Dropping the ball on a lively 2013
THAT'S A WRAP. 2013 is over, We're just taking a knee, flipping the ball to the referee and leaving the pitch in triumphant fashion.
The events of this year questioned everything you thought you knew, and tested your emotions. From this seat, there were few dull moments.
In no order whatsoever, my sample of favorite, shocking or strange moments of 2013, interspersed with a few big questions for 2014:
n Marshall was 4-3 and had just lost at Conference USA newcomer Middle Tennessee, and Thundering Herd fans start computing coach Doc Holliday's buyout. Another half-season later, the Herd finishes 10-4, kills East Carolina and roughs up Maryland in the fourth quarter, causing West Virginia fans to plot Holliday's return to Morgantown.
Hey, Florida Atlantic wanted the guy. First, he can recruit south Florida. Second, he is the last person on Earth to visit Key West's Fantasy Fest during an off-week. (That played a part in coach Carl Pelini's drug-related downfall.)
On Monday, athletic director Mike Hamrick brought up the idea of giving Holliday an extension. What a difference a few games makes, eh?
n Essray Taliaferro became Marshall's top running back, Gator Hoskins turned into a touchdown machine at tight end and Alex Bazzie morphed into a beast at defensive end.
I'm sure all of you recruitniks saw that coming, right?
A lot of us considered Taliaferro one of those "spring wonders," Hoskins waaaaay too small to be a tight end and Bazzie just another face in the linebacker-turned-end crowd.
Shoot, I can construct a case for Hoskins as the team MVP. He made red-zone offense look easy with his ability to get wide open in the end zone, but he also made two enormous fourth-quarter catches (vs. FAU and Maryland), both followed by overpowering running. One scored a touchdown, while the other put Marshall at the Terrapins' 8-yard line.
The moral of these two items: Instant analysis can be soooo overrated.
n WVU fans should be flinging their finest china across the room in disgust.
You go 7-0 against Team B in a now-ended series. The next season, your team takes on Team C and gets pasted, even blanked. Then your team on Team C in Team C's back yard and loses 37-0. Then a few months later, Team B goes into team C's back yard and gains 300 more total yards, four times more first downs and 31 more points than your Team A did.
I see why some fans want to find $11 mil to buy out Dana Holgorsen. Have a bake sale or two.
n I want all home-team radio announcers in the press box during MU road games. Between the failure to research Marshall and butchering "Frohnapfel," we had 60 minutes of comedy. Just so you know, analyst Rick "Doc" Walker said in separate moments that Herd and Cato "were better than advertised."
How exactly was Cato advertised, I ask?
I even want Florida International's broadcast team in that itty bitty press box, as long as that if that means the relocation of the public-address announcer. Sitting on a sofa (no kidding), our motley quartet following MU had to listen to this guy yell for four quarters, except when he "handed off" to some disc jockey on field level to yell when the visitors faced third down.
n Along those lines, FIU is a joke.
Conference USA took a chance on a number of "developing" FBS programs when it reloaded the membership. FAU and Middle Tennessee made up a later round of C-USA additions, and it's mindboggling in retrospect that FIU was picked over them.
The promise the Panthers' football program had back in 2011 has vanished, thanks to Pete Garcia's brilliant firing of Mario Cristobal. The Panthers' basketball program has no shot at the postseason (APR problems) because of Garcia's brilliant hiring of Isiah Thomas a few years back.
The new football stadium is a half-scale takeoff on Central Florida's erector-set "bounce house," only without any fans to provide the "bounce." I intentionally showed up 10 minutes before kickoff because, in part, I could get by with it.
Why did Conference USA invite that bunch?
n Marshall fans can watch the Herd's best player in person on Monday, Feb. 10 at WVU Coliseum. The problem is he is leading Iowa State to the promised land. (See story, Page 1B.)
(All ye who said Kane was out of position at point guard last season, raise your hand. No fibbing.)
That leads me to wonder: If Marshall suffers a 20-loss season and Herd fans have to watch Kane in the second weekend of the NCAA tournament, then what?
n I played Muirfield Village in May. If you know me and my lack of golf aptitude, you know that's a recipe for ugliness.
On the 15th hole, I didn't even count the strokes. After yanking the tee shot about 400 yards left and dunking three in the creek, I pretty much croqueted the ball down the fairway. On the 16th hole, I paid proper homage to Tiger Woods' 2012 chip-in by chunking one from the same spot.
I expected Jack Nicklaus himself to come out of nowhere in a golf cart and haul me off the grounds. He didn't, and I had a great time in spite of my ineptitude.
n The Greenbrier Classic has a lot of luck, much of it bad.
Pick your poisonous event. Phil Mickelson, later citing his inability to adjust to the 1,800-1,900-foot altitude. It didn't help that he hooked his tee shot into the creek on the 17th the first day, taking a triple bogey.
After missing his second straight cut, don't expect him back. The 43-year-old says he's planning to pare back his schedule in 2014, limiting his run-up to the British Open to the Scottish Open (week after the Classic).
The 40-something stars are cutting back their play. Steve Stricker, who played here in 2011, played only 13 times in 2013 and won more than $4.4 million.
Even more unlucky: Golf's next big thing, Jordan Speith, won his first tournament in the event after the Greenbrier, the John Deere Classic in the Quad Cities. He almost certainly plays there in 2014, so he would have to play three weeks in a row to come here.
Don't fret too much, though — that tournament will still attract a decent field. Writer Jason Sobel, who conned his employers at Golf Channel into putting him up in The Big House, witnessed perhaps the most relaxed atmosphere players can find on the grinding PGA Tour.
n And finally, with the death of the BCS, I am wondering how Conference USA will break those ties that can't be broken by head-to-head competition. As you may remember, the league used a modified version of the BCS formula, to which senior associate commissioner denied was a modification.
So the Herd was sent to Rice for the C-USA championship game, where the controversy over the game site was quickly redirected to angst over the Herd's performance. As it should have been.
My suggestion: Since there is no way on Earth C-USA should consider a neutral site, why not simply alternate between East and West champions for the host teams? Would be a lot simpler.
n And finally, a shout-out to the folks at Channel 13 for their continued airing of the Pittsburgh Steelers over the Cincinnati Bengals, when the situation arises. One of my finest weekly rituals of the fall is listening to Huntington radio personality Paul Swann wail about that on Monday.
With that, crawl into your bunker tonight to watch the ball drop, and have a happy 2014.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him