WVU Sports with Tom Bragg

Cleveland: The new West Virginia? Or vice versa?

Today was not a good day in that it involved waking up knowing my Cleveland Indians were done and that since the “Major League” DVD would be put away for a few more months the giddy, random viewings of Rick Vaughn’s entrance would have to stop.

(Excuse me for a moment … )

Anyhow, I’ve been completely demoralized once again by the Indians. It’s a pattern and, to be completely honest, I’ve learned to know better than look forward to something good happening. It is the most unsettling feeling imaginable to lead the American League Championship Series 3-games-1 and not only fear the absolute worst case scenario, but to expect it and not allow yourself to embrace compliments for how well your team has played or to even wonder what might happen if, for once, you got a break.

And then when that worst case scenario arrives … well, let’s just say I went to the dentist today and actually enjoyed myself. 

I’m pretty much a fan of everything Cleveland, to the point I tout the medical virtues of the Cleveland Clinic when someone will listen (first successful larynx transplant!). Because of this, though, I’m a total pessimist. It’s sad, but it’s true, much the same way it’s sad, but true that absolutely nothing has gone our way in 69 years. Really, LeBron James is perhaps the best thing to happen to us in far too long and we were delighted to see him show up to support the Indians in the division series against the New York Yankees.

Well, until we learned he was an unabashed Yankees fan!

That’s what it’s like. And so for a day, at least, I can sympathize with what I’ve witnessed and called the “WVU syndrome” the past few years.

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Welcome to The O.C.?

No truth to the rumor West Virginia will supplant “Country Roads” postgame with the theme from “The O.C.”

We’ve been on the run,
driving in the sun,
looking out for number one.
California here we come,
right back where we started from.

True, the Mountaineers are always on the run and Saturday they were driving in the sun — at least in the first quarter— as they looked out for No. 1. Yet they looked an awful lot like California’s Golden Bears, which is where the gold-on-blue uniform WVU debuted Saturday started.

Seriously, is this WVU’s Steve Slaton or former Cal star Marshawn Lynch? Nevertheless, WVU Coach Rich Rodriguez was still impressed by the look.

I’m no fashion guru, but I thought it looked good.

Friday feedback

An unprecedented number of comments this week … and only a few were from friends and family. Perhaps it’s because I’m a Cleveland Indians fans and both tantalized and terrified by the American League Championship Series, but I’m reminded of a line from “Major League” when Lou Brown is with his pitching coach as the Tribe begins its run.

“It’s starting to come together, Pepper.”

Well, Pepper, let’s get to the Friday Feedback, cowbells recommended. Comments appear as posted.

JX says:

Joe Alexander is, like, a more athletic Rex Chapman…or is he a taller Brent Barry??

And, seriously, how does Micheal Jordan ‘curtain jerk’ the Huggy Bear tribute video?? I mean…for godsake….how does he end up edited into that slot and CLARK KELLOGG is the ‘closer’??????

Who put that video together?? The one human in the WORLD who doesn’t realize how amazing it is that THE GREATEST BASKETBALL PLAYER EVER agreed to be filmed giving a shoutout to Huggy Bear??? I can’ wrap my brain around this one, Caz….I just cant.

Phew, where to begin. I’ll go with Brent Barry for the dunking, but I’ve heard from people IN THE KNOW there are some Luke Walton comparisons. As for Jordan starting off the tribute video at Mountaineer Madness, I couldn’t agree more. The crowd was startled. By the time everyone had stopped tingling, Clark Kellog was blowing our mind and we missed everything in between.

Also, expect Nich Lachey to be among the Mountaineer Maniacs this season.

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About USF…

Since you’re wondering, South Florida’s loss last night doesn’t change the outlook for West Virginia too much other than if the Mountaineers needed the Bulls to lose twice, the Mountaineers first needed the Bulls to lose once. All it really means right now is that only one team can finish unbeaten in Big East play … and I’ll come out and say Connecticut won’t do it. 

So the BCS spot for the conference champ is still in play, though a lot still hinges on what USF does. It’s convoluted — if WVU beats Rutgers, which beat USF, and WVU and USF finish 7-1, USF is the Big East champ – and too early to begin to decipher. WVU’s best chance for the BCS is to win out accept an at-large invitation. Trust me on this.

As for the Bulls, let’s just say a lot of people are happy to see them knocked down a notch.

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West Virginia went to Coffeyville, Ks., of all places, to grab a junior college defensive end (scroll down) to immediately help the defensive line next season. Larry Ford (6-3 3/4, 250) is playing his second season at Coffeyville Community College and should graduate in December. He could then enroll in January and participate in spring practice.

One interesting note about his recruitment, which went to WVU over schools like Oklahoma, Nebraska, Louisville and others. Ford and his defensive line coach, Sean Cherico, were comforted by the coaching stability in Morgantown.

