By Bob Hertzel
MORGANTOWN — The snow that has strangled the North Central West Virginia region has everyone caught up with a little cabin fever, so what better time than now for the Mountaineers to get you thinking a little football?
The 2010 football season was announced and if you have a calendar, you might want to circle a few dates. No weddings, bar mitzvahs or christening on these days.
• The season opens on Saturday, Sept. 4 when Coastal Carolina comes to town, if the snow has been removed by then. The Chanticleers (There, you’ve learned something already) are coming off a tough season in which they went 5-6, taking a 58-13 beating by Liberty, a team WVU defeated 33-20 last season, and being roughed up, 49-3, by Clemson.
• A weekend later Marshall comes to town for the first meeting between new Herd coach Doc Holliday and the team he spent so many years with as an assistant coach. This Sept. 11 game carries the weight of in-state recruiting and, perhaps, of Florida recruiting, as you know Holliday will try to make a big push there.
• A week later it’s Maryland returning to the West Virginia schedule for a game that never should have left, a natural border rivalry between ACC and Big East teams that carries great weight as Terrapins coach Ralph Friedgen is coaching for his job after a dismal 10-loss season.
“We have a four-year deal with Maryland. It should be a 40-year deal,” said Stewart, who would like to see the Mountaineers also play either Virginia or Virginia Tech on a yearly basis as a regional rival.
• On Sept. 25 — the fourth of five straight Saturday games — WVU heads back down into Southeastern Conference territory, invading Baton Rouge, one of the craziest college football venues in America, to tackle (at least they hope they will) the Tigers of LSU.
This will be a 7 p.m. game, central time, and there is no television contract yet.
The Tigers were 9-3 last year before losing to No. 11 Penn State in the Capitol One Bowl.
LSU is one of the great destinations in college football.
“I was there in the mid-1980s when I was with North Carolina,” Stewart said. “I’ll be like a kid in a candy store.”
• The first bye of the season on Saturday, Oct. 2, before the Mountaineers move into Big East play by entertaining South Florida at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 14 for an ESPN game. The Bulls will come to town with their new coach, Skip Holtz, with whom WVU is quite familiar from some tough battles at East Carolina.
Holtz will bring with him talented quarterback B.J. Daniels, who put on a show against WVU during a 30-19 victory over the Mountaineers last year. He threw for 232 yards and rushed for 104.
• After an Oct. 23 Homecoming game against Syracuse and Friday night game at Connecticut that will be carried on ESPN2 on Oct. 29, the Mountaineers have a Nov. 13 home showdown with Cincinnati, a team that has beaten them each of the last two years and that comes in as the third opponent with a new coach, former Mountaineers’ assistant Butch Jones.
• That takes WVU into the home stretch, going to Louisville on Saturday, Nov. 20, followed by a trip up I-79 for the Backyard Brawl, which could have huge conference implications, between what might be the best two teams in the Big East.
The meeting with Pitt will be carried nationally by either ABC, ESPN or ESPN2, and the nation should be caught up in the face to face duel between WVU’s Noel Devine and Pitt’s Dion Lewis, perhaps the two best in college football.
• The finale will be held in Morgantown on Saturday, Dec. 4, before either an ABC, ESPN or ESPN2 audience, as Rutgers comes to town to try to find a way to win a game in Morgantown, where it has never won.
“I really like the way the schedule is set up,” said Stewart, noting four games and a bye week, four more and bye week and then four leading up to a big conclusion with Pitt and Rutgers.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.