Preview: Colorado at West Virginia
by Dave Congrove
Colorado heads to Morgantown carrying the burden of a 1-2 record. They will face a hostile crowd in a Thursday night game and a West Virginia team that is 2-1.
Neither team has played a game since September 19. On that Saturday, the Buffaloes blanked Wyoming 24-0 to secure their first win of the season, while West Virginia fell 41-30 at Auburn to suffer their first setback.
These teams met last season in Boulder with Colorado prevailing 17-14, but the Buffaloes have only won 3-of-12 since then. The Mountaineers have won 10-of-13 in that period.
Bill Stewart is 12-5 at WVU since taking over when Rich Rodriguez bolted for Michigan. Stewart was interim head coach for the 2007 Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma, and was officially promoted the following day.
Dan Hawkins is in his fourth season at Colorado and the natives are getting restless over his 14-26 record. Though most supporters recognize the mess he inherited would take awhile to clean up, improvement has appeared to be slow in coming.
Jr. QB Cody Hawkins, the head coach's son, is 5th in the Big 12 in passing yards per game. But his TD-to-Interception radio is 5-4 and he ranks last in completion percentage at 52.6, and in QB rating at 105.74.
Making matters worse is a rushing offense that ranks 11th in the conference.
An offense which is so anemic puts a lot of pressure on the defense. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Colorado is at the bottom of the conference in rushing yards allowed and total yards allowed, and ranks 11th in points surrendered.
Colorado also ranks 11th in turnover margin, 10th in penalties, 12th in sacks allowed and, well, you get the picture. Their simply isn't much going right for the Buffs.
Last season, West Virginia finished in a tie for 2nd in the Big East race and edged North Carolina in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte. After that victory, they bid star QB Pat White farewell and wished him success on his journey to the NFL.
Sr. understudy Jarrett Brown has the team now and, in the tradition of White, is averaging 266 yards per game through the air and another 69 on the ground. But if he is to carry West Virginia to a Big East title and BCS bowl berth, he will have to cut back on the mistakes. Brown has thrown 5 TD passes, but an equal number of interceptions.
Brown's favorite target as been Jock Sanders who has 29 catches for 309 yards. The second-leading receiver is 20 catches behind Sanders.
West Virginia' other major offensive weapon is RB Noel Devine. The 5-8, 175 lb., junior is 16th nationally with 106 yards per game and 5 TD's. Brown and Devine have 91.5% of West Virginia's rushing yardage.
West Virginia topped the Big East in scoring defense a year ago, but every opponent has scored at least 20 points thus far this season. Auburn hung 41 on the 'Eers and they now rank one spot from the bottom of the conference with 27 points allowed per game.
The contest is the Thursday night feature game on ESPN at 7:30 ET.