Said Cherico:

“We know Coach Rodriguez is going to be there. There are some other schools, like Ole Miss and North Carolina and some other schools that had been recruiting him, where we just don’t know what the longevity is as far as the head coach is concerned. I expressed to Larry that Coach Rodriguez turned down a boatload of money to stay at West Virginia. I can’t foresee him going anywhere. The defensive line coach (Bill Kirelawich), who Larry liked, has been there for 30 years. He’s not going anywhere. No one wants to go in in the middle of a coaching change or have a coaching change in the middle of their career. At Ole Miss with Coach (Ed) Orgeron, we know the pressure he’s under and you hear it on the outside. It’s no different at Clemson. Coaches are always on the hot seat. Everyone likes Ws and not what you’ve done in the past. That’s evident with Coach (Larry) Coker at Miami. He has one of the highest winning percentages and he’s fired after going 6-6, even though there were some things happening off the field. Players want to play for their coach, especially if they’re only going to be there two or three years.”

Unfortunately, no cowbells

What’s great about a game at Mississippi State is what’s great about college football. There is pageantry throughout the tailgate scene as women sashay about in skirts and dresses and the kindest gentlemen cordially invite you over for some barbecue and a sip of something special.

Within the game, fans clang cowbells. While the tradition cannot be traced, it can be as inspirational to the Bulldogs as it is irritating to opponents. West Virginia Coach Rich Rodriguez knew as much before traveling to Starkville, Miss., for last year’s game.

“I had an experience playing them in the Peach Bowl when I was at Clemson in that (Georgia) Dome and you can imagine what 30,000 cowbells sound like. I think all 30,000 were back at our hotel the night after the game still ringing them. It will be very, very loud and what you hope to do is for your guys to try and make enough plays to keep the crowd out of it, particularly early.”

Many Mississippi State fans will travel to Morgantown this week for a nonconference game. Not surprisingly, they’d be advised not to pack their cowbells

From April Messerly, WVU’s Senior Manager of Athletic Facilities.

Our policy is that we do not allow artificial noisemakers, and a cow bell would be considered such, so it would not be permitted.

Meanwhile, the train whistle pumped in through stadium speakers and the yet-to-debut Northside Noise Meter are acceptable…

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Perhaps it is because Clemson is in the south, where it is sometimes hot and, presumably, most seats are hot. Even in the fall, when Tigers football coach Tommy Bowden seems to have the hottest of the hot seats. It feels like he’s always this close to losing his job, even though he usually pulls himself from the fire just as the flames begin to touch his feet.

Well, that southern hospitality is at it again. Clemson started 4-0 and was ranked No. 13 in the country, only to lose its next two games to Georgia Tech (13-3) and Virginia Tech (41-23). Even worse for Bowden, the Tigers were on a bye last week, which gave pundits plenty of time to ponder his fate, which is to say they began penning their wish list for Bowden’s replacement.

Guess who popped up?

What about Rich Rodriguez?

Ever since coach Rod left Clemson after the 2000 season to take over for Don Nehlen at West Virginia, a portion of the Tiger “faithful” remains convinced the wrong coach skipped town. As Bowden’s offensive coordinator, both Clemson and Tulane had revved-up offenses. And since his arrival in Morgantown all RichRod has done is put the Mountaineers in the national spotlight – winning the Sugar Bowl two years ago, the Gator Bowl last season and currently sitting at No. 8 in the country.

So it’s easy to see why there would be an attraction. It is said that RichRod’s wife, too, loved the Clemson area. The fit would be a natural, some say.

Adding fuel to the fire as the week has gone on are whispers about RichRod’s brand new contract at WVU, the one he ultimately signed after a serious courtship with Alabama. Word on the street is that RichRod may have a one-school escape clause in that contract.

The school? Clemson.

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Good news: 53 days without a trolley accident!

Forgive me for bending the rules and blending my personal life into our sports blog, but sometimes you just can’t resist sharing a good story.

Mississippi confidential

Some of the first words West Virginia Coach Rich Rodriguez used this week in describing Saturday’s opponent, Mississippi State, were interesting ones, to say the least.

“Defensively, they look a lot like South Florida as far as their speed goes.”

You know what that means — no, not bad snaps, six turnovers, 3.9 yards per carry and a season-wrecking loss. Rather, it’s fast defensive ends, mobile defensive tackles and linebackers and safeties who can run to the ball, both vertically and horizontally, and make a tackle.

Rodriguez wasn’t alone in his assessment, either.

“I think South Florida may have found the answer,” said MSU coach Sylvester Croom, who laughed when asked if his staff has spent a lot of time this week looking at the South Florida game tapes. “It’s interesting. … I’m not going to tell you anything about that [sic] we’ve seen, but it is interesting.”

Poor Pitt…

Fired off an e-mail to Pitt’s sports information director, E.J. Borghetti, to get to the bottom of something that seemed too surreal to be real regarding Coach Dave Wannstedt. Turns out it was both.

E.J.’s reply:

Hello, Mike. In a development very fitting for a season in which we have lost  four starters to season-ending or long-term injuries, indeed, Coach had to have surgery today on his Achilles. We expect him back and at it tomorrow.
EJ

Borghetti wasn’t sure how Wannstedt had torn the Achilles’ tendon, but said the coach had been bothered by a “chronic situation” that he was hoping to have fixed after the season.

“Sometimes nature has other plans.”