WVU Sports with Mike Casazza

Official: (Historic) Sellout Friday Night

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We’d been waiting for word, but apparently it takes time to sell some 65,000 tickets to a Friday night football game in high school heavy Florida. Nevertheless, it’s done and the game between West Virginia and South Florida will be played in sold out Raymond James Stadium.

The largest stadium in the BIG EAST has been sold to capacity in anticipation of Friday night’s football game between No. 18 USF and No. 5 West Virginia.

The sellout is the first since the program has been playing at Raymond James Stadium and all but guarantees that USF will play in front of a record crowd for the game that will be televised nationally by ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD.

Not that this isn’t a big moment for the Bulls, because it is, but it’s not all that significant to their counterparts. WVU is 21-5 in night games under Coach Rich Rodriguez and 11 of those wins have come on the road. News of the imminent sell out was met little more than a with a yawn and a nod.

“I’ve talked to our team about how when a highly ranked team goes on the road to play somewhere, they’re going to sell out the stadium,” Rodriguez said. “I think it’s like the Yankees. Every time they go somewhere, they’re going to get a big crowd. Every time we go somewhere, we help them sell out. It’s not like they’re all coming to watch us. They’re also coming to watch USF. But our guys understand about hostile environments and at the same time, they’d rather go some place like that than some place where no one cares.”

Bold, to be sure, but it’s very true. WVU’s last Friday night game was at Connecticut last year. The Mountaineers won 37-11 before a rare sell-out crowd of 40,000 and helped ESPN2 set its Friday night ratings record.

Richard Clebert would like to point something out

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Surely by know you’ve heard that West Virginia’s quarterbacks coach, Rod Smith, and offensive line coach, Greg Frey, spent their past several seasons working at South Florida before coming to Morgantown this season. It’s another storyline for Friday’s game that, in all honesty, already had plenty for the national audience on ESPN2’s 8 p.m. stage.

Well, USF defensive tackle Richard Clebert added another element. When discussing how familiar Smith and Frey might be with USF’s plans and players, he took a swipe at Frey.

Of all the players polled, only Clebert came close to admitting that Smith and Frey’s presence gives West Virginia any advantage. But he also said that the game is in the players’ hands once the ball is kicked.

“I know we’re going to change signals and all that, but I don’t think it’s going to matter that much. Even if they know our call, the guy in front of me still has to take me on and beat me,” Clebert said. “I know Coach Frey knows what kind of player I am and I’m sure he’s telling his offensive linemen what to do against me. That’s okay. We didn’t have a real good relationship while he was here, so I’m going to be pointing right at him whenever I make a play.”

Clebert, a 6-foot-1, 312-pound senior from Miami, has nine tackles, one tackle for a loss, one sack and eight quarterback hurries this season.

Bravo, Randy Edsall, bravo

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The past weekend was another good one for the Big East, what with West Virginia and rolling South Florida rolling to set up their primetime clash Friday night and Cincinnati putting up 40 points before a record crowd at home and then moving into the AP poll for the first time since 1976.

“I’ve played at Penn State and at Michigan,” said UC coach Brian Kelly. “The atmosphere at Nippert Stadium was as good as college football can be.”

It’s been a long time since going to football games was the thing to do at UC. And maybe it still isn’t. One game doesn’t make a trend.

Still, it’s a noteworthy early payoff to the work that Kelly and the UC athletic department have done to generate interest in the program.

Then there was Connecticut moving to 4-0 with a win at Pitt, even though the Huskies were an eight-point underdog, and, of course, Syracuse stunning Louisville.

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Already?

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Last time I checked, LSU was No. 2 nationally and No. 1 in the minds of many others. Ridiculous defense, dangerous offense, significant home field advantage and a very able head coach. To that, Michigan just beat Penn State and is suddenly 2-2 after a defensively deficient 0-2 start. It’s a matter of time until someone chimes in with the “Lloyd Carr is reminding everyone how good of a coach he is” article.

Well, it turns out he first might need to remind people he still is the coach. Speculation already suggests Carr is finished and LSU’s Les Miles, a UM graduate, would be his replacement.

Wondering why this “news” belongs here? At least one person is of the opinion WVU Coach Rich Rodriguez would be a candidate to replace Miles.

His flirtation with Alabama last offseason shows that he’s at least open to the possibility of returning to the South, and he had great success down the road from Baton Rouge at Tulane. He’d get a long look if the search commenced today.

I won’t be asking Rodriguez about this any time soon. I will, however, check the NCAA record book because this might be the earliest a coach has been connected to an opening that’s not open because the current coach will presumably leave for another opening that’s not yet open.

Patrick White now has it all

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I thought it was a little strange to see ESPN’s Erin Andrews working the sideline Saturday. In a noon game. On ESPN2. Not that anyone was complaining, though.

Least of all Patrick White.

The West Virginia quarterback received what appeared to be a hug and a peck on the cheek from ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews a few seconds after a postgame interview Saturday at Puskar Stadium.

“That’s between me and her,” White said, a little shocked that someone caught the interlude, before breaking into a sly smile.

