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Trying To Defy The Odds In New Orleans

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Say "84% wrong" to a West Virginia football fan and, chances are, they'll know exactly what you're talking about.

 

Three years ago, the Mountaineers experienced what the Bearcats are going through now as head coach Rich Rodriguez bolted for Michigan 19 days before WVU faced Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.

 

West Virginia's long-time radio broadcaster Tony Caridi - one of my old college buddies at Syracuse - admits that he wasn't very optimistic going into the game.

 

"It would be totally disingenuous if I said that walking into the stadium that night that I thought that West Virginia was going to have a chance to win the game," Caridi told me recently.   "Not only did they have to play a game without their head coach, but it was against an Oklahoma team that was being mentioned by pundits as perhaps the best team in the nation.    Rich Rodriguez and one assistant had already left, and you knew that several other coaches were literally going to be on the road to Michigan the next day.  It did not look like West Virginia would be able to win the game or even be competitive."

 

Football fans across the country agreed with the WVU announcer.

 

"There was an ESPN poll where fans voted on who would win the game and it looked like a presidential map with the red states and the blue states," Caridi recalled.  "84% of the nation picked Oklahoma to win the football game and the only state in the United States that picked West Virginia was West Virginia.  And that was obviously with their hearts and not their minds."

 

But West Virginia not only won, the Mountaineers dominated the Sooners in a 48-28 victory.  On the sideline near the end of the game, Mountaineers wide receiver Dorrell Jalloh held up a sign that said "84 percent wrong."

 

"When you first walk into the football facility at West Virginia, a photo of that sign is located to your immediate left and it is blown up to a huge size," Caridi said.  "That underscores defying all the odds when you're told that you can't do something.  I would think that would have to be the number one victory in school history.  It's the highest-ranked team that they have even beaten and then you have to consider the situation that they were put into.  And they not only beat them, they thumped them.  So I think that would probably be the number one victory - this is my 26th season, and without question, in my 26 years that's the biggest." 

 

ESPN.com is once again giving fans the opportunity to make their online bowl picks (you can vote on the Sugar Bowl here).  As of December 22nd, nearly 70,000 people had voted and 67% pick Florida to beat UC.

 

That comes as no surprise to Mardy Gilyard.

 

"Even at 12-0 we've got people asking us, 'Do you think you can compete with Florida?' Gilyard told me.  "Then when BK left, it was almost like pouring gas on the fire for us, because now there are people running around asking, 'Can they compete without Coach Kelly?'  People should know that Coach Kelly had a staff that had something to do with this too, and those are the guys who are working extremely hard to get us prepared for this game."    

 

The Bearcats goal is to hoist the Sugar Bowl trophy after the game.

 

Holding up a sign that says "67% wrong" would be nice too.

 

I'd love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

 

And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

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