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Entries in West Virginia (12)


Big East Preview: Pitt Finally Claims The Crown

Picture Of Dion Lewis

One Great Season

Among power conferences, the Big East has become the butt of jokes in some college football circles, but what folks overlook is that it's actually been a pretty good league.

Thanks to three different teams, the Big East has had five squads finish in the AP top 10 in the last five years. The PAC 10, thanks mostly to USC, also has produced five and the ACC, the league to which former Big East brothers Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech bolted, has sent only three teams to such a lofty perch over that period.

Remember 2006, when Rutgers, West Virginia and Louisville all were ranked in the top 10 with a combined record of 25-2 at one point in November? That same week, only the mighty SEC had a comparable mark, with Florida, Arkansas and LSU also among the AP elite at 26-4. Not bad company.

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No. 25: West Virginia Mountaineers

Tyler Bitancourt's last-second field goal lifted West Virginia to a dramatic win over backyard rival Pittsburgh in 2009

Today marks the first day of the One Great Season College Football Countdown. We'll be counting down the preseason Top 25 teams in 2010. Today's No. 25 is West Virginia.

One Great Season

To err is human, to carry the ball for West Virginia this season will be Heisman candidate Noel Devine.

Devine will lead a strong rushing attack behind four returning starters on the offensive line.

EXTRA: Images From 2009 Pittsburgh-West Virginia Game

But breaking in a new quarterback is often difficult, and that's what WVU will be doing for the second straight year in 2010. Jarrett Brown did a mostly competent job following Pat White last year, and now it's Geno Smith's turn.

Click to read more ...


Bob Huggins Is Awesome; He Really Is

Bob Huggins

One Great Season

I love Bob Huggins. I really do.

I covered his Bearcats as a sports writer for my college newspaper, the University of Cincinnati's The News Record. Thanks to him, I earned a free trip to exotic Minneapolis around this time of year in 1992, detailing UC's first Final Four appearance in 30 years.

Those were splendid days indeed. Back around then, Huggins' first-ever return call to my desk phone was intercepted by some other eager colleague at a nearby extension. She gave me the phone, and when I tried to transfer him to my desk, guess who accidentally hung up on whom?

And a few years later, after my undergraduate days left me still wanting some sort of connection to the hottest beat in otherwise sleepy-old Cincinnati, I was working on a Huggins feature for some weekly Bearcats' rag. Huggs interrupted my Friday morning with a 2 p.m. return call from Chicago -- as we had arranged -- that woke me from a nice couch slumber and sent me scrambling through a living room full of pizza boxes and empty 12-pack cartons in order to ask just a couple questions a few hours before his men took on Conference USA rival DePaul.

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"What are you doing?" I asked him slowly to give myself time to find a working pen and some real paper, not the kind with a takeout receipt or a "Rene" scrawled in lipstick on it. Not surprisingly, his reply was all Huggins.

"I'm workin'," declared the surly coach around 1997. "What are you doin'?"

NCAA Tournament

And many years later, after a hugely hyped Cincinnati-Louisville game around 2003 or 2004, a January matchup that pitted Top 6 teams with a combined 31-1 record, a game to which Louisville claimed ownership about three minutes in, a game the Cards eventually won by about 30, I wrote a harsh column for Cincinnati's NBC television station Web site. It described how Huggins' teams can't win the big games and how his players were more interested in their cornrows and headbands and their tattoos than they were with figuring out how to win high-stakes ballgames.

I caught a lot of heat for that piece, almost got fired in fact. Viewer mail after viewer mail suggested I was at least a hack if not a racist entirely. I was lumped in with all the other Huggins Haters, of whom there were very few around the Queen City. Huggins owned that town in the 1990s the way Pete Rose once did. But because of that piece, I'd earned a place in "The Drawer," according to my sources. Huggins kept a place in his desk where he stored columns and articles that reflected negatively on the coach and his program.

Savvy Cincinnati readers familiar with my work thought I had lost it. How dare you say that about our Huggy Bear? They got personal because they thought I got personal.

