Sports Dogs Podcast: HS Basketball Preview & Bowl Talk

It’s time to come indoors for High School basketball, and the Sports Dogs highlight the area teams and some players to look out for in 23-24. And, it’s college football bowl season, with several of our regional teams playing one more game. Plus, the final CFP selections have been made–not without controversy. The Dogs have an opinion!

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…

Until¬† the next visit from The Booth…GO EERS!




Building On Success

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Greetings From The Booth!

The cream is starting to rise to the top with regard to the VHSL football playoffs. Five of our area teams are still alive after quarterfinal action this past weekend and although there were a few surprises, usually when we get to the state semifinal and championship level, the best teams are left standing. One of those teams appears to be Strasburg. The Rams, who will host Stuart’s Draft this Friday night in a Region 2B semifinal, are 10-1, with their only loss coming via forfeit in the season opener. My broadcast partner, Ryan “The Duke” Rutherford, correctly describes Strasburg by calling them almost “militaristic” in their approach. They don’t do anything fancy, but they are always in sync, well-disciplined, and fundamentally sound.¬† They will be hard to beat on Friday night.

As a football fan, I had a rare “Daily Double” this past weekend (for entertainment purposes only, not in a gambling sense), as my WVU Mountaineers and the Washington Commanders both posted wins. West Virginia beat Oklahoma in Morgantown for their first home victory against the Sooners. This year’s Oklahoma team is a bit down and still not bowl eligible, so this is not like beating your father’s Sooners. We’ll take it. These last few seasons have been lean ones for the Mountaineers, and head coach Neal Brown is on the hot seat. With the exit of WVU AD Shane Lyons earlier this week, Brown would almost certainly have to win out against Kansas State and Oklahoma State (unlikely), then win a minor bowl game to keep his job. Even that might not insure a 5th year for Brown, as there is no Lyons now to act as a buffer. A new athletic director will almost surely want his own guy, so it appears “The Climb” will end sometime shortly after the season ends.

The Washington Commanders shocked the football world Monday night with a win over previously undefeated Philadelphia in Philly. Don’t look now, but the Commanders are 5-5 and have won 4 of their last 5. Washington QB Taylor Heinicke has been the catalyst, and the team has rallied around the ODU product, who has now become a Cinderella story around the NFL. Chase Young is set to return this week, so things are looking up for the Burgundy and Gold as they head to 1-7-1 Houston on Sunday.

Can the aforementioned Mountaineers and Commanders build on the success of their recent victories? In the case of Washington, I’ve seen this movie way too many times before where a great win is followed by an egg-laying performance against a weaker foe. This just feels like one of those games. A win Sunday, however, would set the Commanders up for another winnable game the following weekend against Atlanta and a 7-5 record. Make no mistake–Sunday is an important game for Washington, and they must treat it that way.

It’s a much different situation for WVU. Forget about the angle of “playing to save your coach.” That is overrated. Brown is probably gone already, so their game Saturday against K-State is about finishing strong and building some momentum going into Spring 2023. The Mounties have some nice young players, including QB Garrett Greene, who injected much-needed life into the team in the win against Oklahoma and hopefully will start on Saturday.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need go to FanDuel about that Daily Double…

Until next visit from The Booth, HTTC & Go EERS!