Justin K. Aller
The past two weeks, after big losses at the hands of Texas Tech and Kansas State have left West Virginia football fans wondering "what has happened to our team?"
The past two weeks, after big losses at the hands of Texas Tech and Kansas State have left West Virginia football fans wondering "what has happened to our team?" Fans have lamented that our vaunted offense has been figured out, our defense is non-existent, and our coaches are incompetent. In two short weeks, we have gone (in OUR minds) from being an unstoppable force in college football, to also-rans.
It is difficult to pinpoint what is going on with this team, although there is no shortage of finger-pointing. But as we approach a Saturday afternoon match-up with new conference mate TCU, I realized that I haven't been as excited for each WVU football game in a season since the old Big East was unceremoniously disbanded by the ACC. Remember those days? We played VT, Miami (when they actually played decent football), BC (see Miami comment), Syracuse (see Miami and BC), Temple (ahem), Rutgers, and that team from the North every year. Those games were exciting, not because we could destroy each team every week, but because the possibility of a loss was always there.
In 2001, the first season with a young, energetic, first time Division 1 head coach, WVU went 3-8 with a home loss to Temple. I'm going to repeat that for any younger fans who may not have been around then. WE LOST TO TEMPLE AT HOME. If it hadn't been for the 80-7 drubbing of Rutgers that year, the only real glimpse of what our future offenses under Rich Rodriguez could produce, many fans may have worn paper bags to games the next year. But, no matter how bad we played, there was always the hope of a big upset. There was always that next big team coming in, the next ranked opponent, the next test. It was exciting. It was excruciating. It was FUN.
When the ACC raided the old Big East, stealing VT, BC, and Miami away from an otherwise stable league, WVU emerged as the top dog. The savior of the league. THE team to beat. We won the Sugar Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, and the Orange Bowl as Big East representatives. We got used to winning. We got used to dominating. And we, as fans, got complacent. We EXPECTED it. After all, we've earned it right? We've suffered through the years of being in the laughing stock of the NCAA in the Big Least. We are going to finally prove that we belong with the big boys. The only problem: no one told the Big XII.
So, we are now 5-2, with a young, energetic, first time Division 1 head coach who went 10-3 in his first year. Oh, and did I mention that we're in the Big XII? The entire off-season fans, like myself, wondered if the defense would produce enough stops to allow our high-powered offense to shine. It was THE question mark coming into the new league. Now, we act shocked at the product on the field, as if we'd lost nothing from the previous year. Our defense is young, runs a new scheme, is coached by a new staff, and hasn't shown signs of improvement in any game so far this year. Yet, we act like the last two losses were unthinkable tragedies against humanity and everyone must go.
I can't speak for every West Virginia fan, but I too, have been beyond frustrated with our past two performances. But then I remember our competition. We've gone from playing UConn, Louisville, Rutgers, Syracuse, USF, Cincinnati, and Pitt, to TEXAS, OKLAHOMA, Kansas State, Texas Tech, TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and Kansas. I would rather take a trip to the woodshed with any of the above teams, than to go back to league the Big East had become. Plus, we have one of the best players on the field today:
For the rest of the season, whether we win by 1 or lose by 50, I'm going to try to keep things in perspective, and enjoy how far WVU football has come. I encourage you all to do the same, because it's always great to be a Mountaineer. Now we get to get up for games against bigger and better competition. So, let's put on our big boy/girl pants and get ready for TCU. It may not be easy, but it should ALWAYS be fun.
Let's Go Mountaineers!