I reverted back from memory of the years past of all of the epic highs and depressing lows that have become West Virginia bowl games in consecutive years.
I remember watching last year's Pinstripe Bowl as our boys were getting pounded both by the snow and the Orange. I remember only a year earlier we were setting records in the Orange Bowl and "Oh my, how the future looked bright!" Who could forget trying to stop the lethal receivers of Hakeem Nicks in the Car Care Bowl or Calvin Johnson in the Gator Bowl and regardless of how incredible each of their performances were, we as a team found a way to win.
Does it seem that long ago getting teary eyed for Owen Schmitt's post Fiesta Bowl speech or the 2 show downs we had with a Bowden coached Seminoles squad? I remember searching the internet boards like crazy to analyze the matchup between Georgia vs WVU and wondered if the so called SEC speed could stop the trio of Slaton, White, and Reynaud...nope. And I remember watching that game in Vegas and hugging my then roommate while screaming at the top of my lungs as Phil Brady safely crossed the first down marker on a gutsy fake punt call.
I also sadly remember in 2002's Continental Tire Bowl and 2004's Gator Bowl thinking West Virginia was one of the hottest teams entering those bowls games only to get blown out by Virginia and Maryland respectively. It's been one hell of a "bowl season" ride. Three BCS wins, a handful of New Years day games, close games, blowouts, snow, sun, domes, you name it...the Mountaineer faithful have been through it. And now for the first time in a long time, our bowl appearance in consecutive years is in deep jeopardy.
Not since the 2001 season when West Virginia went 3-8 have the Mountaineers not gone Bowling. It may not seem that impressive until you look at some of the schools that WV is beating out.
-Big time Programs like Notre Dame and Michigan have only been to 3 consecutive Bowl Appearances.
-Texas A&M: that school with the reigning Heisman trophy winner only has 4 consecutive Bowl Appearances.
-Nebraska and our backyard buddies out in Pittsburgh have only been to 5 in a row.
-The power house that Oregon has built is still only standing at 8.
-Even Alabama, yes Alabama have only gone to 9 in a row.
According to this site there are only 7 teams in the entire nation that have a longer bowl streak than us.
We've all heard it before. We've heard why the casual fan thinks the Beef O'Brady's bowl between 2 mid-pack teams is meaningless. We've heard the argument that it's not even that impressive to make a bowl any more with the rapid rate of new bowls being added. Or the point made that unless it's a New Year's Day bowl the stadium is half full, the teams have a combined total of close to 10 losses and the only reason you're watching is to see if you correctly picked this match-up in whatever Bowl Pickem' tournament you're in. And to whatever casual fan that may be watching that game, maybe it is meaningless...to them.
I've given a lot of descriptions for Mountaineer football games, but I've never used the term "meaningless", and certainly not for a WVU Bowl game. Making a bowl game is beneficial in so many ways. It's a chance to travel to an exciting new or relived destination to watch your team one last time. Meeting up with fans from your school and the opposing teams fan base in a neutral site to watch a game so many people in this country are so passionate about, it's an awesome experience. You get to wear your colors proud and chant "Let's Goo... " for one last game before the inevitable off-season. It's an opportunity to send your senior class off in style with a victory that will forever be another cherished memory during their years at WVU.
Eleven classes before this one have done enough to earn a bowl bid. Earn is the key word. Each class for the past 11 seasons have fought their way as a team to a winning record. Was it easier to get a bowl bid in the watered down Big East? Most likely. The Big 12 faces new challenges for West Virginia football, but that's why making a bowl game is that much more to celebrate.
This current team is struggling. They are struggling to find a rhythm and they are struggling to find ways to win games. If they can improve in the next 4 games and somehow make a bowl game I would be extremely proud of them considering where they stand at this date.
Let me go one step even further and say that it would bring me greater joy more this year at this point in the season than most if WVU could get to a bowl game, any bowl game. It would prove to me that they have not given up on our current coach, the system he is installing, and most importantly themselves. There is talent on this team; they just can't put it together. Another point that has been mentioned on this message board is the added weeks of practices this young squad would gain in experience moving into next season. We have a pretty big game to start the 2014 season. It would be nice if we don't get embarrassed on national TV to kickoff the season..but, I am getting ahead of myself. The most important game on this teams schedule is TCU. The most important game is TCU because that is who we play on Saturday. One play at a time, one possession at a time, and hopefully this team can build off of the minimal positives they have had this season.
Can this team pull it together, string off a few wins and continue this impressive streak? Sitting at 3-5 and facing the week-in, week-out schedule of the Big 12 the odds are definitely stacked against us. Being a Mountaineer that's familiar territory. I like our chances.