WVU Sports with Tom Bragg

There are two ways to look at West Virginia’s game today against Syracuse. The first is that it’s a pretty important moment for the Mountaineers, who despite their defeat last week are still in line to accomplish many things, yet still must play demonstrably better than they did against South Florida. That entails a certain amount of mental maintenance as WVU must realize it is/was/can be better.

The second view is that it’s just another game. This requires none of the recuperative thinking, but only a physical presence inside the Carrier Dome and a performance good enough to beat a bad Orange team.

WVU Coach Rich Rodriguez was asked how he catered to his players this week and he revealed he’s not into all of that “psychological babble.”

“Y’all concentrate too muck on the psychological part of it. Fans want to worry about ‘What’s their mindset? What’s their mood? They weren’t thinking going into the game.’ Listen, once the game kicks off, it’s over.”

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Gansey getting ready

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that while the top eight players from West Virginia’s Elite Eight and Sweet 16 teams all played professionally, they were all supposedly unathletic overachievers who were good because of a scheme and not skills.

That’s wildly inaccurate, of course, and it was Mike Gansey who personified the team’s ability to prove people wrong more than any of the other Mountaineers. He was 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, but rebounded like a power forward, jumped like a joke, shot 3-pointers like a Bird, slashed like a point guard and defended like a thief.  

Undrafted in 2006 and denied chances to play in the NBA by both health and circumstances, he is now it Fabriano, Italy, with his first regular season game Sunday. His experience in his words come after the jump…

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Friday feedback

Well, there is none. Sorry. We had some technical issues here and lost a number of entries and, of more inportance significance, your comments. And we were off to such a good start, too! Let’s agree to get together next week, same time, same place.

Could it already be 15 years since Syracuse quarterback Marvin Graves triggered a fourth-quarter brawal that, in the minds of many, contributed directly to a West Virginia loss and a 20-17 victory for the Orangemen? (Yes, they were once the Orangemen.)

Among the many? WVU Coach Don Nehlen.

There seems to be no debating the particuars of the situation, specifically that Graves started the fight. Seriously, check the headline in the New York Times. The story was as direct.

The fisticuffs broke out after Graves had been tackled hard while running out of bounds for a first down at the Orange 28 with 3:39 left to play and Syracuse trailing by 17-13. Graves Touches Off Melee

Graves lost his temper and threw the ball at the tackler, cornerback Tommy Orr. Within seconds, dozens of athletes began to swing and claw at one another. When peace was restored, the officiating crew headed by Referee John Soffey ejected three West Virginia defensive regulars — Collins, end Tom Briggs and nickel back Leroy Axem.

The ejected Orangeman was Ken Warren, an obscure substitute lineman. Graves received a 5-yard penalty for throwing the ball.

Graves proceeded to take his team down the field to victory, aided considerably by a pass-interference penalty against West Virginia after the Syracuse quarterback had thrown an incomplete pass on fourth down.

Nehlen, his players and his fans remained incensed and let the Big East office know about it in volumes. Conference commissioner Mike Tranghese finally relented and admitted an officiating error.

“If there were to be ejections, Syracuse’s Marvin Graves needed to be included among those ejected,” Tranghese said. “Obviously, the ejections hurt West Virginia.”

Two quarterbacks we won’t be seeing soon

The first is poor Marc Bulger. Battered, bruised, broken and now benched — though it seems the WVU graduate is less then pleased.

“If he feels this will help us win, and maybe help us later in the season, then I’m going to trust him,” Bulger said.

Linehan said he changed his mind about his starting quarterback after reviewing tape of passing plays against San Francisco, Tampa Bay, and Dallas.

“There was no way in my mind that some of the throws Marc missed, he would miss in his sleep,” Linehan said. “I truly believe that.

“I think it’s my responsibility to see and act upon a position that’s not performing at the level we expect it to perform and find out the reason why. There is no question in my mind that it’s because he’s in extreme discomfort as he’s trying to throw and move in the pocket.”

This troubling because, if you remember, Bulger’s replacement, Gus Frerote, is a bit of a clutz.

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When Morgantown High graduate Patrick Shadlewent to Syracuse two summers ago, he did so with a scholarhip and with hopes he’d win the competition to be the team’s regular placekicker. He did not and instead lost out to another true freshman, walk-on John Barker.

