WVU football: For No. 22 Mountaineers, Feigt makes huge jump’
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- A little more than three weeks ago, Curtis Feigt was playing right tackle for West Virginia's scout team.
In other words, he was doing in practice what that week's opponent would do during the game.
His job was to duel with Bruce Irvin and Will Clarke and to not push Quinton Spain or Pat Eger for playing time.
In truth, Feigt was just a redshirt sophomore who was trying to find his place. He was just a kid who came to the Mountaineers from Germany in 2009 and started off as a defensive lineman before the new coaching staff had him switch sides.
Yet when the Mountaineers prepared to play Cincinnati and the relentless attack of the defensive front, Feigt got bumped up from the scout team.
It was a "huge jump," according to offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh. The scout team takes its cues from placards and the players are told where to go before every play. There's no depth chart, either, and Feigt was getting 70 or more snaps every day.
Everything changed with the elevation. He wasn't a first-team player, even if rolled in every now and then, and the practice reps were cut in half. There was no time off, though, and Feigt had to pay close, close attention to learn everything quickly.
Bedenbaugh felt Feigt was proven physically and ready mentally.
"He was a guy that was progressing," he said. "You could watch him in 1-on-1 pass rush and see he was doing some good things. We felt like it was a good chance for him to come up and get started and get re-acclimated with what we're doing."
There was no specific plan for Feigt, no deadline to get him action. It would have been bold to expect him to do what he did Friday night, considering the limited time he'd been working with the real offense. Yet WVU's offensive line was at its lowest point against Pitt in the 104th Backyard Brawl and the scene screamed for change.
When Geno Smith was sacked on the final two plays of the first half, he stood and yelled at his offensive line and wouldn't walk off the field with them. He strode in between the hash marks while everyone else angled toward the tunnel that takes the team to the locker room.
It was a momentary glimpse at the fiery Smith's frustrations, one extinguished when receiver Stedman Bailey jogged up to Smith, offered a low five and then got them headed in the right direction.
"I was upset because we were losing and I thought definitely we should be winning," Smith said.
The Mountaineers had run the ball 10 times and managed to net minus-2 yards. Smith was sacked three times and chased a bunch of other times. The diagnosis was WVU had a big problem on the right side, so big that not even the 6-foot-5, 335-pound Spain could fix it himself.
WVU needed to replace Eger at right tackle and Tyler Rader at right guard. Spain is the top backup for both.
Bedenbaugh met with Coach Dana Holgorsen and then tapped Feigt on the shoulder at halftime to tell him he was the new tackle. Feigt wasn't completely surprised. He saw the first half and he understood how the Panthers played.
"I think it was a good time to put me in," he said. "They only blitz about 30 percent of the plays. Everything else is basic."
Still, Feigt hadn't played since some irrelevant snaps late against Norfolk State. He was about to go into a game WVU was losing, yet could not lose. He had the break in the locker room to compose himself. Pitt had the ball to start the second half, which let Feigt absorb the surroundings.
The Mountaineers took over on the right hash and called a zone play to the right.
"Going out there for my very first real play against a big team like that in my career, yeah, I was pretty nervous," Feigt said. "I just got out there and took my man and tried to push him out."
The first play went for 3 yards, the second for 16. At the end of a 60-yard drive, WVU (8-3, 4-2 Big East) ran for 44 yards with Shawne Alston getting the last 8 on a touchdown run. When the second half ended, the Mountaineers had won because they ran it 20 times for 115 yards, just about what they average for an entire game. A lot of their damage was done on the right side.
"They took the game on their shoulders and did a great job," Smith said.
And now Feigt, who favored football and judo over soccer in Germany, who moved to Pennsylvania's Mercersburg Academy before his junior year of high school and helped himself learn English by listening to rap, is a starter for the 22nd-ranked Mountaineers.
Feigt and Spain were with the first team in practice Sunday and Holgorsen said Monday both would start Thursday in the 8 p.m. ESPN game at South Florida. The Bulls (5-6, 1-5) are No. 2 in the nation in sacks and tackles for a loss.
"I liked their energy," Holgorsen said. "Eger and Rader are still going to play and still be a key to what we're doing, but those guys are a bit undersized and in hindsight, it's probably our fault over the course of 11 weeks repping six people.
"Guys are wearing down and not able to do the things we want them to do. Those two will start the game and we expect Rader and Eger to play periodically."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.