I graduated in 2005. I met my future wife Halloween 2004. We started dating December 18, 2004. We got engaged December 18, 2005. In 2007, we bought our first house together. We still live in that house. As the young, new couple in the neighborhood, we attempted to make friends with the people around us in the neighborhood. Both of us grew up in neighborhoods where you knew everyone around you, your kids and their kids played together. It was your own small community.
In 2007, the world of college football forgot the rules and did everything it wasn’t supposed to do. The Kansas Jayhawks were a top-10 offense. Analysts and fans argued about who was better, the Big East or the ACC. Alabama had just hired Nick Saban and he lost 6 games. [Side note: Nick Saban has won 119 games at Alabama against 19 losses. 6 of those 19, 31%, came in one season] West Virginia was one game away from playing for a national title against Big Ten champion Ohio State.
West Virginia started the year at number 3. Two straight years of 10+ wins with two convincing bowl wins gave the Mountaineers their best head start in a lifetime. Pat White, Steve Slaton and Noel Devine ran over and around opponents, to the tune of 189 points in their first four games. The defense, led by 3-3-5 mastermind Jeff Casteel stifled Western Michigan, Marshall, Maryland and East Carolina, giving up only 68 points. It looked like the Mountaineers would be doing something special this year.
The first real test came against South Florida, who were a thorn in the Mountaineers side during their time together in the Big East. Quarterback Pat White was injured and the dreaded turnover machine found the ‘Eers as they coughed up the ball 6 times. It was the team’s first loss of the season and seemingly the end of their championship hopes.
2007 would eventually become known as “The Curse of #2”. Seven different teams would lose as the #2 team in the regular season. It started October 6 as Stanford defeated USC. Then Oregon State beat Cal and Rutgers beat South Florida. Florida State would beat Boston College, Arizona [pre-RichRod] would beat Oregon and Missouri would beat Kansas. Not to be outdone, LSU led by the Mad Hatter Les Miles would lose TWICE as the number one team in the land.
All of these upsets eventually led to West Virginia finding itself ranked #2, one win away from a national title game against Ohio State. Back in 2007, the college football world was using a formula known as the BCS, Bowl Championship Series, to determine its national champion.
The BCS formula that determines who plays in the BCS National Championship Game as well as several other bowl games. Each computer system was developed using different methods which attempts to rank the teams performance. For 2007, the highest and lowest rankings for a team are dropped and the remaining four rankings are summed. A team ranked #1 by a computer system is given 25 points, #2 is given 24 points and so forth. The summed values are then divided by 100 (the maximum value a team can earn if they received four first place votes that were summed). The values are then ranked by percentage. This percentage ranking is then averaged with the Coaches Poll and Harris Poll average rankings, each receiving equal weight, and the results become the BCS Rankings.
After all of those upsets, West Virginia found itself ranked #2 in the nation. According the BCS formula, a win against lowly 4-7 Pittsburgh, the Mountaineers hated rival, would guarantee their #2 ranking and would put the Mountaineers on track to play in New Orleans.
How I Vilified Myself to my Neighbors
I moved around a lot as a kid. I attended 7 different schools before graduating high school. This meant I was the new kid in town a lot. In order to make friends, I had to learn to be outgoing and likable. It apparently worked because I made friends. That personality trait carried over to adulthood as I easily made friends once my wife and I moved into our new neighborhood. We were eventually invited to a party.
When we got to the party, I asked the host if they would mind putting the West Virginia game on TV. The Mountaineers were playing a rival and a championship was on the line. It was a foregone conclusion I told people but I still wanted to experience that high from a win in real time. The host agreed and I made my way around the party, chatting up people while keeping an eye on the game.
Most of the first half I didn’t really watch the game. I would glance at the TV every now and then. I watched as Pat McAfee missed a field goal. I watched as he missed another. Ugh, come on Pat, you are better than this. Finally, Jarrett Brown rushed for a touchdown. “Ok, good, it isn’t going to be pretty but it doesn’t have to be. We just need to win” I thought to myself.
I drank and ate and had a good time for the rest of the first half. WVU took a 7-3 lead into halftime. This was not great but it was good. We were up and the coaching staff would make enough adjustments to win this game. I figured we might win 28-10 or 21-17 but it would be a win.
Players and coaches say they realized at different points that Pitt could win. Schmitt’s moment of reckoning:
"Halftime, you make adjustments," he says. "We didn’t make ‘em. We might’ve made minor ones, but obviously they weren’t the right ones."
Pitt came out in the second half and ran the ball, churning up yards. 4 yards, 3 yards, 7 yards, they just kept getting yards. I noticed I stopped being jovial and telling jokes and watching the television more. I drank a beer and fretted. Pitt took a 13-7 lead midway through the fourth quarter and I began to get really nervous. One of the hosts tried to joke with me and I got a testy. This wasn’t a time to pick on me. Not when we were playing like shit. As a Pat White pass fell incomplete to Wes Lyons on 4th-and-17 I blew up. I slammed my beer down, shot up from the couch and stormed out of the house. I screamed “Fuck this shit!” as I stomped back to our house. Those poor neighbors. I was a wreck. I had to go to work after that and face all those Penn State fans who I spent weeks talking smack to. I had to read about this monumental collapse online, because I spent too much time online back then. I had to try and face those neighbors and apologize.
It was a bad time to be me and because of Pittsburgh, my neighbors don’t really talk to me.