“He ended up going 8-for-12 on field goals and three of his misses hit the uprights,” Shadle said Wednesday, “so that’s a pain in the (posterior).”

Shadle was 0-for-1 that season. He and Barker were two of six true freshmen to play in 2005. Now Shadle is the kicker and Barker, who has since earned a scholarship, is the holder.

Believe it or not, the two are also roommates.

“I wouldn’t have wanted to live with him two years ago, I’ll tell you that right now. There wasn’t a lot of good blood between us back then. We both wanted the job and we were both fighting our butts off to win it. But now we’re the best of pals. We’ve got a great relationship. We actually golf two or three times a week. It couldn’t have worked out any better.”

If only it wasn’t too late for Mitch Cozad

Terrelle’s trouble

Jeannette (Pa.) two-sport prep star Terrelle Pryor, whose abilities in both football and basketball have top colleges including West Virginia vying for his services, found himself in a little bit of trouble Saturday. Apparently, actions sometimes don’t speak louder than words.

Pryor, 18, was with friends at Kennywood for Phantom Fright Nights when he became involved in a verbal confrontation with another man, who he said inappropriately touched a female friend. West Mifflin Police Chief Joseph Popovich said the confrontation never became physical but confirmed it involved a female friend of Pryor’s.

Kennywood police asked Pryor to leave the park, which he agreed to do, but he also demanded a refund. When police refused, Pryor called the Kennywood policeman a “rent-a-cop.” 

Pryor recently revealed Ohio State, Florida and West Virginia were his top three choices. Both are strong in football and basketball and Pryor is serious about playing both in college.

So everyone makes a fuss when college football takes over Friday night and nudges aside high school football. What then do we say about tonight’s high school game on ESPN2 when Thursday night has in recent years been reserved for college football?

I, for one, expect a lot of people to say “Hey, isn’t that…” and the answer will be yes.

Two of the top five teams in the top level of Alabama high school football square off when Class 6A’s No. 2 Daphne takes on No. 5 Foley. Foley features receiver Julio Jones, who is considered the best high school player in the nation. Jones will not be alone as Daphne has a few stars, too.

Daphne can counter with some super talent of its own — like Auburn commitment Reggie Hunt at tailback and speedy Coley White at quarterback. White is the younger brother of Heisman candidate and West Virginia quarterback Pat White.

“I think there are a lot of story lines that make this game attractive to a national audience,” said Vickery. “Kenny Stabler played at Foley and Pat played at Daphne. It’s just a great opportunity for our two programs and for our state to take the national stage.”

Because you’re wondering, Coley is pretty good and has been offered scholarships by WVU, Georgia Tech, Iowa State, Central Michigan and Florida International.

He’s got interviews down pat

Perhaps it is because he grew tired of having to answer too many questions about his infrequent kicking errors and not enough about his plentiful successes, but West Virginia kicker/punter Pat McAfee has turned his interview opportunities into a weekly can’t-miss moment that is equal parts insightful and incredible.

He’s requested every week and he shows up without fail … and never without material. Tuesday gave us another entertaining example when McAfee was asked about his recollections of his first trip to the Carrier Dome in 2005.

Again, that’s the Carrier Dome.

“All I remember is it was rocking. It was my first game ever (at WVU) and I was really nervous. I was getting some jitterbugs. It was really loud in there. (pause) Great wind. The wind is always at your back in there. It’s always at your back. But the sun is always in your eyes. I’m concentrating really hard. I’m going to get a visor this week.”

About Brady’s whereabouts…

If you were able to block out the 10 turnovers and peer through the 67,000-plus wild fans inside Raymond James Stadium Friday night, it’s possible you noticed a pseudo Mountaineers mascot. Turns out the real deal, Brady Campbell, was unable to make the game.

Insert your “None of the Mountaineers showed up!” joke here…

Bill Nevin, West Virginia’s Assistant Director of News and Information Services, said Campbell was in Morgantown taking the LSATs — law school admission test. He was replaced by the alternate, Kyle Chapman. Campbell will be back on the sidelines Saturday at Syracuse.