WVU Sports with Tom Bragg

Travel tips, Cincinnati edition

Off to Cincinnati and a special edition of the Friday Feedback will come later — and by special I mean only that it comes at a different time than normal. My work for the travel tips is pretty easy because it won’t be hard to find some WVU-related partying in the Queen City. Still, it’s wise to pass along a suggestion to visit Abby’s Pub & Grill. Check it out on the westside.

He will, he will Mauk you

It would have been nice to chat with Ben Mauk this week, but the Cincinnati quarterback with a great story and great numbers this season didn’t grant interview requests to media covering the opposition. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

Mauk’s been a hit in his one and only season with the Bearcats and has shown himself to be the capable trigger man in the no-huddle, spread offense. The scary part is that he’s just now hitting his stride.

Eleven weeks into the season, Ben Mauk can finally make it through a full practice. His timing is perfect.

The quarterback dubbed “Bionic Ben” because of all the metal in his passing arm is rounding into form with the two biggest games ahead. No. 21 Cincinnati (8-2) plays No. 5 West Virginia (8-1) on Saturday in a game with Big East title implications.

Mauk broke his throwing arm last season playing for Wake Forest and transferred to Cincinnati this season because of the offense, but also because it was close to his home in Kenton, Ohio. That was important to Mauk because he was a pretty big deal in high school. In fact, he was downright prolific and broke a record that once mattered a whole lot in our state.

Ben Mauk is the high school quarterback who broke J.R. House’s national high school record for passing yardage.

House, of course, became as much of a celebrity as a West Virginia high school star can when, at Nitro High, he passed for 14,457 yards in a career capped off when he threw an incredible 10 touchdown passes in the state championship game against Morgantown.

That record stood until Mauk came along at Kenton High, which is near Lima, Ohio, and threw for 17,364 yards, including a senior season that saw him become 2002 Mr. Football in the state when he passed for 6,540 yards and threw 76 touchdowns.

Deer WVU cross country:

You’ve had a great season and last Saturday’s second-place finish in the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional was particularly impressive. You qualified for Monday’s NCAA Championship, in Terre Haute, Ind., but also displayed marked improvements made throughout the season.

The only other meet you didn’t win this season was Sept. 28, and you finished second with 118 points while Princeton had 45. Saturday, Princeton won the Regional and you were second again, but this time the Tigers had 56 points and you had 77. Everything is working and you’re peaking at the right time. There’s really nothing I can say that hasn’t been said by your exceptional coach, Sean Cleary, except that you’d be wise not to spook the damned deer.

Shawn Buck has seen his 14-year-old daughter Emily accomplish many things in the athletic world, but it’s doubtful that anything could prepare father nor daughter for what they endured a little more than a week ago and are still feeling the aftershock from.

While competing in the Class 2-A, Region 2 Championship meet on Nov. 3 at Marion County Middle School, Emily was knocked down and injured by a doe which appeared to have been spooked from out of the bushes when the Gator guiding the lead pack of runners buzzed by.

You read that right: A girl, with the last name Buck was injured by a deer in a high school cross country race.

Best,
Mike

Johnny be Beilein

At the risk of impeding upon certain WVU taboos, it’s worth mentioning John Beilein and Michigan basketball today. The Wolverines are 2-0 and tonight face the first of many, many nonconference challenges when they play Georgetown on something called ESPN360.

Seriously, would you be shocked at all if Michigan won?

Anyhow, Beilein was known to be a tad meticulous while here and it was understandable because this, after all, was a man who grew up in coaching in the high school, junior college, Division II and NAIA levels, where he often had to do just about everything himself.

Beilein has kept on at Michigan and the Ann Arbor News published a list of 40 (!) things that are different this year. Mentioned on the list is Beilein doesn’t recruit elite prep players but does have unique terminology, his teams don’t rebound or turn the ball over, but do shoot a lot of 3-pointers.

Yet there were a few other … surprises:

Headbands weren’t allowed under Amaker. Now players – Ron Coleman, right, and Kelvin Grady among them – can wear headbands if they commit to it all season.

When Beilein talks about checkers, he’s not referring to the game. The coach has small wooden checkers and a board with basketball court markings in his office to explain his system to struggling players.

And my favorite…

Pregame introductions at Crisler Arena have been livened up, with the lights turned off, spotlights whirling around and upbeat music.

Yes, yes, Minesweeper really comes to life on that 22-inch Samsung attached to your otherwise ignominious desktop computer. Thanks to the collaboration of West Virginia University and CSTV.com, you now have a second use that will rationalize the expense and appease the better half until the next time the clerk at Blockbuster shamelessly asks “What’s a VHS?”

If you’re in Cincinnati this weekend for the football game and therefore unable to make it to the two men’s basketball games or, more likely, simply at home and uninspired by the preliminary competition in the Legends Classic — Arkansas-Monticello and Prairie View A&M — then invite the family into the den and fire up the pay-per-view.

* Hot dogs not included.