But I didn't get personal at all. I was merely making a point about the team's inability to win key games, not unlike what many, many college scribes have written many times in recent years about a nearby powerhouse called Ohio State football.

For that very same Cincinnati TV station Web site, I also wrote a column about how loved Huggins was, how much I knew he'd be missed after his heart attack in 2003. It wasn't just a collection of facts I published. I didn't interview anyone for it. I wrote that piece straight from the heart. Though I wrote a time or two critically of his basketball team, I always liked the kind of guy he was to those who mattered; he satisfied his superiors by winning many basketball games and he took in players of questionable character because he believed in second chances and knew he was good at being a father figure to otherwise directionless young men.

And speaking of the heart, that's a part of Huggins the viewing public doesn't often see. But just because he's not Dick Vermeil doesn't mean he's not a sensitive coach who cares dearly for his players. And in perhaps the most touching gesture I've ever seen on a basketball court, it was a compassionate Huggy Bear being, well, a teddy bear Saturday night while comforting injured star Da'Sean Butler. It may have been the first time you saw such tenderness from Huggins, but he doesn't care about you. He cares about Da'Sean Butler and the guys who go to battle for him. And in return, he teaches them, he coaches them and he treats them like he's their father.

Who knows if a slice of that sweet embrace will make its way into Monday's popular "One Shining Moment," but I certainly won't need a video montage to remember it forever. I loved every second of it, and I hope you did too.


Part 2: Buford Weighs In On Final Four, WVU, Cincinnati

Anthony Buford

One Great Season

Former Cincinnati standout Anthony Buford said this week he thinks he has an idea what the West Virginia athletic community might be experiencing.

Under then-coach Bob Huggins, Buford helped lead the Bearcats to the school's first Final Four in 30 years back in 1992. And nearly two decades later, Huggins now has his alma mater, the West Virginia Mountaineers, in the Final Four for the first time in half a century.

Like he did at UC, Huggins turned the trick at WVU in just his third season, and Buford remembers the huge outpouring of support the Cincinnati community showed in 1992. He said there's probably been an even larger showing in Morgantown this week.


+ OPINION: NCAA Should Fix Football Before Expanding Basketball
+ WEIGH IN: Why Does Everybody Hate Duke?
+ YOUR THOUGHTS? Final Four Does Not Give Butler Home-Court Advantage
+ ANALYSIS: Resurrected UK Program Is Big Blue's Silver Lining
+ TELEVISION: The Rev. Troy Freel Breaks Down David vs. Goliath
+ GUEST COLUMN: Outclassed: Kentucky Schools Cornell In Sweet 16
+ TWITTER RECAP: Who Said What About Epic Kansas State-Xavier Game?
+ READER PARTICIPATION: Share Your Hoops Haiku
+ TV CRITIC: March Adness: Cheers To Dos Equis
+ KANSAS COLLAPSE: Jayhawks Fans Left Speechless, Except This One
+ RECIPE: 7 Ingredients For A National Championship
+ MARCH MADNESS: Tourney No Longer Leads To April Sadness
+ COUNTDOWN: The Top 10 Title Games Since 1979
+ LIST: The Top 10 Analysts In College Basketball
+ LIST: The Top 10 Play-By-Play Men In College Basketball

"There are no professional sports in West Virginia, so the whole state is probably in a euphoric state," he said. "The university and their basketball program, their coaches and players, students, alumni and boosters are incredibly thrilled. I'm sure they are experiencing unbelievable pride right now. That's what I saw when we went to the Final Four. It was so exciting to see the pride that UC graduates exhibited and the thrill from past teams that won championships. Many of those players who were still around came back and showed us so much support. They felt like the program was back to the lofty standards they'd set so long ago."

In Wednesday's part one of this interview with Buford, the former guard said he and Huggins had a "mean-spirited" blowup a couple of years ago. Has the relationship been repaired?

