NFL (I think he'll stay. His last two games are no way to improve one's stock). The Mountaineers and Sooners will both be top ten teams to start next season, but OU has to do something about their four-game skid in BCS games.
Bob Stoops took three gambles that all backfired, but the most glaring had to be the failed onside kick midway through the third quarter. The defense was playing well to start the half, the offense had just scored (why he went for two then is beyond me as well)...kick it deep and get another stop. Down five is a good time to turn the game into a field position battle. Instead, they try the drag onside kick, only to have Garrett Hartley kick the ball eight yards instead of ten. From there, WVU puts up the first of four touchdowns on consecutive drives, essentially ending the game right there. You can't give a team that explosive a short field. But had these worked and OU wins, we're singing the man's praises. Such is life as a coach.
FedEx Orange Bowl
8 PM EST, FOX
Kansas vs. Virginia Tech
All the Jayhawks have heard for the past month is how it should be Missouri and not them playing in Miami tonight. Expect KU to be full of vigor tonight, and an offensive attack led by QB Todd Reesing, RB Brandon McAnderson and WR Marcus Henry has the potential to put some points on the board. But in Virginia Tech they face the most athletic defense they've seen all year. LB Vince Hall is a gametime decision for the Hokies due to injury, but the Hokies have playmakers at all three levels. On offense, the alternating of Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor at quarterback has added a dimension to the Hokie attack, and Branden Ore is still capable of a big game despite a disappointing 2007. Special teams will be key, as it always seems to be with Virginia Tech, but Kansas is one of the nation's best in the kick return game. I like Virginia Tech because of their speed and athleticism on defense, the likes of which Kansas has not seen this year.