MORGANTOWN - As has been the case of late, and especially this Homecoming week, much of the buzz in Touchdown City has been about conference realignment and not about the upcoming game.
Before Bowling Green and WVU took the field Saturday, the latest rumor was Louisville, Cincinnati, TCU and the Mountaineers might be headed to the Big 12. West Virginia officials have been extraordinarily quiet, perhaps signaling something is indeed in the wind. Also, one very high- ranking official was mum before the game, but smiled and said, "Hey, at least you can say we're on radar screens."
So apparently the Mountaineers are indeed. WVU president Jim Clements is headed to Washington today for a Big East meeting of his peers. We'll see what emerges from that.
And . . . oh, that Homecoming game?
West Virginia realigned Bowling Green like the school was a car at Meineke. The Mountaineers did exactly as expected, and they looked very good doing so.
WVU exposed the Falcons, who entered the game with a 3-1 record, but with victories over Idaho, Morgan State and Miami, Ohio.
The Mountaineers also surged back atop the Big East, at least in regard to national respect. They will undoubtedly pass South Florida, which had been unbeaten and ranked higher but got blown out by Pittsburgh 44-17, in the polls.
The Panthers are now 1-0 in Big East play, but 3-2 overall. If one fashioned a league power ranking at this point, it would be 1. WVU, 2. Pitt, 3. South Florida, 4. Cincinnati.
But back to that Homecoming game. (Again.) Before a paltry (yet understandable, considering the weather, opponent and post-LSU schedule slot) crowd of 46,603 at Milan Puskar Stadium, the Mountaineers quickly shoved aside any thoughts of the contest being a trap game.
Credit the WVU coaches. Not only were the players sharp, they stayed that way throughout the day. With 10:17 remaining in the fourth quarter, for instance, and holding a 48-10 lead, Bowling Green was threatening. But Julian Miller hit Falcon quarterback Matt Schilz and stripped the ball. Schilz picked it back up - before being clocked by Bruce Irvin, who forced another fumble. Mountaineer ball.
There were turnarounds, which also go back to being mentally acute. WVU had only one sack heading into the game, you still can't call the defense the "Sack Exchange." But there were a couple recorded Saturday.
There was the turnaround in turnovers. The Mountaineers fumbled the ball on the wet day, but retained possession. Entering the contest, WVU had three interceptions and no fumble recoveries. Opponents, meanwhile, had three picks and four fumble recoveries. Against Bowling Green, the Mountaineers had three picks and two fumble recoveries.
"Turnovers, the stat that matters most," said WVU coach Dana Holgorsen. "Everybody knows that. You have to create them."
It was a complete performance for West Virginia - with two exceptions. The kickoff return unit was hit for 258 yards. Punter Corey Smith continued to struggle, shanking another for 14 yards, his second of that distance in two games.
But if one considers the big picture, it was gallery worthy for the victors.
Offensively, Dustin Garrison not only burst through as the leader of the heretofore pack of freshmen running backs, he took it to the house. The freshman from Pearland, Texas, put on one of the most memorable performances ever for a Mountaineer tailback, regardless of class. He was threatening the 2004 record of Kay-Jay Harris and tied beloved state native Kerry Marbury with 291 yards on 32 carries.