Buford: I saw (Huggins) when West Virginia came to Cincinnati last year. At the end of the game, guys were just congregating and Bob sneaks up behind me and gives me this big hug. That wasn't really his character, but it was certainly nice to see him.

OGS: You said you don't pay much attention to the Final Four because of the treatment Cincinnati received in 1992. Is that still true?

Buford: In years past, I've always watched the first and second rounds, And this year I'll probably pay a little attention to the West Virginia - Duke game. I like (Duke guard) Nolan Smith. I had a pretty close relationship with his father (former Louisville star Derek Smith), and I've known Nolan since he was 3 years old.

OGS: What's the reception like around town this time of year? Do people still want to talk about 1992?

Buford: We didn't win the national championship, so when I see how the 1961 and 1962 teams are treated for winning it, I'm envious. That sits with me. I think about that all the time, just how we would have been treated around the city had we won it. It's a painful memory. I can't even watch the Final Four game from 1992. It sucks to lose once you get there, man. You realize how close you are ... If you get there as a sophomore or something, it's one thing, but as a senior, for me, it was lights out, and that's painful.

OGS: Do you see any similarities between your 1992 team and Huggins' current team at West Virginia?

Buford: No. We played 94 feet. We pressed all up and down the floor and he doesn't really do that anymore. They've got a different group of guys. Da'Sean Butler has got to be one of the most under-appreciated guys in the country. I love how he competes every time he steps on the floor. I was surprised he wasn't a first-team All-American.

Bob basically has transformed his team, including some of those holdovers, from finesse players to we're-going-to-punch-you-in-the-face-now type of players. Maybe they used to play a 1-3-1 and shoot threes, but now under Huggins, they're going to play defense, rebound like crazy and hit the weight room like they've never seen it before.

OGS: Why does everybody hate Duke?

Buford: People hate elitists or folks who project themselves as elitists. The sense is that Duke fans, alumni and players think they're better than everyone else. They give you the impression that they're looking down on you. That may not be true. I can't really say that I've had a whole lot of interaction with Duke players, but I have had some with Duke fans. People have a belief that Duke kids get all the calls, that they have an edge. A lot of that might not be true, but perception can sometimes become a reality.

OGS: Cincinnati seems to hit that 17- or 18-win mark every year under Mick Cronin, but hasn't been able to get over the hump. What is keeping the Bearcats from being a factor in the Big East and returning to the national scene?

Buford: The interesting thing I hear a lot around here is that (Cronin) left and went to rival Louisville. A lot of people heard the Huggins version of that story. But the reality is that if you had aspirations of becoming a head coach, Bob wasn't really going to help you. Mick didn't go chasing Louisville; Louisville came after him.

But having said that, there are some clear issues where Mick needs to grow. He needs to make some changes in some areas. Have they improved every year under him? Yes. But I thought in the preseason that he had a 24-win team and maybe a Sweet 16 team.

Personally, I'd get rid of some guys. If Yancy Gates plays next year like he did in his first two years ... he should be punishing teams inside. I don't know if he has the motor or the desire to become a great player. And when you bring in new guys who look at his work ethic, what do you think they're going to do? So Yancy is first and (Rashad) Bishop is second. You either have to recruit over and get guys who would be able to send them to the bench, or just get rid of them.

If you firmly believe in your program, then run it the way you think you should run it and get rid of anyone who doesn't help you get there. You cannot win with Yancy Gates. He's a coach-killer.

Here are two things I do know about Mick Cronin: He does know about basketball; he's probably too smart to be coaching some of the kids he's coaching. And two, he works his behind off. You gotta somehow get the kids to do what you want them to do.

OGS: What about Lance Stephenson?

Buford: Lance is very skilled but has a lot to learn about the college game. When you play in Brooklyn, no one takes charges, but in college, especially in the Big East, somebody's going to be in your way, so you have to learn how to score off the dribble. If someoene's screening, you should be cutting to the basket, not away from it, to get a pass and use your body to get to the basket. Yancy can shoot the basketball, (Ibrahima) Thomas can shoot the basketball, and with the lanes spread open now, you've got Cashmere Wright finishing at the basket, not over size. Lance will be driving to the basket for unmolested dunks, and now your crowd's into the game.

