\It was, in many ways, the ultimate insult in an afternoon filled with them.
West Virginia University’s offense came to the line of scrimmage in Lubbock, Texas, and lined up to run a play, something they proved quite inept at doing in what was a shocking 49-14 loss to Texas Tech that carried huge national implications.
Sean McDonough was ABC-TVs play-by-play announcer on the game, and his color man was someone who knows a good bit about the game of football in Chris Spielman, a one-time Ohio State linebacker who some considered Heisman Trophy worthy.
Certainly, the people in West Virginia did for on Sept. 12, 1987, the Mountaineers of Don Nehlen had gone into the horseshoe stadium in Columbus and suffered through a 24-3 beating in which Spielman intercepted two of the six passes the Buckeyes would intercept among eight turnovers that day and added 19 tackles and forced a fumble.
It was so bad that this paragraph appeared in Bob Logan’s game story in the Chicago Tribune:
“That`s the way it was all 10 times the Mountaineers had the ball in the first half. They got two first downs by rushing, two more on penalties and none by passing. Nehlen yanked starting quarterback Major Harris after two interceptions, but Mike Timko tossed two more before the intermission.”
That’s right, the man many consider the greatest quarterback of all time at WVU, a College Football Hall of Fame inductee, was lifted in the first half of his second college game just a year before he would lead the Mountaineers to the national championship game.
This is noted to highlight the credentials Spielman possesses that make him one of the best in the business at his job. Certainly he was at the top of his game when he pointed out that WVU’s sophomore left tackle, Quinton Spain, a player destined to play in the National Football League, was tipping the offense’s plays.
He noted that when Spain’s left foot was up a bit, a run had been called, and that when it was back a bit, a pass had been called. He then proceeded to call correctly three or four plays in succession.
Later in the game, he added yet another tip Spain was unconsciously giving on each play, noting that on running plays he was always looking inside, and on passing plays he would look outside at the guy he was assigned to block.
Now, to be honest, I’m not certain that someone in the broadcast booth isn’t overstepping some moral boundaries by possibly inserting himself in the outcome of the game, but it was fascinating stuff and right enough that it was reported that during the game WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen went to Spain and told him to be careful about tipping off the plays.
Understandably, it wasn’t long after Spielman came forth with this bit of inside football that a strand of posts showed up on one of the WVU fan sites under the heading “Hire Chris Spielman as D.C.”
One suspects Spielman, who is active in charity work, running the fund to raise money to fight breast cancer, which took his wife, Stefanie, from him three years ago, raising four children and fighting a battle against fees for extracurricular activities such as sports at the high school level, doesn’t need the problems that Joe DeForest has these days.
Certainly, you could not blame anyone who were to call for a change in that position or who would be critical of Holgorsen for failing to find a way to work things out with Jeff Casteel before he bolted to join Rich Rodriguez at Arizona.
West Virginia’s defense is bad.
It is so bad that this was what McDonough had to ask Spielman during his telecast play-by-play this question:
“Can you be a championship team, nationally or in the Big 12, with a defense this weak?”
The answer is a resounding “No!”
West Virginia ranks 118th in pass defense in the nation. Only Baylor and Louisiana Tech give up more than the 364 yards a game the Mountaineers allow. They allow 9.60 yards per attempt — double what No. 1 Alabama allows.
In total defense they are No. 114 out of 120, giving up nearly 500 yards per game.
It normally would be difficult to decipher whether this is a lack of talent or something to be blamed on the coaches, but considering that no improvement is being seen as the season reaches the halfway point, it would lean toward the job being done by DeForest, a first-year defensive coordinator, and his staff.
After all, if Spain’s giveaways in his stance are to be corrected only after being pointed out to a national television audience by a color commentator, then one can assume that even worse things are going uncorrected on a defense that is giving up 37.4 points a game and that has allowed only 106 fewer passing yards than WVU’s high-flying passing offense has thrown for.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.
\It was, in many ways, the ultimate insult in an afternoon filled with them.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- More WVU Sports Headlines
- Huggins signs junior college guard