Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – There was quite a bit of hitting on the
field at Milan Puskar Stadium last weekend, but almost as much action took
place in the streets just outside in the hours following West Virginia’s upset
of visiting Baylor.
The Mountaineers, absent from the AP Top-25 for close to two years, are now
settled in at No. 22 this week, after stunning the fourth-ranked Bears by a
score of 41-27 last Saturday afternoon. But the game was far from pretty,
requiring close to four hours to complete, as referee Alan Eck nearly became
the host of his own reality show.
In addition to there being nearly 900 yards of total offense registered by a
pair of defensively inept programs, at least on this particular day, the
number of penalties was simply unfathomable. The squads ran a collective 164
plays and on almost one-fifth of them there was an infraction of some kind
that needed to be addressed. One series after another was brought to a
screeching halt as Eck and his associates gathered and consulted, referred to
video replay and consulted again.
The Bears really only had themselves to blame for their awful performance.
Sure, the visitors managed to scrounge up 27 points in front of a spirited
crowd, but that was barely half of the team’s average heading into the
meeting, leading the nation at more than 52 ppg. When you factor in a Big 12-
record 18 penalties for a loss of 215 yards, Baylor appeared more suited for
the Canadian Football League than the AP’s top-10.
Personal fouls for unnecessary roughness came raining down on the Bears time
and time again, aiding WVU in one of the biggest upsets in program history. At
one point, Baylor receiver Corey Coleman was assessed a penalty for a vicious
hit he delivered on WVU’s Terrell Chestnut, ejected even for his efforts as
Chestnut lay still on the turf while the Bears scored on a 67-yard touchdown
pass play in the second quarter.
However, even with the naked eye from Section 122, Row 39, Seat 121 in the
lower bowl along the goal line (yes, I was in attendance) the hit, while
violent, was still perfectly legal. After one of many teleconferences with
replay officials, the call was reversed, Coleman allowed to rejoin his
teammates, the touchdown counted and the fans confounded.
Eck also pleaded with fans not to throw anything onto the field during the
contest. Again, one of just many instances where the men with the yellow flags
and the whistles may have over-reached in trying to keep the meeting civil.
With still minutes to play, fans were reminded to stay off the field in the
event that the home team held on for the win. Instead of a melee on
Mountaineer Field, guests were treated to a sing-along of John Denver’s “Take
Me Home, Country Roads” as if that would have satisfied everyone’s enthusiasm
Outside of the stadium, you would have thought the Mountaineers had won the
national championship the way the crowd was behaving after the victory. Fans
were high-fiving strangers at a record rate and using their other hand to
firmly grasp a 24-pack of their favorite beverage, the same way a running back
ensures three points of contact with the football.
Tailgates were operating at peak capacity both before and after the game, not
just in designated parking lots, but also along the main drag in front of
supermarkets and all denominations of churches. Today was the day to worship
at the altar of college football, the one common denominator in a state that
has no professional sports, at least not at the major league level.
It was perfect weather for a game of cornhole, even a game of catch with a
football, tossing it high in the air and timing it just right so it soared
over the tracks of the PRT without causing much of a commotion to unsuspecting
Most people reveled responsibly, even those that awkwardly swayed to a spoof
on an old Talking Heads classic, this one called, “Burning Down the Couch.”
Setting a sofa/love seat ablaze after a monumental win is nothing new for
inhabitants of Morgantown, but there were quite a few people who took the
celebrating a bit too far.
Couches and Ottomans should have been on high alert once that final gun
In the aftermath of a sensational effort on the field, some simply could not
keep their excitement to themselves. Reports indicate that their were at least
eight arrests and 24 people were cited as a result of disturbances following
Public drunkenness, underage drinking and disorderly conduct led the police
stat sheet, the latter being the charge for 20-year-old Elijah Wellman, who
was a fullback/tight end on the WVU football team.
While no one was charged with a felony, there were two people picked up for
assault on a law enforcement officer, and another was cited for malicious
burning. Of the 39 fires reported to police, 32 were street fires and seven
were found to be in dumpsters.
Unlike Eck who had only a whistle and yellow laundry to control the effort on
the field, police used pepper spray and tear gas for folks who found it
necessary to hurl bottles in the streets for no good reason.
Unlike the old days in the hills when individuals may have gotten away with
this sort of lawless behavior, now everyone is a member of the media as video
of rowdy activity is readily available anywhere and everywhere, so there is
nowhere left to hide.
The president of WVU, E. Gordon Gee, addressed the actions of the few who
brought national attention to Morgantown for all the wrong reasons. In a
letter on Monday evening, Gee made it clear that he was “extremely
disappointed, frustrated and angry at a minority of students.”
“Let me be clear: This is criminal behavior and individuals involved in
setting fires, overturning trash bins or throwing objects at first responders
WILL be held accountable. There is zero tolerance for this type of criminal
and unruly behavior. Our Student Code of Conduct is clear on these matters and
so is the law. We currently are reviewing the arrest records, as well as the
videos and social media posts, to identify students involved. For those
identified as participating in criminal activities, we will take swift and
immediate disciplinary action – and for many, that will result in expulsion
from this institution.”
Head’s up Morgantown, you have nationally-ranked TCU coming to town the first
of November. Win or lose, please try to act responsibly.