OGS: And staying in the Big East, do you think Steve Lavin can turn things around at St. John's?

Buford: I know his record didn't show it, but I thought Norm Roberts was just starting to get his team to come around. With that being said, I think Steve Lavin's energy and his experience going around the country as a broadcaster the last six or seven years, being exposed to a lot of other good coaches and programs, will prove to be invaluable. He's going to have to assemble a staff that's able to recruit the New York area. But he has a good enough reputation that he can recruit nationally as well. All New Yorkers want a winner, so if it's a bunch of New York kids or a mix of New York kids and some players from other regions, I think it's an excellent hire. He has a good base of players already in place, so it's just a matter of bringing in good new guys.


Resurrected Program Is Big Blue's Silver Lining

John Wall

Special To One Great Season

I expected nothing less. The final whistle blew and the cat calls and claps reached a crescendo. I’d taken numerous jabs from complete strangers for most of the night in multiple Indianapolis drinking establishments as my beloved Wildcats' remarkable season came to an inauspicious end. I heard a female voice I couldn't visually link with a face exclaim, "I don't care who wins, as long as it's not Kentucky." The statement was followed by a high-five that reverberated throughout the hollows of my soul.

More than 600 miles away in a Syracuse locker room, Ramon Harris refused to remove his Kentucky jersey. The senior forward's eyes were red. It was the last time the Alaska native would wear the blue and white tank top that so many little boys from Pikeville to Paducah dream of donning.

EXTRA: Complete NCAA Tournament Coverage

I expected nothing less from the rarely used player who, by many Big Blue faithful estimations, was not the caliber of athlete we'd expect to see in Kentucky blue. What I didn't expect was that every eye (from all accounts) was red at some point Saturday night. That includes the eyes of the young men who will voluntarily never wear a UK uniform again.

Say what you want about DeMarcus Cousins' maturity. He still gets it. Say what you want about one-and-done players like John Wall. He gets it. No one would question that Patrick Patterson gets it. They all get what Billy Clyde Gillispie did not, that there's a responsibility that comes with bearing those eight letters across your chest on a basketball court. Players told reporters they let their "brothers" down. Several also apologized for letting the fans down. 

They did not.

When many eyes finally dried in homes and bars across the Commonwealth, perspective slowly crept into the collective conscience. The fact that Wall, Eric Bledose, Darnell Dodson and others could not hit the broadside of a rural Perry County barn doesn't matter. We will neatly put aside the fact that Bobby Huggins and West Virginia took apart UK's much-vaunted defense. Few will remember that, for the first time, John Calipari's kids showed their youth. There, I said it. Because what one awful night cannot take away is what this team has done for Kentucky basketball:

+ 35-3
+ SEC champs again
+ Relevant again
+ Feared again

In 1992, after the entire state went into mourning following Christian Laettner's figurative stomp on our chests, perspective was gained. John Pelphrey, Deron Feldhaus, Richie Farmer and Sean Woods became "The Unforgettables." Four young men put aside personal goals and stayed at a program that was at its lowest point. This year, Wall, Cousins, Bledsoe and Patterson put aside ego for something greater than themselves. They resurrected a program out of the ashes. I'm sure someone will come up with a name for this fab four. They were truly unforgettable.

Shortly before 9 p.m. on Saturday, I received a text from a friend of mine. He's a Kansas fan. "Go Big Blue Nation," it read, dripping with sarcasm. The haters are back. I expected nothing less.

Jackey is a die-hard Kentucky fan who lives in Louisville and is now eagerly awaiting the World Cup.


