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Mountaineer Chuck on the Road: A USF Retrospective

Another win for the WVU defense. Another "experience" in Tampa. Another reason I’m really excited to get to next season already.

Not that Holgorsen 1.0 has been bad, it just has some bugs. They were all exposed here in Tampa: Depth on both lines (once Bruce Irvin got nicked up we were less effective on D); Depth at skill positions that would enable us to field superior special teams units (that said, minus one punt and a missed field goal, Thursday night’s performance by special teams was its the best of the season).

With any luck, we’ll hit the BCS lotto and have a month to prepare to play a premier team in a big-time atmosphere. And atmosphere is what I think this WVU squad needs.

Here’s my assessment of this 2011 Mountaineer Offense: they play to their competition. It’s the only way to explain how an offense that piled up 500+ yards against the #1 team in the country couldn’t score an offensive touchdown against a bowl-ineligible USF team, until the 4th quarter.

The atmosphere in the stadium got hot just after Geno Smith threw a Pick-6, the Bulls went up 27-20 and USF’s mini-crowd went crazy. In response, our offense picked it up. They were looser, tougher, faster and STUDman Bailey’s catch on 4th & 10 has my vote for play of the game and should be a WVU season finalist. Balls.

Here’s the problem with Holgorsen 1.0 – it’s too much software for the platform, that being the conference that is the Big Least (I can say that now and enjoy it as much as my ACC friends have for the past decade). Every week in the BIG 12 we’ll face packed stadiums with intense crowds, who fill seats before their legitimate band runs through the school’s storied pre-game traditions.

Raymond James Stadium was half full at best, and as the game progressed many WVU fans moved from their 3rd deck seats into the unoccupied premium seats (official attendance 41,743 - can you say USF Bulls#!+). The band’s pre-game "Show" could only loosely be called so. Like playing in Pittsburgh, there is something less than impressive about a college team that is "redecorating" their NFL stadium to make it look like their own. At least Pitt has similar colors to the Steelers – you could actually see the Buccaneer red and black under a lot of the USF banners. And the enormous pirate ship in the end zone is a dead giveaway that this is a borrowed facility.

All this speaks to the atmosphere and excitement of the experience for the players. It also significantly impacts recruiting. Seriously, USF's public address announced that if the Bulls got over 100 yards of offense, fans would get a coupon to a local establishment. You know your program is in the crapper when you celebrate 100 yards of offense. They ought to burn Skip Holtz in effigy if they ever gain less than 100 yards of offense.

This year’s WVU team has played hard when it had to do so. We can always hope that next year’s crew will play with intensity regardless of the opponent or the stadium. The good news is that Holgorsen 2.0 will be operating on a Big 12 platform next year and beyond. Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State: if the players can’t get up for those games, they really don’t deserve to win.