ASignOfTheTimes.com

Well, Bob Huggins is who we thought he was and on Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period for men’s college basketball, he received a National Letter-of-Intent from Kevin Jones. The 6-foot-8 frontcourt force was quietly deliberating his options and, honestly, the Mountaineers weren’t a clear favorite. Yet when it came time for pen to go to paper, Jones picked Huggins. And make no mistake, Huggins picked Jones, a top 100 player in the Class of 2008 and a star from the obscenely talented New York City area that WVU hadn’t jumped into very much in recent years.

The urge is to talk about how this is where WVU’s program is now and that Huggins, who can obviously recruit with anyone, is going to land a number of players like this before he’s done. Too easy. I think the more revealing display of where we are today comes not from the signing, but from the fact Jones has his own website.

These well known collegiate programs respect his talents as an elite basketball player and academic scholar. They recognize his abilities as straight up post player, aggressor on the boards offensively and defensively and his sniper like shooting range. Kevin Jones is personally committed to his development as a man and a basketball player who can take his game to the next level. He is a person who embodies the high school basketball ideals and winning attitude that are expected from a member of the Mount Vernon High School Varsity team.

Well, I’d recruit him based on that blurb. And that’s the point. That’s the direction in which we’re headed. Coaches like Huggins are only allowed so many days out on the road and players can only make so many visits to campuses. There are no regulations for e-recruiting, though, and sites like Jones’ are personalized recruiting resumes that allow for unlimited access and availability.

The next time you think coaches are like politicians…

There’s no denying what Brian Kelly has done in his first season at Cincinnati. Off and on the field, the Bearcats are clearly a more popular and more prolific team. Yet the ease in which Kelly has handled the task is most admirable, from his start when he inherited the team as it prepared for a bowl game to the mysterious fires he put out when the team went form 6-0 to 6-2 to the emphatic emergence late in the season.

It looks as if it comes to him very easily … and there seems to be an equally easy explanation. Brian Kelly is a trained politician trained to coach football. He doesn’t run for office. He runs a program. His father was an alderman in Chelsea, Mass., and Kelly himself later worked on Gary Hart’s presidential campaign.

Who knew that training in politics would also be perfect for a career in coaching? But Brian Kelly’s engaging personality, political skill and public speaking ability make him an ideal modern coach. In his first full season at Cincinnati, he is as comfortable giving orders on the sideline as he is mingling with alumni donors or sitting in a recruit’s living room.

“It’s the reaching out,” Kelly said of the similarities between politicians and head coaches. “You have to go door to door to get votes. It’s the same thing taking ownership of a program.”

Owen > Pat?

So West Virginia quarterback Patrick White was named the Big East Offensive Player of the Week Monday for the third time in the past four games. Safety Erick Wicks was named Big East Defensive Player of the Week and honored similarly by WVU coaches when they named him the team’s Defensive Champion after their review of the Louisville game.

The Offensive Champion? Owen Schmitt, of course. Mountaineers Coach Rich Rodriguez defended his decision amidst surprisingly intense questioning at his weekly press conference Tuesday.

“Pat probably played well enough to be Champion, but Owen played better overall with blocking and how he graded out. The people who watch — the average fan and you all folks — you all can TiVo it and watch it, but we’ve got that remote and we watch the same play 10 times. We see all the fundamentals and techniques. We really review it. Pat played pretty well, but Owen played the best of anyone offensively.”

Continue reading…

The University of Cincinnati is bracing for what’s being called, in a roundabout way, the biggest game in the program’s history. If you’re keeping score, that’s two biggest game in the program’s history West Virginia has been invited to this season.

I find this all very hard to believe, especially since it’s a regular season game and if Cincinnati wins, wouldn’t the next game be the biggest since it might be played for the Big East championship and an unprecedented cash-grab in the Bowl Championship Series? And then wouldn’t that BCS game be big? Where’s the cart and where’s the horse here?

And, seriously, how big can a game be if you’re not allowed to have Thundersticks? Via a Bearcats messageboard is this apparent communique between fans with ideas and marketing employees with answers. The school just isn’t embracing this phenomenon of upsetting ranked teams at home.

Re: Sugestion to stop “Overrated” chants

A: Anyone who wants to start on overrated chant is doing it on their own, not via UC Athletics. The chant makes no sense.

Whereas that makes perfect sense. And note to UC fans: The reason the “BE-AR-CA-TS” chant hasn’t taken off at home games is not the fault of the rather large marketing and fan development department, but because more of you aren’t showing up at the games!

Re: Suggestion to chant BE, AR, CA, TS from alternate sidelines using cheerleaders with lettercards

A: We started the chant thing before the games with Louisville … hard to do it before as we had some empty stands. Same was the case this past weekend for UConn. This is a no-brainer, but you have to have a crowd to make it work.

Will he be missed? Yup-Yup

Sad news to pass along. Henry Drosky passed away Monday. He was 85. That might not mean anything to you until you realize he was better known as the Yup-Yup Man.

And if you’ve spent any time in Morgantown and never heard of the Yup-Yup Man before, you probably know who he is now.  Just think…

Drosky was long known for working his way around town and West Virginia University sporting events speaking to himself and repeating his catchphrase. Every now and then, he’d throw in a “Nope, nope” if he didn’t agree with something he’d just seen or heard. He was particularly visible in the 1980s and 1990s, typically with a beverage in one hand and a radio in the other. May he rest in peace.