DISAPPOINTMENT HAS A FLAVOR: FOUR

Part one of Disappointment Has a Flavor is here. You'll be disappointed it it, no doubt.

West Virginia/Boyfriend-Girlfriend-Spouse of Convenience. If you've ever known true love, it is horrible, horrible, horrible. It makes you say and do very stupid things. It makes you allocate goods and service in unimaginable ways. It controls you in a manner slaves would deem "bitchmade." Being in love is like receiving instructions from the Mysterons, only you aren't rendered bulletproof in the effort, but instead are twice as vulnerable to everything afterwards.

Still, love is preferable to the rebound, or the girl/boy/friend or spouse of convenience. And with that said, for no reason at all, we discuss the fourth most disappointing team of 2008, West Virginia.

Rollback all initial fears of complete and utter incompetence. Bill Stewart had problems with coaches' friend TIMEOUT early in the season, and most took this to be a harbinger of horrors to come. (The royal ourselves included.) Snafus with clock management at Colorado followed the unqualified ass-branding they took from East Carolina, and it seemed like the inevitable collapse of WVU post-Rodriguez into the morass of the Big East basement.

Then, suddenly, West Virginia began playing with some measure of consistency. If you look at the schedule, the Mountaineers popped out five wins in a row against some decent competition, including UConn, Auburn on national television on a Thursday night, and Rutgers, a team proven to be unhorrible now that Mike Teel has decided to play with his contacts in for all four quarters. On paper, even when you factor in a loss to Cincy (a likely Big East champ at this point) it doesn't reek.

This is about disappointment, though, a state impossible without the contrast of earlier, greater expectations.

You had hopes despite the new management, which wasn't really new management, but rather promoted management, as if West Virginia had, in a fit of indecision, despair, and loneliness post-breakup had decided not to test the market, but instead went directly for the meh but sweet friend of your ex who always seemed to like you well enough, and who had decent credit, all of her teeth, and the kind of "Can-do" attitude people not obviously rich, gifted, handsome, or intelligent have to have to survive.

He also kept what was left of the staff together, a fine move from the start. What Stewart didn't mess with is fine, as Jeff Casteel's defense is 20th in the nation despite personnel losses from 2007, and has kept the Mountaineers competitive in all of their games save East Carolina. Nothing was broken there, and sometimes doing nothing is the best decision a manager can make.

(When the record of the season is writ, please note the astonishing boomlet and subsequent bust of ECU early in the season, and let it not be forgotten. They came out shredding before imploding at Houston and NC State, returning to equilibrium with an audible thump to C-USA status.)

The muddling and disappointment came on offense, where Bill Stewart chose Jeff Mullen of Wake Forest as the offensive coordinator, insisted on more balance out of the West Virginia offense, and took last year's 15th best offense in the nation and drove into the earth of the bottom half of offensive performance nationally. The Mountaineers are ranked 70th in total offense, mostly because Stewart both believes in two of the hoariest and least-substantiated of football nostrums:

a.) that running quarterbacks get hurt more than drop-back passers, and
b.) that "balance" is a virtue unto itself in offense

To wit:

Stewart believes that step will be made with the introduction of more passing....The downside is what happened in the Mountaineers' two losses this past season. White got hurt: a bruised quad in the 21-13 loss at South Florida, and the aforementioned thumb against Pittsburgh.

"Patrick White running the ball 197 times?" Stewart said.

He knocked on his desk and followed by knocking on his skull. This did not make a hollow sound. We're sure the reporter would have mentioned this. If they didn't, shame---ed.

"Living on the edge. My God, I pray that boy doesn't ever get hurt. We're living on the edge."

This season more passing has equaled fewer yards for White through the air, actually, since an offense as successful as WVU's on the ground has no need for increased passing. Also, White may have missed games due to injury, but quarterbacks miss time due to injury all over the place regardless of system, and no one has ever systematically proven that qbs lose more time in run-first systems than in pass-first system.

In fact, there may be more of an argument to the idea of running quarterbacks having an advantage due to their ability to inflict punishment and transfer force rather than absorbing it. The safest system currently operating is Leach's Air Raid, btw; Graham Harrell has thrown the ball 1,256 times in three years without losing a start. Pirates, yes; clean pirates, double yes.

Digressions on faulty football theory aside, the meddling with an extant effective offensive system and the occasional outbreaks of confusion on the sidelines have been the primary complaints of West Virginia fans, who see Noel Devine, Jock Sanders, Dorrell Jalloh, and Pat White on the depth chart and expect instant thirty point-spots on the board. With the talent available, that is not an unreasonable request, and the bitter gap between those expectations and the orbit-sweeping reality of Wake Forest's offense imposed on the former spread 'n shred is the source of any and all griping about the first year of the Bill Stewart era.

That glimpse into the future is also the source of that ball of dread sitting between your ribs and stomach, Mountaineer fan. You suspect they'll never be as pretty as the previous, or as hot, or as beautiful from stem to stern, never worthy of the madness of absolute amour fou. In all likelihood, you're right, and it hurts to admit.

But...but she/he does the dishes, and never cuts you off in mid-sentence! Really, what was so great about that other person anyway, the one who smelled so...good...and who cheated on you, yes...but what were we saying? About a preseason top ten ranking in both the coaches poll and the AP? [/cries uncontrollably, puts on "I'll Follow You Into the Dark."]

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