The West Virginia Mountaineers won their sixth straight home game and kept their Big East title hopes alive with a narrow 17-9 win over Louisville on Saturday.
That was the good news. The bad news is that this Mountaineer squad appears to be regressing as the season wears on.
I'm kind of a number and statistics guy, so here's a few to ponder: 33-35-34-30-35 and 24-28-19-17
The first group represents the points scored by West Virginia in its first five games. The second group represents the points WVU has scored in the last four. That reflects about a one-third drop in scoring, and it must be remembered that the Mountaineers were more productive early in the season even while being saddled with a -7 turnover margin.
WVU offense not producing
The total yards gained offensively shows the same trend. In the first five games, West Virginia averaged 450 total yards per game, and in the last four WVU has averaged only 324. The offensive production of 273 total yards and 17 points against Louisville was the worst of the season, and this against a team that had yielded an average of 38 points in its three Big East Conference games.
But enough about numbers.
What our eyes tell us is that while WVU has achieved a good record thus far in 2009, right now this looks like a team out of rhythm on offense and struggling on defense. In fairness to the defense, it did play well on Saturday, giving up only 3 field goals to Louisville, but the Cardinals were playing with a walkon redshirt freshman quarterback with little game experience.
Injuries have taken a toll and contribute to the problems, especially on defense. Nose tackle Chris Neild, perhaps the best WVU defender, left early in the game on Saturday, and his backup, Josh Taylor, already was injured.
Defensive end Scooter Berry has played little in recent weeks due to injuries and suspension, and was unable to play the entire game. This left the Mountaineer defensive line in disarray, and Louisville took advantage with a strong running attack.
The Mountaineers wore blue pants and gold jerseys Saturday, and every week there seems to be a different combination. Is it just me, or does anyone else prefer to just see the old traditional gold pants and blue jerseys?
This Friday: If Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly isn't Coach of the Year in 2009 something is wrong.
The Bearcats never have been a football power, but since Kelly came to UC 3 years ago the Bearcats have won 30 of 36 games and now stand 9-0 in 2009 and ranked fifth in the nation. They suffered through several quarterback injuries last season but still managed to win the Big East and go to their first BCS bowl.
This season, they lost starter Tony Pike to injury, so all backup Zach Collaros has done in the last two games is complete 51 of 66 passes for 775 yards, and he also is a running threat. Those are downright scary numbers.
Cincinnati did show some vulnerability on defense and special teams Saturday night, as they had to hang on in a 56-45 shootout over Connecticut.
We have one team (Cincinnati) on a roll, playing at home, and with an offense clicking on all cylinders. We have another (West Virginia), with defensive problems, injury concerns, inconsistent on offense, and having not played well in night games on the road. Cincinnati 48, West Virginia 28.