And the decline of West Virginia continues.
Hey, the Mountaineers and Buffaloes played an entertaining, even game Thursday night. The total yards ended up 364-352 in CU's favor and the difference in Colorado's 17-14 overtime win was a short field goal attempt by WVU that hit the left upright.
To say West Virginia was outclassed, or even outplayed, would not be accurate. Both teams played sound defense for most of the night. Both offenses showed flashes at the skill positions. If college football still allowed ties, this one fit the bill.
The problem for West Virginia, however, was the opponent. Colorado is coming off a three-year stretch where it went 15-23. West Virginia is coming off a three-year stretch where it went 33-5 and finished in the Top 10 all three years. Colorado has a sophomore quarterback who threw 17 interceptions last season and a freshman running back. West Virginia has a senior quarterback who is the Big East's two-time Offensive Player of the Year and an explosive sophomore running back who had 10 plays of 20 yards or more last year.
West Virginia and Colorado should not be on the same plane. But at this point in 2008, they are. The Mountaineers are 1-2 and on their way out of the Top 25, and the Buffs are 3-0 but not exactly a threat in the Big 12. Games against Florida State, Texas and Kansas in the next three weeks will end CU's spiffy record. The Buffs are on the rise, but that is too daunting of a stretch.
Is West Virginia coach Bill Stewart to blame for this sudden drop in performance for the Mounties? It was a curious hire, to be sure, and his clock management in the final minute was not stellar (though he played his final timeout correctly by allowing the clock to run down and not allow CU a chance at a Hail Mary).
My biggest problem was West Virginia's call on third-and-one at the CU four-yard line in overtime. Twenty-two of WVU's 25 plays in the fourth quarter and OT were either a Pat White run/pass or Noel Devine run, with White operating out of the shotgun. Those plays averaged 4.7 yards. But on the game's most crucial play, Devine was on the sideline and WVU went with a straight hand-off to Jock Sanders with White lining up under center. The play lost two yards, and West Virginia missed the field goal.
West Virginia can still win a weak Big East. The defense is good, and White and Devine can be a potent 1-2 combination. But the passing game must improve, and WVU has to find the mojo that has seemingly disappeared from the program since that dreadful loss to Pittsburgh last December.