Tournament Takeaways: What The First Weekend Taught Us

Ali Farokhmanesh

One Great Season

One of the best opening weekends in recent NCAA Tournament history drew to a close shortly before 8 p.m. ET Sunday, and if you're anything like me, you've already begun counting down every tenth of a second for Thursday's Sweet 16 round to get here.

What did the first two rounds show us? Besides the fact that I can't fill out a bracket with even the slightest bit of success, plenty:

+ No one is invincible. Kansas, not just a No. 1 seed, but the tournament's top overall seed and heavy favorite to win its second national championship in three years, learned that the hard way. The Jayhawks had a star or a budding star at every spot on the floor, but they might not have taken seriously enough the one thing Northern Iowa seemed to have more of: heart.

+ The Big Ten is back. Isn't that what we said in the first week of January, after the college football bowl season? It is, and the same is true on the hardwood. With No. 1 Kansas and No. 3 Georgetown out of the way, Ohio State is the logical pick to rule the Midwest, though it might need to knock off league foe Michigan State -- gimpy guards and all -- in the Elite Eight. And not enough can be said about Purdue's gutsy overtime defeat of Texas A&M, making the Big Ten the only conference to send three teams into the next round. Gritty Chris Kramer doesn't want his career to end just yet. The Purdue senior is straight ballin'.

+ Cornell is legitimate. So is Xavier. Those are two fine basketball teams. That Cornell-Kentucky matchup will be one of the most interesting Sweet 16 games in recent memory. And the Muskies are no longer a precious little mid-major. The Muskies can beat anybody. I loved that rookie coach and hometown fave Chris Mack jabbed a Minneapolis writer after XU took it to the Golden Gophers Friday.

+ Despite the Big Ten props, I do agree with most analysts -- Len Elmore and Seth Davis, in particular -- who say the best-conference debate is a waste of time. Conferences aren't playing conferences. Individual teams are playing other teams in high-pressure, single-elimination games where personnel matchups are critical. That said, what up with the Big East?

+ Looking ahead, if Kentucky and West Virginia win their third-round games in the East, they'd meet in what would no doubt be the best regional final of the tournament. If those teams do make the Elite Eight, that could very well be a de facto national championship game.

+ On the TV front, CBS once again did an outstanding job showing 48 games over 80 hours, and switching to late-game situations. One complaint I did hear came from a colleague in the Bay Area who was disappointed to have to watch the last minute of Sunday's Duke-Cal yawner instead of being switched to the thrilling Xavier-Pittsburgh and Purdue-Texas A&M finishes that unfolded simultaneously at other locations. But overall, I thought CBS got it right again and I hope The Eye continues to broadcast America's greatest sporting event for as long as I'm alive.

+ The Miller Lite commercials are still awful, the Capital One viking ads have never once been funny, the new Dos Equis spots are just as strong as last year's successes, the girl in the Palm commercial is beautiful, Rhys Darby has already jumped the shark with those bad HP ads and Southwest Airlines appears poised to annoy us with their shirt-lifting baggage handlers for two more weeks. More on that from OGS contributor Steve Susi soon.


Twitter Recap: Who Said What About Bob Huggins' Ejection?

Bob Huggins

One Great Season

A funny thing happened on the way to Connecticut's latest upset of a top-tier Big East team Monday night.

Bob Huggins, coach of the visiting No. 7 West Virginia Mountaineers, got two technical fouls and was automatically ejected.

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ESPN had a nice tight shot on Huggins as he was giving official Mike Stuart the business. It didn't look like Huggins was asking if Stuart enjoyed his weekend.

Many Twitter users, including this one, were able to deciper the code Huggins has never been afraid to use on officials for more than two decades. It appeared to include many F-bombs, and ESPN college basketball reporter Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz), seated courtside, Tweeted that "Bob Huggins just used mother and you know what right in Mike Stuart's face. Stuart listened and finally tossed him."

Here's some more of what folks were Tweeting about Huggins in the closing minute of UConn's 73-62 win, another resume builder for the surging Huskies:

@MattZemek_CFN: "I'm reading Bob Huggins's lips, and it's not a pretty sight... errrr, sound..... errrr, sight. You know what I mean."

