The Times West Virginian

Breaking News

WVU Sports

February 18, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN: Despite win, WVU still has work to do

MORGANTOWN — The most pressing question in the hours following West Virginia University’s total dismantling of the Pitt Panthers before their homefolks was whether or not you had witnessed the beginning or the end of something big.

The significance of the game going in was that it was the last scheduled meeting in either football or basketball between the Backyard Brawl rivals, making it perhaps the end of one of the great rivalries in college sports.

This was Yale-Harvard, USC-UCLA, Alabama-Auburn, Ohio State-Michigan on its own.

It was contested between schools less than 80 miles apart, an athletic hatred that was passed from father to son, from one generation to the next. They started playing it so long ago that the first meeting came slightly more than two months before Mount Vesuvius erupted and devastated Naples and a day short of two months before the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906.

In both football and basketball it was the one thread that held Mountaineer history together. If you could count on nothing else, you could count on WVU and Pitt playing and the experience being memorable whether or not the game was.

So it was on the final night, too, when in the midst of the action, shortly after the Pitt cheerleaders had hurled Panther T-shirts into the stands, there was a brief interruption in the game for a West Virginia fan, resplendent in his WVU T-shirt, was being escorted from the arena by security as the Pitt fans had their lone reason of the night to cheer.

His felony was in having a Pitt T-shirt thrown to him, which he promptly threw back toward the cheerleaders.

Certainly, considering that they had come up empty on their last seven trips up the Mon, winning this game was a huge experience for the Mountaineers.

“It means the world,” WVU superstar Kevin Jones would admit. “Just knowing how big this rivalry is, to win it on their court is an indescribable feeling. I’m glad it came with this team because we did so much this season and it’s not over; we still have a way to go. Everyone is starting to play hard and buy in to the situation.”

That brings us back to the original thesis of this dissertation, whether that game was the end or the beginning of something big. Certainly the two coaches — Bob Huggins from WVU and Jamie Dixon from Pitt — will work to schedule non-conference games, so critical is the series to the psyche of both schools, but whether or not that is feasible remains uncertain.

As for it being the beginning of something big, that is the most pressing question for WVU.

Indeed, their NCAA Tournament resume is incomplete at the moment, a 17-8 record and 6-6 Big East log hardly the kind of presentation you’d like to give to the Selection Committee.

The Pitt win did not change that fact.

“We have to realize when we play hard, we’re a very tough team,” Jones said in the hallway outside of the Pitt locker room. “We can beat anyone in the country.”

But before the Mountaineers have that chance, they have to go on the road again to face Notre Dame, a team that seldom drops a home game and that currently is playing better than anyone in the country, included in its latest winning streak a victory in Morgantown.

“Another tough road game,” Jones allowed. “Nobody wins in there, but we have to try to win in that hostile environment, just like this one.”

The Pitt win, therefore, would seem to be the beginning, either of the road to the NCAA or the beginning of the end.

WVU needs a lot of things, confidence among them.

“This gives us a lot of confidence,” Jones said. “We know Notre Dame got us at home. There were a couple of plays we slacked on. We will go back to the tape and see what we did wrong. It’s another hostile game.”

A hostile game and a crucial game. The Pitt victory only added to that.

“We’re far from out of the deep end of the water, but we’re working our way up,” Jones said. “We’re only going to get better with team effort.”

Email Bob Hertzel at Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

Text Only
WVU Sports
  • Huggins signs junior college guard

    Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
    Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.

    April 17, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Comparing pay of coaches and professors

    Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
    • A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.

    April 17, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete

    The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
    Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.

    April 16, 2014

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

    From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

    April 15, 2014

  • WVU signs guard; Adrian arrested for DUI

    There was something good and something bad for West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins this past weekend as Kansas junior college player Tarik Phillip committed to play for the Mountaineers but rising sophomore Nathan Adrian was charged with Under 21 DUI after he was stopped at 1:20 a.m. Sunday for an expired registration sticker.

    April 15, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN- Most plays good, some not so good in Gold-Blue scrimmage

    There appeared to be a fine mixture of plays, most good with some not so good, in last Saturday’s West Virginia University’s Gold-Blue football scrimmage.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Garrison still proving he can carry the ball

    The running back raves from the West Virginia coaching this spring have been directly mostly toward Wendell Smallwood, and rest assured he earned every one of them with his versatility, but it was a reborn running back who well may have taken the biggest jump up the depth chart.

    April 14, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos