The Times West Virginian

December 4, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN: Queen City kind to West Virginia

By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — As someone who spent the glory days of his life living and raising a family in Cincinnati, I can tell you that it was by far the best place I ever lived until discovering Wild and Wonderful West Virginia.

It is a city with wonderful food, such as the late Ted Gregory’s Montgomery Inn, which serves ribs so good that Frank Sinatra used to have them shipped to his home in California, and a great night life that in those days was centered around Mount Adams, which was where I hung out, and Clifton, which is where the University of Cincinnati is.

It was a giving city ... and from what I can gather, it still is, for we here in West Virginia owe it a huge thank you.

Certainly WVU quarterback Geno Smith is willing to thank them, considering that after WVU beat South Florida to qualify for its share of the Big East title he said: “I’m the biggest Cincinnati fan right now. Go Munchie.”

First of it, if you think back, it has sent us two of the most successful basketball coaches we’ve ever had, Gale Catlett and Bob Huggins. Each was a WVU graduate, a basketball player at the school, Catlett arriving via a more traditional route than Huggins, who had to be run out of Cincinnati by the evil Nancy Zimpher before he finally would find his way here after a brief stopover in Manhattan, Kansas.

Then a couple of weeks back it was just as generous, losing a game it easily could have won, blowing a 21-17 lead to WVU late and then allowing Eain Smith to block what would have been a game-tying field goal. That put WVU in position to earn the BCS bid if things would work out right.

On Saturday, Cincinnati’s generosity bubbled over again as its Bearcats handed WVU a bid to the BCS by hanging on to beat Connecticut. By so doing, Cincinnati created a three-way tie atop the Big East between themselves, the Mountaineers and Louisville.

In that scenario, the team with the highest BCS rating receives the BCS bid, and everyone who is anyone, meaning those wearing flying WV logo gear, believes that will be the Mountaineers. After all, they came into the week ranked 23 in the BCS with Cincinnati No. 30, and nothing transpired to make you think that will change.

True, it isn’t final until the bids come out tonight, but the way it looks now, even with Houston being upset by Southern Mississippi, WVU is headed for the Orange Bowl ... although the Sugar Bowl isn’t completely out of the question.

Miami or New Orleans? Beats the hell out of Charlotte, whichever way it turns out.

WVU did nothing to make their players available to the media on Saturday after the Cincinnati game, which was somewhat thoughtless on their part, as certainly the fans want to know, but through the magic of Facebook and Twitter, some of them expressed their feelings.

Linebacker Najee Goode probably put it best in 140 characters or less when he tweeted: “Can’t describe the feeling but compare it (to) butterflies.”

Freshman running back

Dustin Garrison, himself something of a sensation considering he had the best rushing game in the NCAA this year with 291 yards against Bowling Green and then capped it with a key touchdown against South Florida, put it this way: “Take me where the oranges grow!! #orangebowlbaby!”

And offensive tackle Don Barclay, a senior in his last go-round, proclaimed: “Them oranges taste good now! Bcs bound let’s goooo!!!! WVU.”

In truth, this is all something of a miracle, for first-year coaches seldom find a way to make it into a BCS bowl. That is true for a couple of reasons, the first being that usually they are replacing someone who has been fired, meaning they are taking over a losing team in most instances.

Dana Holgorsen got a break in replacing Bill Stewart, inheriting a nine-win team. He did not improve on the nine wins but they were enough to get the job done.

Then, too, a coach normally has to earn some experience before reaching such lofty heights, but Holgorsen managed somehow to guide his team through a number of landmines and survive.

In truth, the only first-year coach that comes to mind to go to the BCS was Larry Coker, and he took over Miami at the height of its run.

So now there is really only one more obstacle to an incredible season, and that would be to win a BCS bowl. And if, somehow, that would be over Clemson in the Orange Bowl, so much the better, but one suspects if WVU would wind up beating MIT no one would complain.

Email Bob Hertzel at Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.