A few seconds later, he volunteered, “I almost fainted when she came up to me.”

Andrews evidently was the only person who could’ve taken down White on a warm September afternoon as the Mountaineers drilled East Carolina 48-7.

So if you’re keeping track at home, White has been drafted twice by the Anaheim Angels and he’s been named the Big East’s offensive player of the year — the combination meaning he’s all but guaranteed to have a professional career in whichever sport he chooses — and he talks, er, meows some of the funniest smack ever. And now he’s tight with Ms. Andrews.

If the Heisman were awarded on career achievements, White would be a lock.

Wes Lyons, finally healthy after working through a knee injur most of the summer, had been coming along nicely in recent games and practices before his brutal block on East Carolina’s Leon Best.

Not sure what was more impressive: The thorough execution on the block or Andre Ware saying Lyons hit Best “right in the mustache.” Let’s give Lyons the nod as he provided the exclamation mark on a very nice day for the wide receivers.

“I saw him coming the whole way,” Lyons said. “He peeked at me at the last second, so he probably saw me coming, but it was a little too late.”

Indeed and it’s probably a good time for the receivers to attract some attention. South Florida’s collective speed on defense will make it difficult for the Mountaineers to spread the field and get players free in open space. Receiver blocking on the perimeter and down the field will be necessary to keep the Bulls from pursuing plays and rallying to the ball.

Bulls eager hosts

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Credit South Florida for embracing and not denying the fact it’s looking forward to playing West Virginia Friday at 8 p.m. Friday on ESPN.

USF cornerback Mike Jenkins said Leavitt admitted he started looking to West Virginia in the fourth quarter.

“Coach Leavitt’s exact words: ‘I don’t want to lie, but in the back of my mind I was thinking about West Virginia,'” Jenkins said. “But then again, everybody was.”

With Carolina no longer on their minds, the Bulls (3-0) have set the stage for one of the biggest college football games to be played in Tampa. It could be a matchup of top-20 teams depending on how far USF moves up the polls today.

The Bulls are up to No. 18 in both polls, which came as no surprise, but a bit of a disappointment to WVU Coach Rich Rodriguez. He votes in the coaches’ poll and while he wouldn’t reveal where he placed the Bulls, he did provide a hint during his teleconference Sunday.

I believe South Florida is better than 18. They’re higher than that, in my opinion.

About 3,000 tickets remain in Raymond James Stadium (65,000 capacity). It’s expected to be the largest crowd and the first sellout in USF football history. The bandwagon got rolling in Saturday’s game against North Carolina.

Linebacker Brouce Mompremier said he has never heard USF’s students louder in the north end zone, especially in forcing a false start when UNC had third and goal on the USF 5.

“That was incredible,” he said. “I couldn’t hear anything, but that’s better for us. When I saw that false start, I said, ‘Oh, thank God.’ “

Mudville

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Yes, Louisville’s defense is very suspect and it was entering yesterday’s game against Syracuse. Yet the Cardinals were 36 1/2 point favorites playing at home, so it was a major surprise to see them go down as they did. The Orange offense had been wildly ineffective, but scored on 79-, 60- and 42-yard touchdown passes plus a 93-yard kickoff return. Andrew Robinson threw for 423 yards and four touchdowns. Andrew Robinson had thrown for 486 yard and one touchdown his first three games.

Allow the Louisville Courier-Journal to provide today’s ice breaker with this headline.

There is no joy, but there are a lot of problems.

Perhaps the most troubling thing about these Cardinals, other than the porous defense, is their tendency to hurt themselves with mental errors. That was never more apparent than during yesterday’s 38-35 upset loss to Syracuse.

The Cards had four turnovers and continued to commit penalties at an alarming rate. They came into the game as the 13th most-penalized team (of 119) in the Football Bowl Subdivision, then drew 12 more flags for 105 yards. Coach Steve Kragthorpe has been harping on it since the opener against Murray State, but to no avail.

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A reason to root for Notre Dame

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It was 363 days ago when Michigan State wasted a sizable lead at home to Notre Dame, a monumental collapse that more or less got John L. Smith fired, even if it wasn’t official until Nov. 1.

(Who else misses JLS?) 

As far as college games go, this was an entertaining, if not predictable turn of events in East Lansing. As good as the Spartans played in the first half, they were just as bad and probably much worse in the second half, which was a vivid illustration of complete incompetence by the coaches and the players.

And in case you weren’t convinced Michigan State had lost the game more than Notre Dame had won it, you had Detroit sports talk radio host — and MSU grad — Mike Valenti deliver a raving rant two days later.

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West Virginia fans might remember Cooper Rego as the touted tailback who originally enrolled at Notre Dame but was dismissed after getting in some trouble he denied ever happened.

(Vague, yes, but this isn’t the place to rehash all those stories. He was a pleasant person while at WVU from 1999-2001).

Well, he never turned the potential into a football career, but nevertheless did find himself under the lights. Rego is a standup comedian. Serious. He performs in the New York area and on East Coast college campuses and appears to have a nice little thing going.