Thursday, November 16, 2006

Dear ESPN & NCAA...

...I am writing to request of both of you that in 2007 every Thursday night be turned into The Big East Game of the Week. No matter what happens in the Bowl season, 5 of these teams are going to be playing exciting, high-quality football for years to come, and soon enough the entire conference will be top notch. This could prove to be a terrific marketing device (something the Worldwide leader is never averse to), as well as consistently providing us fans with weekly doses of KICK-ASS COLLEGE FOOTBALL!

John Q. Fan

For the third consecutive Thursday night I was glued to my set watching an energergized crowd, hard-nosed, talented teams and more thrilling plays than you can shake a stick at. This time the heated Backyard Brawl between Pittsburgh and West Virginia took center stage. The thing I love most about this rivalry game is that both sides truly hate each other, both on the field & on the campuses, and the Nasty Neighbors did not disappoint tonight.

West Virginia 45, Pitt 27
MY PICK: WVU 31-17
So how did I know there would be absolutely no defense played on this night, although there weere plenty of hard hits? I should have expected this though, as Slaton & White were determined to put that Louisville loss in the rear view, and WVU's defense had been sieve-like recently (28.3PPG last 3 games.) Throw in the fact that Pitt needed this win to salvage their sunken season, and the handwriting was on the wall for an offensive showdown.

Like I said, if you love offense these two teams didn't disappoint; get a load of these mind-blowing numbers:

WVU: 641
PITT: 340
WVU: 446
WVU: 195
PITT: 339

WVU QB Pat White: 195 yards passing, 2TDs; 219 yards rushing, 2 TDs
WVU RB Steve Slaton: 215 yards rushing, 2 TDs; 130 yards receiving, 2 TDs
PITT QB Tyler Palko: 28-37, 339yds, 2TDs

That is not a misprint. In what resembled a slice of Arena League football the two teams combined for 72 points, 981 yards, no turnovers, and possibly the greatest play in college football this season. White totalled 414 yards & 4TDs, and Slaton combined for 345 total yards & 4 TDs. Wow. I know I got my money's worth.

It started with both teams trading scores on their opening drives. Pitt went 80 yards in just under 4:00 minutes and scored on a 23 yard TD from Palko to Nate Byham. But West Virginia came roaring right back, sparked by a 43-yard pass play from White to Slaton and capped by a 15-yard TD run by Slaton where he went through a hole so big I could have ran through it. That romp down the field covered 80 yards in just over 4:00 minutes. Touche. And so it went. Back and forth like Hagler and Hearns. The Mountaineers grabbed a 14-7 lead courtesy of an 11-yard TD pass from White to Slaton but Pitt answered right back, Palko to Oderick Turner for a TD.

On the next drive WVU hit a snag- they had to settle for a field goal after theior ground game ground to a halt-briefly- and the lead was 17-14 West Virginia. But this is when the good stuff started.

Pitt immediately tied it at 17 after a 39-yard, 3:00 drive, and then the incredible happened. First Pitt held them to a 3 & out (WVU had only 2 such series in the game) and they were attempted to punt it on the ground to deny any return. Sorry. Junior DB Darrelle Revis fielded the ball near the sideline and waited to make his move. As he turned up field he received all the help he would need: Pitt star receiver Derek Kinder laid a perfect "jacked-up" block on not 1 but 2 unsuspecting Mountaineers. The first guy was flattened like a beer can and then he tumbled into his teammate and they crumbled to the ground in a pile of arms, legs & cleats. It was at this time, as I was spilling my beverage on my lap from jumping up, that Revis gunned it up field, toeing the sideline, picking up blocks and fighting to reach the end zone. As he got close a WVU would-be-tackler attempted to knock him out of bounds near the goal line; Revis pulled a spin-o-rama on him like Michael Jackson pre-Wacko Jacko days and walked into the end zone for an exhilarating, electrifying, awesome Play of the Year nominee. It's funny because I said that as soon as I saw it, and after my son came running in to see what I was screaming about Herbie said the same exact thing (hey, what can I say? great-looking sports minds think alike.)

The score was 24-17 Pitt, West Virginia looked stunned, and it could have been a 'fold the tent" moment for the Mountaineers.

Instead they went back to bread & Butter, Slaton & White, and the Pitt defense had no answer for the dynamic duo. White masterfully ran the offense, pitching, faking, running & throwing his way around the Panther defenders. Immediately following the 43-yard return (eerily similar to the kickoff return allowed in the Louisville game), White ran twice then hit Slaton on a 67 yard TD pass & run that quieted the raucous Heinz Field crowd. Although Pitt mounted a quick drive to tack on a field goal and take the 27-24 lead into the half it would be lights out for the Panthers as soon as the second half began.
That's because White came out and put his mark on the game, officially. Just one play into the 3rd quarter White faked a pitch and ran 64 yards for a score that weakened the already ragged defense and energized the Mountaineers. Later in the quarter they played the straw that broke the Panthers back. Starting at their own 2 thanks to a penalty, they quickly moved to midfield thanks to a 35-yard run by Slaton and a 15- yard face mask call. After White rushed for 26 more he rook it in from 19 out to make the score 38-27 and the couch fires started back in Morgantown. The Mountaineers have now burned innocent sofas 4 of the last 5 years.

It was an awesome display of athletic ability and an extremely entertaining game to watch, for the third straight week. West Virginia is clearly a Top 5 team, possibly the best team in the country, when they can run their offense like that. But we though Louisville had to be incredible to beat WVU, then they lost to Rutgers, so... It will all be clearer when Rutgers comes to Morgantown on December 2nd. Depending on what the other 1-loss teams do, if the Mountaineers pound Rutgers like they did Pitt they will have a strong case as being the best 1-loss squad.

After what Slaton & White did tonight, who can argue.

Although they have no defense, but they're sure fun to watch.

1.Troy Smith
2TIE. Slaton & White (they're a match set)
4. Ray Rice (sorry Ray, you fell without playing)
5.Who cares (not gonna win it anyway)

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