Weekend Wrap-Up

Weekend Wrap-Up

A compendium of notes, thoughts and observations from a busy weekend on the Mountaineer sports scene.

First, all of us at the Blue & Gold News and BlueGoldNews.com want to share our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and teammates of Connecticut defensive back Jasper Howard. Those words get written and expressed in many different situations, and the last thing I want is for them to be glossed over, or viewed as just another statement. While this also gets said many times, tragic events such as this should really serve as reminders to us all to put things in their proper perspective. Yes, sports are important, and the passion that all involved bring to them can be inspiring. But it's an event such as this that should make us all realize that there are some things in life that are more important. I hope Howard's family, and the entire UConn community, are able to remember all of the good things he brought to them during his all-to-brief life, and that they are able to find some measure of peace and comfort in the very difficult days and weeks to come.

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Mountaineer Madness, which opened WVU's basketball practice on Friday night, was much improved over previous editions, but could still use a few tweaks. The pace of the night's activities was much better than in previous years, but still needs to move more quickly. There don't need to be as many interruptions for dance team and cheerleader routines, which only serve to drag down the excitement of player introductions and competitions.

On the plus side, the alumni free throw shooting competition was a fun diversion. Add in a couple more chances for fans to win prizes, cut a couple of the routines, and I think we have a winner.

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The crowd was announced at 9,200, which is an improvement over past years. Hopefully, at some point, we can get to a point where the building is packed. For a team that has been picked in just about everyone's Top 15 in the preseason, that was a respectable number, but it certainly should, and could, be better. I understand WVU isn't Kentucky or UConn (yet), but this should be a fun team to watch. And there are some great personalities on the team to enjoy.

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A few player thoughts: 1) Many of the team members flashed some attitude, confidence and playfulness during introductions. I liked that. Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones struck some poses, while Da'Sean Butler and John Flowers sported 1970s-style afros that would have made Dr. J proud. 2) Kevin Jones' added bulk is particularly noticeable through his chest and shoulders. I'm really anxious to see how that helps him in the lane and around the hoop. I think he's a guy that will, like Da'Sean Butler, get better and better each year. 3) Devin Ebanks' demeanor and confidence level has grown by leaps and bounds. He's good, he knows it, and he takes the court showing it. I don't sense any downside, or any over-the-top cockiness on his part either. It's just the maturation of a player ready to make a national impact. 4) Even though it was just a ten-minute scrimmage, it was fun to watch Cam Thoroughman and Dan Jennings mix it up a couple of times under the hoop. With a no-holds-barred guy like Thoroughman showing him the ropes, Jennings will get an early lesson on what life in the lane in the Big East is like.

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Has West Virginia ever had a better sports day than Saturday? Certainly, last year's football win over North Carolina in the Meineke Bowl and the same day men's hoops destruction of Ohio State was impressive, but even though the football opponent was far less prestigious, the overall day's results were excellent. The football win served to quiet much yapping, the men's soccer team knocked off Notre Dame, the rifle team continued its defense of its national title with another win to remain undefeated, the volleyball team celebrated a Friday night win, the cross-country team won at Penn State, and the women's swimming and diving team knocked off Marshall as well.

Add in some personally satisfying college football games (Ohio State and Virginia Tech both taking it on the chin) and it was a great day, despite the gray and gloomy weather that covered Morgantown. I'll trade the weather for those results any day.

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If WVU recruiting target Adreian Payne didn't see his importance to the Mountaineer program during his visit, then no one ever will. His every move was scruitinized by much of the WVU student section and other recruiting fans during the evening.

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I guess we all play this game from time to time, but the spin-doctoring coming out of the Herd camp concerning the football game is a bit over the top. Comments such as, ‘We'd have liked to have seen what would have happened had we scored to go ahead 14-0', and ‘Marshall had the lead at the half for the second time in three years', are, well, frustrating. I'd have liked to see what the score would have been had Jarrett Brown not been knocked out of the game by a pair of hits that should have been flagged, or if Scooter Berry had played the entire game, or if the Herd had been forced to play without two comparable players (say, Cody Slate and Albert McClellan). All this ‘what if' stuff can be interesting to play, but when it's spun as a validation for playing the game, or justification for one team's level of play, it becomes tiresome.

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WVU head football athletic trainer Dave Kerns deserves kudos for his matter-of-fact explanations of Jarrett Brown's concussion after the game. He answered questions with good detail and gave a clear picture of Brown's status and the process which will be followed as he is assessed for his potential return to the field.

Kerns explained some of the components of the testing which Brown will receive, and how it will be compared to a baseline test, taken prior to the season. In this testing, Brown will have a number of different evaluations, including color, pattern and shape recognition, in order to compare his current status to his normal results. Before any thought will be given to releasing him for practice, he will have to come very close, if not match, his baseline results, and also be free from any post-concussion symptoms, such as headache or nausea.

Although it's certainly not a medical diagnosis, Brown tweeted on Monday that his concussion was minor, and that he was feeling better. That's an encouraging first step, but there's still a long way between that and being released to practice and play.

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I thought it would take one more week, and another win, for WVU to move back into the Top 25, so it was nice to see the Mountaineers make their 2009 debut there following the weekend win. The challenge to stay there will prove more difficult than getting back, but the Mountaineers could really solidfy their spot by closing out the month with two more wins.

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