By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
In a way, Ryan Nehlen could not have drawn the blueprint for his first touchdown as a West Virginia Mountaineer any better.
To begin with, the day was honoring his grandfather, the Hall of Fame coach Don Nehlen, who has endowed a scholarship for quarterbacks at the school. To celebrate this, two dozen quarterback heroes from years gone by, from Hall of Famer Major Harris to future Hall of Famer Pat White, were on hand.
Then there was the opponent, Bowling Green, which was Don Nehlen’s alma mater, a school he quarterbacked oh so many years ago.
But this is a new generation of Nehlens, Ryan being the former University High wide receiver who stayed home to play at WVU. He was an invited walk-on, but one who wound up a serviceable player as a senior.
Coming into this game he was playing behind Ivan McCartney and had only one catch, but in the second quarter that all changed when quarterback Geno Smith hit him on a post pattern from 15 yards out for the score, not an easy one in that he had to take advantage of his leaping ability to make the play.
“Basically it was a Z-post. I stepped like I was going outside and then went inside of him and caught the ball,” Nehlen explained.
After catching the ball he threw his arms in the air and began to celebrate wildly.
“I don’t know what was in my head. It was kind of like, I finally got one,” he said.
It was one of three touchdowns thrown by Smith during the game in which he completed 19 of 33 passes for 283 yards.
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With starting strongside linebacker Doug Rigg out with a broken wrist that required surgery, WVU shook up their linebacking corps. Najee Goode was moved from the middle to the strong side and Jewone Snow took his place in the middle. The redshirt freshman responded by leading the team with nine tackles. Also getting time in the middle was true freshman Jared Barber, who had a tackle for a loss.
“It felt a little different,” Goode admitted of the move. “I missed the middle, but I have a little more freedom on the outside and get to blitz a little more.”
Goode had five tackles.
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With no one to play for this fall for the first time since he was a toddler, former WVU quarterback Marc Bulger is enjoying life among the retired.
“I’m good with it,” he said at the Waterplace Hotel on Saturday morning as he joined a group of two dozen former WVU quarterbacks in town to help get started an endowed scholarship in former coach Don Nehlen’s name for quarterbacks. “It was difficult to turn down a couple of offers, but this was the right time.
“I went out on my terms and I am healthy.”
That is something of a miracle, considering some of the St. Louis Rams’ teams and the lack of protection they provided him with. He did suffer from concussions and he adamantly backs a remedy to the rash of concussions that have hit football.
“They can fix it by taking the face masks off the helmets,” Bulger said.
Face masks came into football in the late 1950s and Paul Brown, the former Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals coach, is credited with the invention.
Bulger maintains that without face masks, defensive players would not be leading with their heads.
“That is the main reason you have so many head injuries,” Bulger said.
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In a game like WVU’s 55-10 victory over Bowling Green, there has to be a negative, and again it went to Corey Smith, who probably lost his punting job for good with another shank good for only 14 yards on WVU’s only punt of the game.
When the Mountaineers were getting ready to punt for a second time, something they never had to do, Tyler Bitancurt was warming up and kicking into the net.
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NOTEBOOK: When Travis Bell recovered Bowling Green’s fumble on the opening kickoff, it was the first fumble recovery of the season for WVU, the only team who had not had a recovery coming into the game ... Geno Smith moved into eighth place today on WVU’s career pass attempts list, passing Brad Lewis who had 605 attempts from 1998 to 2001 ... Keith Tandy had his first and second pass interceptions of the season. He now has 11 in his career and twice has picked off two in a game ... Stedman Bailey had 112 yards of receiving, the third consecutive game in which he has surpassed 100 yards ... Defensive end Bruce Irvin collected his second sack of the season ... The Mountaineers had one penalty and no turnovers in the game ... Running back Matt Lindamood did not dress for the third straight game ... The first casualty of the weather was the Mantrip, canceled because of the cold and rain.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.