Kansas 31, West Virginia 19.
So this is rock bottom.
We've thought we'd been here before, giving up yards in record fashion and points faster than a scoreboard could count and suffering blowouts that forced us to look way back in our WVU history books for comparisons and records. We thought that was rock bottom, because we really didn't know what rock bottom was. We'd been spoiled by a generally winning program for awhile now and BCS games and national adulation and we thought rock bottom meant giving up 73 to Baylor.
We'd never been to Kansas.
Let it first be said this had nothing to do with heart or motivation or any of the trite garbage tossed out because people either don't know enough or don't care enough to delve into the true reasons for defeat. Every game isn't a night game and every game doesn't require your very best and sometimes a competent football team led by adults who are paid handsomely for the task simply needs to stride into a half-empty stadium surrounded by a running track and get a win.
West Virginia lost to Kansas because it was unable to execute in the simplest of situations. Unable to run the ball against the 92nd ranked rushing defense in America (192.6 yards) with a running back in Charles Sims who two weeks ago became the first ever to crack the 150 yard mark against a Gary Patterson defense at TCU. Unable defend the run against a team ranked 91st nationally in rushing offense (141.9 ypg). Unable to score more than 7 meaningful points against the Kansas Jayhawks only a week after scoring 40 points against the Texas Longhorns.
Unable to beat a team that hadn't won a Big 12 game since November 6, 2010 - a streak of 27 games. A team that had lost 34 of last 35 league games. A team that hadn't scored more than 20 points against an FBS team in 364 days. A team who was described earlier this year by their own head coach Charlie Weis as "a pile of crap."
At a time when the Mountaineers simply needed to do what 27 teams before them had done with ease to maintain the possibility of a bowl game and the extra month of practice that comes with it, they failed miserably. They were unprepared and unwilling and it's difficult to look at a team unable to rise to the most mundane of occasions and feel good about the future.
The performance of head coach Dana Holgorsen will certainly be a topic of debate and no summary of this dumpster fire would be complete without an evaluation. For me the key decision of the game was Holgorsen's decision to punt on 4th and inches from his own 38 with little more than a minute left in the first half. The resulting punt gave KU the ball at their own 33 but more importantly set the stage for James Sims' 68 yard touchdown run to end the half. It demonstrated a total lack of confidence in his team's ability to gain a few inches against one of the worst defenses in the FBS and the results it set in motion for the first time cracked the door on the unthinkable happening to WVU.
That decision aside, the playcalling in the second half was often baffling. I personally don't like to question playcalling a lot. To me it's a complex thing and decisions are made with tons of information that I don't have access to by people who do it for a living. Having said that it's difficult to see the logic in the second-half where WVU repeatedly threw long passes into the swirling Kansas wind as opposed to moving the ball on the ground behind a burgeoning rushing attack that had found greater and greater success as the season wore on. Or at least taking shorter shots down the field that didn't expose the limitations of quarterback Paul Millard's arm and WVU's suspect receivers over and over and over again.
A steady drumbeat asking for change will now become a dull roar calling for heads. The pricetag for said change (an $11 million buyout) is almost certainly cost prohibitive, but that won't make the talk subside. An offseason that should be focused on getting better will instead be focused on how bad it got. A Mountaineer team that had shown such signs of improvement will instead be deprived of a bowl experience (and extra month of practice) that it desperately needed.
It's going to be hard heading into 2014, and so much harder than it needed to be. But such is the way of life at the bottom - it's so much harder to climb out than to fall in.