Thomas Never Had Any Doubt
PITTSBURGH – Not long after West Virginia had lost back-to-back games to Syracuse and UConn and it looked like they’d play out the string mostly in hopes of avoiding a bowl game in Birmingham, Alabama, senior linebacker J.T. Thomas found himself in a rather dark place.
He was so miffed, he couldn’t watch ESPN, or any college football, really.
But Thomas has been around a while, and he was able to see the big picture. As he told the younger players during the bye week, ‘we’re down, but we’re not out.’
And he was right.
As it stands, the Mountaineers simply need the Huskies to lose today to Cincinnati or next week to South Florida certainly no given and they must beat a generous Rutgers team. If that happens, the Big East title is headed back to Morgantown. With that, the spoils that come along with playing in a BCS bowl.
“I knew we could do it,” Thomas said. “Everybody knows we have talent at West Virginia. That’s no secret. I’m glad we were able to come together in time before we lost our second chance. So, hopefully something else will shake up for us, and it’ll be a real special senior night for us next week.”
Another bonus? Thomas can now watch football again.
“I’ll be watching every second of (today’s UConn-Cincy game), believe me,” Thomas said. “We need Cincinnati to upset them a little bit. I’ll kick back, me my dad, my little brothers and my little sisters, and we’ll just chill watching the game.”
Austin’s Big Day
Sophomore slot receiver Tavon Austin caught two touchdown passes Friday, marking the third time he’s caught two touchdown receptions in a game this season.
West Virginia coach Bill Stewart, who had originally planned to move Austin back to running back, the position for which he was recruited, upon the graduation of star Noel Devine, is re-thinking that.
Stewart was asked if that move was still in the cards and he grinned from ear-to-ear, drawing a chuckle from the media.
“He’s too valuable as a little out there,” Stewart said. “We need a big back, that’s how I cut my teeth years ago with a big back. I think the bigger backs I’m starting to like more (think 222-pound Shawne Alston, who had 16 carries for 71 yards in place of a still-banged up Devine). We’ll keep Tavon out there where he is.”
Austin has found a niche as a pass-catcher.
“I never played wide receiver a day in my life, but now I kinda like it,” he said. “So, I don’t know. If they need me to stay out there, I’ll stay out there, but if they need me at running back, I’ll do whatever to help the team next year. I still would like to play a couple of snaps here and there.”
In what has become a most disappointing season for Devine, who was limited to four carries for 27 yards and one catch for 48 on Friday, injuries continue to be a factor.
He has a bone bruise on one foot and a bad ankle connected to the other.
“It’s very, very sore,” Stewart said. “(If he can’t run it) he’ll catch the ball out of the backfield, any way we can get the ball in his hands, that’s what we want to do. You can’t stop everything Noel does, you either take the run away or we’re going to get him out of the backfield and let him run with the one guy down the boundary, double moves stuff like that. He still can run fast for most people, but I don’t think he has the jump or cutting ability that he once had.”
As it was, Devine had 75 all-purpose yards, which pushed him to 5,653 for his career. That allowed him to take over WVU’s career lead in the category, passing Avon Cobourne.
Sanders Has the Record
With an 8-yard catch on the first play of the second half, Jock Sanders became the all-time receptions leader at West Virginia. He wound up with four catches for 70 yards and has 195 for his career. David Saunders previously held the record with 191.
The Hot Seat
It was generally thought that whichever coach lost this game – Pitt’s Dave Wannstedt or Stewart – would be under even more intense scrutiny as a result. Well, the talk shows in Pittsburgh were abuzz with callers demanding Wannstedt’s ouster. Pitt, now 6-5 overall and 4-2 in the Big East, was the preseason pick to win the league and was generally looked at as the league’s most talented team. Now, it must beat Cincinnati next to avoid a .500 season. It should be noted, one caller called in the Pitt postgame show with support for Stewart. We’ll see.