@OSULighty23: "Huggins a goon lol........... he always let the refs know whats on his mind."

@onegreaseason: "When I used to cover Cincy, a steamed Huggins once told a reporter: 'If I was playing my grandma in checkers, I'd want to bury her ass.'"

@goodmanonfox: "Bob Huggins might have set the record for most F-bombs dropped on a ref and he tossed with two technicals."

@Miss_JenniferC: "I kept waiting for Huggins to flip off the stupid UConn student section as he left lol."

@kevinreitmeyer: "Stay classy Huggins! And you wonder where the students get it from?!"

@ScottBonz: "For those on the highway tonight, namely @asavla. Be safe. An angry and possibly drunk Bob huggins is on the road. Good win."

@WildcatBlueBlog: "Cousins and Bledsoe combined cannot hold a candle to Huggins and his temper. What a mess."

@PJASchultz: "It was kind of a bullshit ejection. Ref was definitely looking for it. ..and I hate Huggins!"

@jhorrigan24: "Did Bob Huggins get ejected for 2 technical fouls or for not wearing a shirt and tie? Class act."

@john_kersten: "Eff uconn. Huggins got tossed so he didn't have to shake (hands with) that ass of a coach Calhoun."

@BlakeMellinger: "Bob Huggins just got tossed at UCONN. The official had no business being at WVU huddle, he instigated the entire confrontation."

@z_timmons: "What's the Vegas over/under on # of miles Huggins makes it before being pulled over for DUI tonight?

@Gabejones23: "Huggins has just been ejected for the same thing Calhoun has done his entire career."


College Basketball Notebook: Tar Heels In Trouble

Roy Williams

One Great Season

With exactly two months left until Selection Sunday, it's about time I start posting on college basketball.

Let's do it in notebook fashion, shall we?

+ Defending champion North Carolina is in trouble this year. The Heels only lost four times last season, but already have five losses this year, three of them by double figures, including last night's 83-64 dismantling at the hands of Clemson.

+ Speaking of Clemson, don't be fooled by the Tigers' 14-3 record. It's not uncommon for them to rush out of the gate, win a bunch of games and even earn a nice national ranking. But once the February doldrums set in, for some reason, Clemson teams are rarely up to the grind and they often flame out.

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+ And speaking of flaming out, has anyone seen Cincinnati the last few games? I used to criticize Bob Huggins' teams for not being mentally strong enough to finish tight games against good teams. Late mental mistakes cost the Bearcats many close ones back then, and that seems to remain the trend under Mick Cronin, now in his fourth year there. But unlike Huggins' teams, Cronin's don't finish seasons well, missing out on the NCAA tournament with weak late-season showings the last two years.

Ashley Judd

+ Just down the road in Lexington, it's great to see John Calipari restore the tradition at Kentucky, but given his track record, you can't help but wonder what kind of trouble looms there. Nonetheless, John Wall isn't just the best freshman in the country; he's the best player. And he and DeMarcus Cousins are the best young tandem in the nation, and with Patrick Patterson manning the post, look for the Wildcats to play deep into March.

+ Back to Huggins ... As much as I wanted him out at Cincinnati long before he was fired, he's like that ex-girlfriend that I just can't get over. If West Virginia is on television, I will almost always watch. I even became a one-and-done Kansas State fan when he had a cup of coffee there. But he's got his Mountaineers playing solid basketball, and I reckon they'll get a nice tournament seed and advance to at least the second weekend.

+ The best game left on the regular-season schedule is a no-brainer. Former No. 1 Kansas visits current No. 1 Texas on Monday, Feb. 8. Each side boasts a core of veterans, a good mix of perimeter and interior players and a star freshman. Kansas' Xavier Henry is a nice scorer with three-point range and a great body for such a young guard. Texas' Avery Bradley is improving on offense, but he's a lockdown perimeter defender and a fierce competitor.

