The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

September 23, 2010

HERTZEL COLUMN: Berry’s focus on upcoming contest

MORGANTOWN — We have reached the time of year when a senior football player might just begin to let his mind wander a little, a time when thoughts of his future begin to form.

It is happening, as you might expect, with Scooter Berry, three letters running through his mind.

NFL?

“No,” he answers. “I got LSU on my mind right now. Three letters, that’s all: L-S-U.”

It’s not that Berry isn’t getting that itch. After all, he is a sixth-year senior, having been a gray shirt, coming to school in January back in the middle of the Bush Administration, although we’re not sure if it was George W. or George H.W. Bush.

“I’m excited to get out of here. I’m going to miss it, but I want to move on with my life,” Berry admitted.

There may be some who are surprised to learn that Berry is a senior, even though he is as liable to retire from college as much as graduate. See, through the work of one of those gremlins that creep into the editing process, Berry has been listed in some publications as a redshirt junior.

“After the game, my girlfriend said to me, ‘They kept saying you were a junior on TV.’ I told her, I don’t know why they were doing that,” he said.

In some ways, Berry came through the back door to West Virginia. When he enrolled, many thought it was solely to accommodate running back Jason Gwaltney, his half brother who was one of the most sought after running backs ever out of the New York City area.

Gwaltney was the prize, the kid that WVU was hitching its wagon to and Berry, it was assumed, was simply to keep him happy.

Turned out the only thing that could keep Gwaltney happy was avoiding the classroom. He wound up in academic trouble and eventually left school that led him on a journey to nowhere.

Berry, on the other hand, became a premier defensive lineman under Bill Kirelawich, a gregarious, friendly kid who really only had one blotch on his record at school, failing to be academically eligible for last year’s bowl date with Florida State.

In some ways it was blessing, for Berry had played most of the season with a shoulder injury and needed surgery. That gave him time away from the practice field to begin the healing process, something that took all of spring practice, if you can imagine a senior missing his final spring drills.

By opening day, though, Berry was ripe for some action, completing what is an experienced, versatile defensive line that figures to challenge a strong running game from LSU.

With Chris Neild a rock in the middle, Berry at tackle and Julian Miller at the other end, WVU is allowing opponents only 62.7 rushing yards a game. Then, in passing situations, when they go to their 4-0 defense, they bring in pass rushing specialist Bruce Irvin and things really get interesting, as Maryland learned from the eight sacks WVU recorded against the Terrapins.

“It was fun to get out there and be able to share sacks,” Berry said. “At the same time, I think every game is fun. I like a challenge, tough games. I consider that fun. I’m a lineman. I like being in the trenches. I like hitting on every play.”

He knows he’s in for a rough, physical battle in Southeast Conference territory on Saturday night.

“First thing I realize their offensive line is very fast, they move well. They’re big guys and have good feet. That’s always a challenge for a defensive lineman. Offensive linemen usually are average or slow guys. These guys a quick,” Berry said.

Still, Berry expects the Maryland game to carry over for the defense.

“It definitely has to carry over,” he said. “It would be a shame for us to have such a great game and not try to transfer that to the following week and play anything below that.”

As experienced as Berry is, he knows how important this LSU game is. In the past few years, WVU has bordered upon being a special team but somehow not been able to take the biggest step. Now the team is 3-0 and if they can get past a road game at LSU they should be favored all the way to the season’s next-to-last game at Pitt.

With Rutgers, the only other unbeaten team in the Big East other WVU on the other side of the Pitt game, WVU could go into the season’s final two games with a whole lot at stake … if they can get past LSU.

“I’ve been excited since last season ended,” Berry admitted. “I see a lot of chemistry with the guys here. I feel something special with these guys. We’re 3-0, we have a chance to win games. But I want to take it a game at a time. We have potential to win a lot of games.”

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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