The Oscillating Blue And Gold Fan

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Greetings from The Booth!

The true fan, I guess, is one who watches every single play of a lightning-delayed, 5-hour, 56-17 blowout of FCS opponent (Duquesne). Or, one of what looked to be 200 people in Puskar Stadium, but I’ll get to that in a moment. I wanted to give myself at least a small sample size before I shared my thoughts about the 2023 West Virginia Mountaineers, my beloved Blue and Gold.

Objectively, I guess this edition of the Mounties lies somewhere between the team that got blown out in it’s opener at Penn State and the team that piled up over 600 yards of offense against the Dukes last night in Morgantown. Playing the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley is certainly not the usual opening game against the Sisters of the Poor, and when you looked at the schedule in the preseason, you probably chalked that one up as a “L.”

Conversely, you would certainly have counted week 2 as a “W.” But if you’re WVU, you really can’t win a game like the one against Duquesne. If you win, you were supposed to, and if you don’t win by enough, it feels like a loss. And God forbid you lose (remember Michigan-App State?). The fan base will lose it’s collective mind.

(A quick side road here: last night’s spread was 38.5 and West Virginia won by 39. It’s creepy how the oddsmakers get these things right more often than not. This is why I don’t bet. Sorry FanDuel, you’re not getting my money.)

As for last night, after a slow start and much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth from the fan boards, the Mounties did what they were supposed to do, and routed the Dukes. What do we take out of this? I’m not sure, except that embattled Head Coach Neal Brown lives to coach one more week. WVU quarterback Garrett Greene looked sharp and ended up with 4 touchdown passes, 3 of those to freshman walk-on Hudson Clement. I menton him because he is a fellow Martinsburg Bulldog, and it was great to see one of our own do well at the D-I level. Hopefully, he will get his scholarship.

Aside from that, WestVirginia played a clean game with few penalties and mistakes, and racked up over 300 yards on the ground. WVU boasts an NFL-quality tight end, which they need to use more, and some exciting young running backs. On the other side of the ball, the front seven looks solid, but the secondary is truly bad. If that doesn’t change, WVU will be torched by Big 12 passing offenses on a weekly basis.

So, at 1-1, the Mountaineers get ready to face Pitt at home in the Backyard Brawl, a game that needs to be won. A loss against the hated Panthers, and the aforementioned fan base will once again rear it’s head and call for Brown to be fired. Spreaking of that “elephant in the room,” it’s widely thought that anything short of an 8-win season, and a decent bowl, and Brown will be gone after this season. In his tenure at West Virginia, Brown has looked like a coach in above his head in terms of recruiting, play-caling, clock management, and general decision-making. Last year’s loss at Pitt is still a fresh wound, and a win this comimg Saturday is a must for Brown.

But the one thing that will get a coach fired more than anything is an empty stadium, which was the case last night. Some of that, we will chalk up to the weather. When disgruntled fans start staying away in droves, athletic administrators pay attention. Football pays the frieght for everything else at a major university, and donors are football fans. Too many more crowds like last night, and Brown’s already-hot seat will go thermonuclear.

But hey, it could be worse. You could be an Alabama fan this morning…

UntilĀ  the next visit from The Booth…GO EERS!

RW

 

 

Riggo & “Brother” Walker

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Greetings from The Booth!

Well, we are just days away from “The Big Game” as we head toward Super Bowl 57, or XLVII if you insist on using the Roman numerals (I’ll use those when the Coliseum in Rome is rebuilt and they bring back the chariot races). Countless words have been written about this year’s matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs, and by kickoff Sunday, you will know everything about every player, down to the shoe size. So, instead of more expert analysis (you can get that in our latest Sports Dogs Podcast on this very website), I choose to look back at one of my favorite Super Bowls, Super Bowl 17.

That game holds a special place in my memory for several reasons. The Chinese say that revenge is a meal best served cold, and it took 10 years for the Washington Redskins to avenge their Super Bowl loss in the 1972 season to the undefeated Miami Dolphins. The 14-7 score that year belied the domination of the ‘Fins on that January day in Los Angeles. The ‘Skins only score came late in the 4th quarter on a fluke Mike Bass touchdown on a botched MiamiĀ  field goal attempt. That Super Bowl appearance was the high-water mark for the “Over The Hill Gang.” George Allen’s geriatric bunch would never return to the Big Game.

Enter Joe Gibbs, who, in his second year as head coach of the Burgundy & Gold, navigated his team through a work stoppage, through a revamped playoff format, and back to the Super Bowl against…the Miami Dolphins. The ‘Skins found a winning formula that season with a stout defense, quick strike passes from quarterback Joe Theismann to a receiving corps known as The Smurfs, an MVP kicker in Mark Moseley, and The Diesel, John Riggins, who ran behind the legendary O-line, The Hogs.

Riggo was the engine that made the Redskins go, especially in the post-season, rushing for 610 yards in 4 playoff games that season. But it is one run that stands out. Facing a crucial 4th and 1 at the Miami 43 and trailing 17-13 (and everyone in the Rose Bowl knowing who was going to get the football), The ‘Skins called on Riggins, who shook off an initial tackle and raced into the end zone to complete the most iconic run in Washington football history. The Redskins would add another score for the 27-17 final, and the Lombardi Trophy was headed to the Nation’s Capital!

I had the best of both worlds that day. Not only did my beloved ‘Skins win the Super Bowl, but Martinsburg’s own Fulton Walker returned a Miami kickoff for a touchdown. I had the pleasure of playing high school baseball with Walker for the MHS Bulldogs, and I’m pretty sure that even the many Redskins fans in the Eastern Panhandle, including me, swelled with pride as “Brother” Walker, as he was known, outraced the Washington coverage and put his team ahead 17-10.

Walker died in 2016, but I believe there is still a great picture of his Super Bowl kickoff return that hangs in a ticket building at the MHS football stadium. The full-size picture shows Fulton racing toward the end zone with all 11 Redskins trying to chase him down. Riggo’s touchdown that day is probably most remembered, but those of us in Martinsburg will never forget the afternoon that one of our own made Super Bowl history. Rest in Peace, Brother Walker!

Until the next visit from The Booth…enjoy the Big Game!

RW