WVU Sports with Tom Bragg

Chatty Pat

West Virginia quarterback Patrick White was on ESPN.com’s The Show this afternoon for an online chat. Consider this a worldwide publicity opportunity for White, who ESPN said was fifth in its latest Heisman Watch. Fittingly, 11 of the 18 questions came from … West Virginia.

The rest went about as expected, too. Nothing too revealing and nothing too out of the ordinary for the reserved White. He did, however, comment on WVU’s new gold-on-gold uniforms.

Rodney (Walton, WV):Thanks for all you have done for WVU football over the past few years……….what are your thoughts on the new Gold/Gold uniforms this year? 

Pat White: I like them. It’s something new for us. We were definitely excited to wear them this year for the first time. We won when we played in them. Turned out to be a good thing.

At first I wasn’t sold, but I’ve changed my mind after getting seeing the offensive linemen on the field Thursday night.

Pacman plea

Remember when Pacman Jones made it rain in a Las Vegas strip club in February and a subsequent shooting in which members of his entourage were said to be involved left a man paralyzed? Well, Pacman vehemently denied knowing the gunman and has maintained that position ever since.

As odd as this might seem, Pacman wasn’t being entirely truthful and will plea today with a promise he cooperates law enforcement.

Jones’ attorney, Robert Langford, said he would appear on Jones’ behalf Tuesday to tell Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Tony Abbatangelo that Jones intends to take a plea. The actual plea will take place at a later date before a Clark County District Court judge.

“He has agreed to testify in whatever hearings come up regarding the shooter,” Langford said. Jones, who is not expected to appear at Tuesday’s hearing, would not be sentenced until after testifying, he said.

Abbatangelo is expected to waive Jones’ preliminary hearing on two felony coercion charges stemmin g from allegations he incited the melee inside the club. The evidentiary hearing was postponed Oct. 29 while plea negotiations continued.

I’m not a legal expert, but pleas typically don’t go to people with no knowledge of an investigation. The fact this comes so soon after Jones leaned he wouldn’t be reinstated by the NFL last week seems very peculiar, yes?

A preview of what awaits WVU?

Maybe the outcome wasn’t a surprise when Cincinnati beat Connecticut Saturday and perhaps you could even see the 27-3 final score and say that that, too, wasn’t entirely unexpected.

Yet the style in which the Bearcats won was most alarming. They completely dismantled a very soild UConn team and took the Huskies apart from start to finish.

Andre Dixon, the dreadlocked bundle of enthusiasm, thought about cutting left and finding no room. Dixon, who had run for more than 100 yards four times in seven games, thought about cutting right and finding nothing there, either.

He thought and he thought. He thought about the telephone booth the Cincinnati defense had stuffed his team into Saturday and finally Dixon said it:

“We got our ass busted.”

After losing to Louisville and Pitt, Cincinnati has taken down South Florida and Connecticut and looks to beat a third straight ranked team Saturday when it plays host to WVU in a this-is-the-definition-of-hostile night game at Nippert Stadium. Again, it’s not that the Bearcats are suddenly good — remember, they started 6-0 — but that they are suddenly different and, just maybe, dangerous.

The Bearcats, who lead the nation with 22 interceptions, do much of their damage on turnovers. They also were ranked sixth of eight Big East teams in total defense and 63rd in America. Other teams have moved the ball for an average of 377.3 yards against them – not UConn. The thing that was so striking Saturday was how physical they were. This was a smackdown.

Louisville football Coach Steve Kragthorpe called his West Virginia counterpart, Rich Rodriguez, yesterday to settle the spitting incident that allegedly occured in Thursday’s game. Kragthorpe said his player, linebacker Preston Smith, did not spit but that something happened as Smith and WVU quarterback Patrick White trash-talked. Whatever it was that happened was then misconstrued by White.

Rodriguez was content with the explanation, so much so that he declined Kragthorpe’s offer to speak with White himself to clear the air, and said he had no choice but to move on because there was no evidence to support or deny the claims made by White and Smith.

You couldn’t really tell on film. You could tell they were in eachother’s face a bit, but you couldn’t see anything beyond that.”

We’ll be the judge of that…

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On women’s soccer

The coronation on Sunday was indeed a long time coming for West Virginia’s women’s soccer program and the matriarch, Nikki Izzo-Brown.

Women’s soccer was a new sport and Izzo-Brown, then just Nikki Izzo and barely 25, was placed in charge of building West Virginia’s program from the ground up. Her budget back then was as modest as her coaching resume: All-American player at Rochester and two year’s worth of coaching experience at West Virginia Wesleyan College.

But she was always intensely driven and she never took the ‘Nos’ very easily. Back then her mind rarely drifted too far away from the task at hand – improving West Virginia women’s soccer.

“You’ve always got to remember where you came from,” said Izzo-Brown. “That’s always important. I’ll never forget where this program started and I’ll never forget the people that helped us get to where we are today.”

