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Distrusting The Climb
Greetings from The Booth!
It was great to put on the headphones and call a football game this past Friday. I hadn’t done play-by-play for a high school football game since the ’90s, but football is football, and after some early rust, I fell into the old routine again. It helped that we had a good game to call, as Skyline went on a final 81-yard game-winning drive, scoring a TD with just 1:34 left to play. It was fun to get back into The Booth, and I look forward to bringing you our area Game Of The Week with broadcast partner Ryan Rutherford.
Well, I wanted to wait a few days and let my emotions die down after my West Virginia Mountaineers lost to the hated Pitt Panthers in the renewal of The Backyard Brawl this past Thursday night. The 38-31 loss still stings, mainly because WVU was in control of the game late in the fourth quarter, and like so many times before, they broke my heart.
I don’t say this lightly–I no longer “trust the climb.” Mountaineers’ Head Coach Neal Brown, who once again was outcoached, and showed no ability to manage the clock in the game’s final frantic moments, sent a clear message to his offense when the game was on the line in the final stanza. With WVU leading 31-24 and facing a 4th and less than a yard to go with around six minutes left, decided to try to draw Pitt offsides, and then punt. The Mountaineers had been running the ball effectively to that point and with a first down, would have grabbed firm control of the game. As the underdog, WVU had nothing to lose by going for the first down.
Instead, Pitt went on the game-tying 91 yard drive, and would win the game in the final minutes on a pick-six. We WVU fans have seen this movie all too often. I wish they’d change the ending.
Contrast the above with a few years back when the Mounties scored against Texas (at Texas) in the final seconds of a back-and-forth affair, and trailed the Longhorns by a point. Head Coach Dana Holgorsen asked his quarterback, Will Grier, “do you want to win the game?” When Grier answered in the affirmative, Holgorsen said famously, “then let’s go win the (expletive) game!” and went, successfully, for the 2-point conversion. Now, I’m no fan of Dana Holgorsen, but I give him credit for trying to win the game, as opposed to trying not to lose.
Neal Brown tried not to lose.
I ran into a fellow WVU fan at Rock Harbor Golf Course this past Sunday, who reminded me that had WVU gone for the first down and failed, we would have been equally upset at Brown. He is probably right. After all, most of us are oscillating fans with 20/20 hindsight. Having admitted that, I will say that I am generally ok with errors of commission, as opposed to errors of omission.
We are at the point in this so-called “climb,” where almost is not good enough.
Until the next visit from The Booth…LET’S GO MOUNTAINEERS!