Still drying out after the flash flood in Jordan-Hare gap Saturday night when the Eers got knocked off their mountain, or at least the one we had placed them on for the last year after we failed to show up in the 2nd half back in Mo'town. Always glad when a quality OOC opponent is slated, but the pressure is on when they make the return trip to your house, especially after you lost the first one at theirs. I didn't want a repeat of the last BCS OOC series we had that went that way--USC in 2002-03, or Georgia Tech in 2003 and2005. Maybe it's just me, but I feel that the eyes of the whole conference are upon us when we represent like that and I don't want to let anyone down, nor do I want the razzing that comes with losing both games.
But since we won, I'm a bit more magnanimous with my appreciation for Noel Devine (#7) and his dynamic pocket partner, Jock Sanders (#9). These guys, small in stature, certainly make up for it with their sheer speed and elusiveness. Thank GOD we were able to contain Devine, save for that 71 yard scamper in the first quarter, all part of an over 200-yard performance for the Eers in the first quarter. I think I was more pissed off last year for Devine hanging 200+ yards rushing on us than I was losing the game. Had he done it again this year, I'm certain I would have burned one of MY couches. Or at least a love-seat.
Judging by the virility of the little smack thread we posted last Friday, the Mountaineer fans certainly are spirited and defend the West Virginia faith wherever the opportunity presents itself. I talked with a few before the game, but didn't get to talk to as many visitors as I usually do in my personal Tiger Walk from the bar I am holding court over to the stadium because of the monsoon that rolled in. Like someone commented in a post-game thread, I wouldn't mind seeing this series played maybe every twenty years or so. Every decade would be better, but not very realistic, as we will struggle to try and hook up with Georgia Tech, our most wanted BCS OOC opponent, as often.
Normally, I watch a game at least twice. The first time as a pure fan, with the requisite hollering and jumping up and down, but the subsequent times I watch it for analysis. Call it my version of watching film, but you don't get all the camera angles you desire from the TV. That's one of the great things about watching a game in person--you can watch whatever part of the field you want, even if it is harder to follow that way. Your natural inclination is to follow the ball, so it's significantly harder to attempt to peek at how well the lineman are blocking, or seeing if your linebackers are blitzing or dropping back into coverage.
Everybody ought to sit andwatch a game with Acid Reign and listen to what he brings in real time. He's yelling and critiquing and calling out directions all at the same time. I've realized that some of this stuff I don't even catch during the replays, much less when it's live. A few of us may have time to follow receiver routes on a pass play, but most are watching the QB, hoping he won't get sacked. We may watch the running back hit the hole, but few of us catch the wide-outs that go and block in the secondary, opening up yet another hole if the back makes it through the line. We have to realize that there are more players out there than just the guy with the ball. Call it a blue-collar contribution if you wish, but these guys are the ones who keep it going. Maybe we all can shed a little bit more light on them and show appreciation for all they do for the team. Too often, their sacrifices go unnoticed by most.
I never have been a fan of that stat that compares TD passes to interceptions. Hell, I'm not really impressed with just TD passes on their own. I think you can pad them a bit, especially if you're dumping lot of short ones that normally would be rushing TDs. I even understand that there were 10 of them in Fayetteville Saturday night. But how much do you think it means to Chris Todd 's confidence that he had FOUR of them this weekend? Although probably not one to rest on personal stat laurels, you have to figure that Todd's belief in himself is off the charts after achieving such a feat against a quality opponent.
Having had the self confidence to have to wait until early fall practice when his shoulder had finally healed to go in and win the starting job, this showing is exactly the springboard which Todd and the whole team needed to vault them into the meat of the SEC schedule. If we were writing a script for the 2009 Tigers, it wouldn't have come out this well. Granted, there are still areas of improvement that are desired for our passing game, but so far, the protection has been more than we had hoped for. Todd has shown a willingness to move outside the pocket as well, even though he did show a weakness in throwing after he's been running for his life. In the 4th quarter, an exhausted Todd missed a key 3rd and long throw in WV territory to a wide-open Mario Fannin because he didn't have the energy to put any zip on it. Luckily for us, WVU's Jarret Brown did have a lot of zip on the next possession--to his favorite target of the night, an Auburn defender.
I don't know if anyone else has noticed it, but the Wildcat formation with Kodi Burns doesn't seem to be fooling near as many people as it's supposed to. Maybe we're saving the finer nuances of that formation for conference play, but I swear when I first saw Gus Malzahnrun this formation in Jordan-Hare--in the Arkansas game in 2006--it was a lot more deceptive. Maybe that's because they first lined up the QB behind center, then sent him in motion while the ball got snapped to the I-back.
But maybe I'm just too accustomed to seeing Kodi line up in the shotgun--with his QB play last year--and I don't key on it like opposing defenders do. Only once have we seen Burns fake the draw, then drop back to pass--that TD throw to Phillip Lutzenkirchenagainst Miss State. I'm sure other variations of the Wildcat are forthwith, but I for one would like to suggest Burns lining up behind the QB or being the beneficiary of one of those end around runs when he goes in motion. Did anyone think it rather surreal in the 4th quarter when Burns went in motion, only to be made to go back and try it again by Todd? Not quite sure what was going on there, but it was very amusing.
This week's Ball State game is certainly to be one of those let-down contests, with Auburn having spent a lot of emotion to come from behind last week and possibly looking ahead to a semi-resurgent Tennessee team next week. I still haven't seen where this game will be found on TV, but I'm glad that we're a third of the way into the season and we haven't had to play one of those abominable 11am games yet. Even if I had season tickets, this one wouldn't be worth the trip down from Atlanta, but I'll be glued to the tube just like most of you will. We may even try a little different live thread during the game--one that's a bit more interactive than what we're used to. Think: everyone instant messaging their comments in real time, with sound effects and graphics. I'll have more details later this week.