The Sock 'Em, Bust 'Em Board Because that's our custom

This man has class

The great Phil Caskey, assistant sports information director at West Virginia who not only handles all communications for women’s basketball, but also unearths some fine news and notes for the football team, somehow finds the time to teach a graduate level class in the sports management program. Already this semester, he’s featured guest lecturers like Bob Hertzel, now of the Fairmont Times West Virginian, and Joe Brocato, of WDTV in Clarksburg.

Tuesday, he brought his class to the Puskar Center for the weekly Rich Rodriguez press conference. Initially, I thought it was lazy teaching, but it’s actually a good idea. Far too many graduates of similar programs around the country enter the working world without real-life experience in such areas. Subsequently, they’re in awe or lost the first few times they encounter those situations. This, though, gave then a different look into the world they’re about to enter. They may never be in a press conference again, or maybe they want to be around more now, but they definitely understand what happens.

And fortunately for Caskey’s class, Rodriguez’s press conference is always entertaining and sometimes hilarious.

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The backups step forward

Perhaps we’re too smitten with the quarterback situation at West Virginia to recognize otherwise. After all, who else can say they have three quarterbacks who have started and won conference games? (No, really, if anyone knows, please pass that along.) The Mountaineers have that in All-America candidate — and don’t ignore the Heisman Hype – Patrick White, Jarrett Brown, who many think is the best backup in the country, and Adam Bednarik, the resident Wally Pipp who did nothing to lose his starting spot but hurt.

Yet as you look around, quarterbacks get nicked up more now than ever and only the deepest and most talented teams can survive with a talented backup. QB-by-committee has failed in the past, but seems to flourish now. QB-by-necessity may have never been stronger, as explained by, and the Mountaineers have emboldened the trend.

Florida brought the two-quarterback attack into vogue last season as the Leak-Tebow one-two punch became virtually unstoppable, and this season has seen its fair share of signal-caller tandems. However, the tag-team passers of 2007 are more the product of necessary changes than ideal game planning. Injuries, miscues and suspensions have plagued the nation’s starting quarterbacks, allowing backups to earn extra time.

“It’s probably one of the most important parts of the offense,” West Virginia offensive coordinator Calvin Magee said of the backup. “You don’t want to miss a beat. You have to have a quarterback that can come in and keep things going.” 

It seems this year, teams are only as good as their backup quarterback. But fortunately for six of the nation’s top 20, that’s pretty good.

Premature bowl scenarios

Wow, the landscape sure has changed in the past two weeks, yes? Consider that since then-No. 5 West Virginia lost at South Florida and purportedly lost every one of its hopes and dreams, a lot happened:

In the 24 hours following the loss, Oklahoma, Rutgers, Texas, Oregon and Florida all lost. At home. Oklahoma, Texas and Florida would have remained in front of WVU and added to their cushions and Rutgers and Oregon would have leaped ahead of WVU. As it was, WVU dropped to No. 13 and remained behind, and in some cases well-behind, the other losers, which, in all honesty, seemed unfair since this was an eight-point loss on the road with a chance to tie the game late against a team that is now No. 5.

In retrospect, while coaches say polls do not matter, they do because had the Mountaineers been given even a little bit more credit in defeat, they’d be a tad higher with much firmer standing than they currently enjoy. Still, for WVU, this is a much more promising outlook than most could have imagined.

This past weekend only helped prove the point.

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McAfee’s dome

Honestly, the first things the media noticed upon entering the press box inside the Carrier Dome Saturday were the heat, the great view and the fact we wouldn’t need binoculars. Yes, we can be that fickle, but because we were so close to the field, it was pretty easy to see West Virginia kicker Pat McAfee had a new hair-do.

Rest assured, we later took time to monitor Patrick White’s warm-up and determine he would start, but McAfee’s hair was of greater concern. He’s had a history of bleaching and blonding, but always with his curly mop that he’ll sometimes let grow to considerable length or sometimes cut shorter before letting it go again.

His coach, Rich Rodriguez, once commented on his kicker’s hair by saying “I don’t want him to be the first one off the bus, I’ll tell you that much.” 

Well, to his pleasure and to our surprise — no! — chagrin McAfee went in a totally different direction with his latest cut.

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It is perhaps the most bizarre and most sensible sports theory in quite some time. In fact, I didn’t know such a contrast was possible until seeing what Fox Sports insider extraordinaire Jay Glazer concocted last week.

And it’s probably better that Glazer wrote this after West Virginia’s loss to South Florida. Had it been earlier, Coach Rich Rodriguez would have been defending more on his radio show than just play-calling against the Bulls. Instead, he would have been trying to explain how he did not actually alter the fate of football in America this year.

You see, Glazer believes some unexpected occurrences inside the NFL this season can be traced to college football.

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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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