+ Don't sleep on Ohio State. Sure I'm a homer, but the earlier-than-expected return of all-everything star Evan Turner already has paid huge dividends. ET scored 23 of his career-high 32 points in the second half of a huge comeback win at No. 6 Purdue Tuesday. OSU doesn't have a great record (12-5, 2-3), but a road win like that, coupled with a healthy conference player of the  year candidate, can only boost the Buckeyes' confidence.


Gameday Gallery: Pittsburgh at West Virginia

Tyler Bitancourt Kicks Game-Winning Field Goal

One Great Season

WASHINGTON, Pa. -- Friday night's game in Morgantown was the 13th on the OGS tour this season, and the first that was decided on the game's final play.

And there I was, indecisive and unprepared about how to shoot Tyler Bitancourt's game-winning field goal as time expired.

If you've been following my project this season, you know I don't come from a photography background, but along the way during my 15-year news career, I figured it might be smart to pick up some shooting skills, as well as a decent camera and lens.


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+ FOLLOW: Facebook, Twitter

So while I still have some work to do to lens like a serious pro, I think I'm getting better at at least thinking like one. When it became clear the Mountaineers were calling their last two plays with field position in mind, and setting up the decisive field goal, I hurriedly looked around for an angle different from where everyone else would be shooting from. The only thing I had time to do was climb 10 steps up one of the portals into the stands and ask an usher if I could shoot from there, between the 10- and 15-yard lines.

As the teams traded timeouts, I fished around my camera bag for my widest lens -- 18mm -- but it's not a great lens and after I finally got the 200mm off and put the wider lens on, the teams were lining up so I hurriedly pointed the camera and fired away.

In my frantic effort to set up the shot, I'd put the camera on Program mode, assuming it would give me the largest aperture setting. And as you can see by this Photoshopped picture, that was not the case.

Anyway, I did at least like one thing about the picture: Pitt wideout Jonathan Baldwin, whose 50-yard touchdown reception tied the game just a few minutes earlier, shows a vertical leap worthy of a look from Jamie Dixon, efforting albeit unsuccessfully to block Bitancourt's kick.

That was just one picture, and it turned out to be a learning experience, as much of this tour has. Here's the rest of the Gameday Gallery.


Backyard Nailbiter: WVU Beats Pitt On Final Play

Tyler Bitancourt Kicks Game-Winning Field Goal

One Great Season

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Bill Stewart said this week that fundamentals win most games, especially rivalry games.

The West Virginia coach proved to be as accurate with that assessment as, say, a 43-yard field goal as time expired, lifting the Mountaineers to a thrilling 19-16 defeat of visiting Pittsburgh in Friday's Backyard Brawl.

Kicker Tyler Bitancourt connected on the game's final play, triggering a midfield celebration that no one layered in blue and gold wanted to end. With fans screaming behind him, Bitancourt even spoke to ESPN as the party kicked into high gear. For a night in Morgantown at least, Bitancourt will be regarded as the most interesting man in the world.

WVU Beats Pitt On Final Play

The play was set up after West Virginia barely got a first down on 4th and 1 at the Pitt 27. Two plays later, the home team let the clock tick down to :03 before calling a timeout, which was followed by a Pitt timeout. Bitancourt, who'd made three field goals earlier in the game, wasn't rattled by the delay, despite frigid conditions all night long at Mountaineer Field.

But back to fundamentals. The Panthers turned the ball over twice and missed two field goals, while the Mountaineers, though far from perfect, made no such mistakes.

Talented Pittsburgh freshman Dion Lewis, among the nation's top running backs, picked up 155 yards on the night, but it was quarterback Bill Stull's right arm that finally got the visitors into the end zone. He threw a 50-yard rainbow that Jonathan Baldwin raced under and caught just before the goal line, having beaten the West Virginia defense to tie the score at 16-16 with 2:54 left.

