There was a Saturday late in 2005 when football really started to click for me. Where I really started to get into it, and never really looked back. Close friends (read: "captive audiences to my nonsense") have heard me wax about this one particular game, which I will remain forever fond of. Suffice it to say that, if you don't know off-hand which game I'm referring to, you should check the link and find some familiar names.
Because of that game and what it spawned for 7 and a half years to come... because of 70-33 and Rodney Landers and Scottie McGee and 21-16 and Pat White and Steve Slaton and literally never seeing a losing season in my entire football fandom, perhaps I've been spoiled.
That's not to say I haven't seen gridiron heartache. Maine's swinging gate 2-point conversion in double overtime in the first year of the new BFS. Suddenly being unable to beat Syracuse, of all teams. Freshman quarterback Justin Thorpe fumbling away a chance to upset No. 1 Richmond at the five-yard line with 30 seconds left in the game, down 21-17. Watching a lock for the Heisman lose five consecutive games before turning it around at Iowa no-one-is-impressed State and limping to a 7-5 regular season record. And of course, one game from 2007 that I won't even mention.
I can't help but shake this feeling that, though I've seen consistent success for years, things could have been far better. I'm talking National Championships, for both of my squads. JMU came so close in 2008, only to lose in the semifinals and stay mired in mediocrity throughout my entire undergrad career. West Virginia... well, that they were left out of the National Championship in 2007 is still something I'm hot about to this day. #weneedaplayoff.
But the fact that I'm sitting here, reflecting on perceived slights from an 11-2 season from six years ago tells you all you need to know.
I have been, quite unequivocally, an incredibly spoiled fan.
Stony Brook 41, JMU 38
This loss has been a long time coming. Ever since I noticed just how soft JMU's "soft zone" really is during the 2011 season, I have wondered: why doesn't every team throw the ball on every play against us?
No team has ever been able to run the ball particularly effectively against JMU. Seriously. Look it up. WVU? Dukes outgained them 188-121 on the ground. In ODU's playoff-killing, comeback win last November 17, the Monarchs finished with -4 yards. And yesterday, Stony Brook, for all their offensive dominance, didn't even reach 100 yards rushing. And that's playing from ahead, too, when you're supposed to be running the ball.
But passing is a different story. Maine was the first to really find the Dukes' kryptonite. They kept hitting that big tight end of theirs, riding him all the way to an improbable road win over an eventual playoff team, the crown jewel of their postseason resume. Villanova did it last year; ODU only had to do it for one half of a game to stamp out JMU's season. Delaware and New Hampshire, sure, they threw the ball around the yard to some extent earlier this season, but Stony Brook -- fucking Stony Brook -- they sold out for it, and in return, put up more points on the vaunted JMU defense than I'm pretty sure I've ever seen from an FCS school.
Fire Mickey Matthews or don't; I don't really care to talk about that. Yesterday, the problem wasn't a man -- it was a scheme. And until JMU drops this soft zone BS, until JMU is smart enough to even consider playing some press coverage at all, you can forget the playoffs. You can forget about the conference championships. Because any yahoo with a competent quarterback and a film room is going to drop 35 points a game on the Dukes, inside Bridgeforth Stadium or out of it.
Kansas 31, West Virginia 19
As of Friday, November 15, 2013, Kansas hadn't won a football game in 27 contests. Did you know that? I did.
Something else I knew: once Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, and Stedman Bailey left for the NFL after West Virginia's first year in the Big 12, things were going to get worse before they got better again.
WVU fans are rioting in the streets. Sort of like what's going on at JMU, only way more irrationally, with way less information and context. (And, obviously, stuff is on fire.) My twitter timeline was nothing but West Virginia doomsday language for most of yesterday afternoon and evening. Fire Dana Holgorsen after 3 years! The world is ending! You'd think the Obama administration bombed Appalachia a la Catching Fire.
To be honest, there aren't very many words I can pair together to describe the season West Virginia is having right now. We're running an air raid offense without a competent quarterback. That sort of spells disaster right there, doesn't it?
I'd like to see the people who looked down their nose at Bill Stewart's 9-4 seasons. 9-4 looks pretty good right now for those of us with old gold jerseys hanging on our bedroom walls.
Bottom line? Rich Rodriguez finished 3-8 in 2001. You may remember: he went on to do some particularly impressive things. Some seasons... it's just not your year.
Other scores and observations from this weekend:
Florida 14, No. 10 South Carolina 19
One of the only reprieves of this season has been watching how terrible the mighty Florida Gators are. Not that the SEC East is that much better.
No. 12 Oklahoma State 38, No. 24 Texas 13
This is your weekly reminder that West Virginia beat Oklahoma State.
Texas Tech 34, No. 5 Baylor 63
If Baylor makes it to the National Championship game, the high school class of 2014 will have a lot of future cardiologists in it.
Michigan 27, Northwestern 19 (3OT)
My friend Quincy and I had a bet going that there's no such thing as a boring triple overtime game. He now owes me a brand new Xbox One, and a lifetime's supply of Cook Out.
Indiana 3, No. 22 Wisconsin 51
The only reason I'm even bothering to mention this game is because Wisconsin ran for FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-FOUR yards of offense. 554 yards rushing. That's unfathomable. I'm not sure I could run for 554 yards against an empty field.
Iowa State 10, No. 18 Oklahoma 48
If WVU loses to Iowa State in Morgantown in two weeks, seriously, someone better lock me in a padded cell.
No. 17 Central Florida 39, Temple 36
#VideoGameCatches RT @bubbaprog: ANIMATED: UCF ties Temple on best TD catch of the year http://t.co/U5YbcMBcZi
— Chase Kiddy (@ckiddysports) November 16, 2013
West Virginia 19, Kansas 31
North Carolina 34, Pittsburgh 27
Maryland 27, Virginia Tech 24 (OT)
No. 23 Miami 30, Duke 48
Seriously, basketball gods? What the fuck.
Kentucky 6, Vanderbilt 22
Vanderbilt and Duke are now both bowl eligible. In that spirit, the ACC and SEC are announcing the brand new Pocket Protector Bowl! Sponsored by the Apple Genius Bar. The winning team gets to hand out Gatorade swirlies, then lock the losing team members in their lockers for the entire off-season.
No. 4 Stanford 17, Southern Cal 20
Quite simply, Stanford defense couldn't get the same type of penetration they usually get in conference games.
Syracuse 3, No. 2 Florida State 59
Wow. Jameis Winston really raped Syracuse.
No. 1 Alabama 20, Mississippi State 7
No. 25 Georgia 38, No. 7 Auburn 43
I have been so thoroughly unimpressed by Alabama this year. I will be purchasing 83 pet war eagles next week, then planting one in each Tuscaloosa Townhouse where Crimson Tide players reside, framing them for both improper benefits with a local pet shop and consorting with potential enemy mascots. Only one is a capital offense inside the state of Alabama. Can you guess which one?
Programming note: I know it's basketball season. Full coverage of JMU's inauspicious start to their CAA title defense at UVA, plus the NIU invitational, is in progress. Check back later in the week for that; in the meantime, just yell BALL NIGHT on random Wednesdays and Sundays like you're Michael Wilbon.