Where they are today is standing tall as the Big East champion and a legitimate and consistent presence on the national level. Let’s follow Coach’s advice and remember where WVU came from with a story from a night I still remember.

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Friday Feedback

Before we begin today, a moment to discuss my column from earlier in the week. I reached a few conclusions in the wake of its publication. First and foremost, my e-mail definitely works. Second, and, indeed, more important, is that people do care about this topic, but are pretty well split in the discussion. And that’s good.

Understand I wasn’t looking to pick a side, but was interested in putting the information out there as I see it. My point was not to say the crowds are weak or strong or that WVU has the best or worst fans. Rather, I thought Thursday night would be a time when whatever realtionship the fans have with the Mountaineers would sink or swim, so to speak, in the sea of gold. In my opinion, it wasn’t about everyone dressing in gold as much as it was about everyone coming together and becoming the intimidation factor that can propel a team to victory.

I think we can agree to say it went very well, that the crowd rewarded the Mountaineers with their in inolvement for most of the game and that the Mountaineers certainly rewarded the crowd for being a factor.

As for the criticisms that came my way, let’s begin and end with the stupid idea that I’m somehow bitter about ticket prices jumping up and that I’m unaware it happens everywhere else. Honestly, if that’s your theory, you’ve got to do better. I don’t buy tickets, so I’m not bitter, and I’m quite sure ticket prices are up everywhere.

Whether or not it should happen here was not the point of my column and perhaps that’s a debate for another day.

Onto the feedback. As always, comments appear as posted. In other words, I’m not the one making mistakes.

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West Virginia Coach Rich Rodriguez has a rare opportunity Saturday. His team doesn’t play and instead will get a look at its next two opponents. No. 16 Connecticut (8-1, 4-0 Big East) plays at Cincinnati (7-2, 2-2) at 3:30 Saturday afternoon on ESPNU.

It’s a swing game in the battle for the Big East title. If the Bearcats have any chance to win it, they must first beat UConn, then WVU Nov. 17. UConn, meanwhile, could move one step closer to the title and one step closer to a possible game for the outright championship and the Bowl Championship Series bid in Morgantown Nov. 24.

This is a key contest and Rodriguez will be watching.

“I’ll watch a little bit as a fan and a lot as a coach. I’ll pay more attention obviously to Cincinnati  and when we get film on them later it’ll be easier to break it down. You don’t get as good a feel for the game watching it that way, but you can get a feel for a few things they’re doing. We already have some film on them and we can get a head start on that. It’s on ESPNU, so I’m sure the players will try to get somewhere and maybe get a look at it.”

We’re a little more than 12 hours removed from WVU’s most anxious moments of the season and it’s probably been enough time for Patrick White to calm down. White was restrained, though clearly upset in stating Louisville linebacker Preston Smith spit in his face last night.

Smith denied White’s accusation earlier today.

“No question, we were trash-talking,” Smith told Louisville assistant sports information director Rocco Gasparro. “But no way did I spit in his face.”

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If you can’t join them, mimic them

Victor Anderson once gave a verbal commitment to West Virginia’s football staff and it was an interesting recruiting battle because Anderson was a star running back at St. Xavier, in Louisville, Ky., and ultimately decided to commit to and sign with the Louisville Cardinals some time later.

Well, Anderson is still at Louisville and, despite injuries and suspensions in the backfield this season, he has yet to see any playing time and will instead redshirt.

That is not to say he isn’t helping the Cardinals in hopes they might hurt the Mountaineers tonight. Anderson played the part of WVU running back Steve Slaton in practice this week. Josh Miller, a freshman receiver, impersonated WVU quarterback Patrick White.

Miller and Anderson, the St. Xavier High School product, give U of L’s defense a model to work against in practice. But whether the Cardinals (5-4, 2-2 Big East Conference) can stop the real thing Thursday night in Morgantown is another story.

Every team that plays the No. 6 Mountaineers (7-1, 2-1) tries to figure out a way to slow White and Slaton. Hardly anyone succeeds. They’re the catalysts for an offense that averages 40.8 points and 298 rushing yards per game.

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If gambling were legal…

…and remember, it’s not, Las Vegas and the oddsmakers could still have a role in many of our lives. Why, sportswriters can certainly take a thing or two or twenty from the never-too-nonsensical trends opponents establish before playing one another. Tonight’s WVU-Louisville game offers such insight.

Louisville most recently:
When playing in November are 9-1
When playing on turf are 7-3
After outgaining opponent are 7-3
When playing within the conference are 7-3

West Virginia most recently:
When playing in November are 6-4
When playing on turf are 8-2
After outgaining opponent are 8-2
When playing within the conference are 7-3

Does it mean anything? Maybe not, but when you’re on writing on deadline and it’s a night game that television just will not let end, those little things come in handy.

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