That's when Mountaineers quarterback Jarrett Brown took over, calmly leading his offense into Pittsburgh territory and turning a late possession into a game-winning drive after almost turning the trick in his team's last outing two weeks ago at Cincinnati.

Noel Devine Scores Third-Quarter Touchdown

West Virginia also scored only one touchdown, and it too was of the big-play variety. Noel Devine took a first-down handoff late in the third quarter and hurried 88 yards down the left sideline to break a 6-6 tie.

The loss might have been more damaging to Cincinnati (11-0, 6-0 Big East) than to Pittsburgh (9-2, 5-1). The teams play at Heinz Field on Dec. 5 for the Big East championship. Despite Friday's loss, Pitt can still win the league with a defeat of the fifth-ranked Bearcats, who beat Illinois Friday afternoon. But with the Panthers expected to tumble in the rankings, UC misses out on a chance to beat a Top 10 opponent and earn some last-minute BCS cred.


Video: Bill Stewart Wants To Whip His Brother ... Bad

One Great Season

CLEVELAND -- If nice guys finish last, how do you explain Bill Stewart?

The West Virginia football coach offered up a few good quotes at his weekly press conference in Morgantown on Monday. His Mountaineers entertain Pittsburgh in the Backyard Brawl Friday night.

Stewart riffed on a variety of topics and shared a few brief anecdotes, including the time there was a brawl at a high school game in which he was coaching in West Virginia. He also said the recruiting game is a tough one in the region, as the area's top recruits must choose between the Panthers and Mountaineers if they want to play BCS ball close to home.

Here are some other nuggets from Stewart's weekly presser:


Imperfect Play Keeps Bearcats Perfect At 10-0

Isaiah Pead

One Great Season

At this point in the season when a handful of teams are fighting for just two spots in the national championship game, style points are key if you can get them.

And although Cincinnati stayed unbeaten with an entertaining 24-21 defeat of visiting Big East rival and former league bully West Virginia, the Bearcats struggled at times and seemed downright lucky to escape Nippert Stadium with a 10-0 record on Friday the 13th.

UC lost its first fumble of the season, and the Bearcats threw an interception, dropped a touchdown pass and missed a field goal.

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Cincinnati caught a break when Isaiah Pead (pictured, above) fumbled while diving over a pile of players near the goal line in the second quarter. The Mountaineers recovered, but the officials reversed the call and ruled the play a touchdown after reviewing the video, saying the ball crossed the plane before Pead lost control of it.

Pead would finish with a career-high 175 yards, including a pair of nifty runs of 52 and 43 yards.

Tony Pike

Quarterback Tony Pike (pictured, right), out the last month with an injured forearm, threw a pair of touchdown passes in two celebrity red-zone appearances. To cap UC's opening drive, he came in when the Bearcats were at the 10, and on his first play since Oct. 15, rifled a pass over the middle to Armon Binns in the back of the end zone.

And to open the second half, Pike connected with D.J. Woods for a six-yard scoring strike to give the home team a 21-14 lead.

Zach Collaros, who's sparkled in a fill-in role since Pike went down, took all but a handful of snaps for UC Friday and passed for 205 yards, adding 44 more on the ground.

The Bearcats are 10-0 for the first time in school history, and at 6-0 in the Big East, are a half game ahead of Pittsburgh, whose Panters are 5-0 in the league. The teams will meet for the conference crown on Dec. 5 in Pittsburgh.

Cincinnati only has one game before then, a home date with Illinois on Nov. 27, the night after Thanksgiving. The BCS computers have shown pretty good love for the Bearcats, but nailbiting triumphs in their last two outings don't help their cause. Convincing wins against the Illini and at Pittsburgh are necessary if UC wants to play for all the marbles.

I can't recall a mid-November scenario where two power teams (Florida/Alabama and Texas) appeared on a collision course to meet in the championship game while three other unbeaten teams (TCU, Cincinnati, Boise State) stood by, hoping for some help. I know we say it seemingly every Thanksgiving, but if there's ever a year for the NCAA to figure this thing out, it's this year.