Most of us painfully remember (Ed: unfortunately, despite my best efforts to get black-out drunk and nearly arrested. - Country Roads) last year's game against UConn. Coming off a shocking homecoming loss to Syracuse the week before where Geno Smith had arguably his worst game of his career, WVU traveled to the Rent looking to re-assert itself as the top dog in the Big East despite the previous week's loss. After all, this team gave LSU all it wanted in Baton Rouge under the lights, right?
This one started off innocently enough with three possessions ending in punts. But then, after the second UConn punt, Brad Starks scored on the first play of the 4th possession with a 53 yard run. This play was the type of WVU offense that fans had come to expect against UConn. After all, the closest game in the series was in 2009 when UConn was still in mourning and played an inspired game at Mountaineer Field (some point to the lackluster WVU offense as well, and rightly so). The problem for WVU is that this touchdown would be the only one for them on the night. Seven fumbles (four lost) would tell the WVU story.
UConn played Edsall-ball the rest of the night on offense enough to get the game to overtime when the last WVU fumble---on first and goal from the one---proved the most costly as it allowed UConn to kick a short field goal on its ensuing possession to secure the win and ultimately knock WVU out of contention for a BCS bowl bid.
Dana Holgorsen wasn't around to experience that game but he's definitely using it as motivation for the WVU players this week:
"It's an important game, it's a conference game and our guys will be motivated due to the fact that we lost to them last year and didn't go to a BCS game because of it.'' - Charleston Gazette
But there is a silver lining to this story...and that silver lining is Holgorsen himself. The consecutive losses to Syracuse and UConn, showing increasingly frustrating offensive tendencies, was enough for Oliver Luck. Yes, the situation he originally planned for imploded, but if WVU had won either of those two games, the Mountaineers would have returned to a BCS bowl.
"I didn't believe we had an opportunity to win a national championship [with Bill Stewart as coach]," said Luck outside his office in the WVU Coliseum." - WVMetroNews
Based on that statement, a BCS bid would have likely only delayed action (if at all) but we could be stuck watching Mullen-ball again this season while Holgorsen may well have been orchestrating his offensive genius at Pitt. As it turned out, WVU did lose those games and as a direct result, Oliver Luck went out right away and got one of the brightest offensive minds in the game to lead our Mountaineers and the future (on the field, at least) looks as bright as a supernova.
Take Geno Smith's numbers from those two losses last year: 338 yards passing, 3 interceptions and only one touchdown. This was against effective, but nowhere close to elite, defenses. He had 463 yards passing, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions (1 of which likely wasn't his fault) in one game against possibly the best defense in the country. WVU's receivers are putting up 100 yard games at a record pace and the run game appears to be back on track as well. There is dramatic offensive improvement all over the field, including the offensive line. Take a look at this stat that Antonik just dug up:
Perhaps the biggest difference this year is the offense’s avoidance of negative yardage plays – something Holgorsen placed great emphasis on last spring. Last year, the Mountaineers ranked 94th in the country in tackles for losses allowed, giving up almost seven per game, and 71st in sacks allowed, permitting more than two per game. - MSNsportsNet
I'm not sure my eyes (and ears, listening to everybody bitch about it) could take another year of the lameassery that Mullen-ball produced. For that, I think we owe UConn (and Syracuse) a huge thank you for pushing Oliver Luck to act.
That said...let's go out and drop 50 on 'em.