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A Sixer Of Thoughts About The Mountaineers

On the road and stuck in a hotel with no bar within stumbling distance, the World Series game is pretty awful (unless you are a Red Sox fan)...and WVU football is on my mind. Why not ramble on for a sixer?


1. When was the last time we were so often an underdog?  A lot of this has to do with the shift to a big-boy conference that requires big-boy pants, but as a 10.5 point dog this week at Kansas State, it marks the fifth time in seven games we have been an underdog. That is a nicer way of saying that the only teams WVU has had favoritism status against have been William and Mary and Georgia State.  More worrisome:  this is the third time the Mountaineers have been a double-digit underdog. Any of you who have read my stuff here know that I trust Vegas more than I trust anyone when it comes to evaluating a team. Perhaps the scariest prospect to me is that WVU is just 2-5 against the spread (although Baylor was just a half-point loss versus the closing line). But lines like these were formerly the province of teams like Baylor...

2. But those days are gone. Baylor is really, really good guys and gals. That loss is looking better to me in the rear-view if only because we didn't lay down, and put up those 42. I mean, did any of you watch Iowa State get blistered by the Bears? It was like our game, 'cept different, meaning a whole lot worse. The Cyclones didn't score until a couple of minutes were left in the game. Also, the Bears scored twice in the last four minutes, with one of those scores coming on fourth down. Chris Brown, of Smart Football, who was nice enough to answer a few questions about our offensive woes a couple of weeks back, did a a thorough breakdown of Baylor's offense over at Grantland that examines just what makes it so potent. In it Briles is quoted as saying: "We do not try to go to the body to set up the knockout shot. We try to score on every snap." Yeah. No shit. Brown's article had me wondering if Ollie ever had Art Briles on his radar when he was looking for the coach that would replace Bill Stewart, but then....

3. I am not off the Holgorsen band-wagon just yet. I know we have a large contingent of fans that are already calling for his head, but that might be because we have suffered some truly gut-wrenching losses -- you know, the type where it just feels like some behemoth has his foot on your throat from about the second series -- under Holgorsen. Texas Tech, Kansas State, Syracuse last year. Maryland and Baylor this year. Seriously, four of those losses are among the worst I have ever watched in 33 years of being a fan, and all under a young coach who may still be learning what it means to sit in the big chair. I say now what I said for Stewart. It isn't fair to judge a coach's results without the benefit of a real recruiting cycle, and that is five years, By-Godders. Some of you may go in for the belief that irreparable damage may be done in that time, but I don't agree. As our Smithfire13 stated beautifully, college football is a game about coffers, and as long as you have the facilities and the desire to pay well, you have a job that is coveted. When the debate was about Stewart, one of our more negative commenters posited that the simplest and best way to gauge your coach is by how much he would be coveted on the open market. I agreed then, and I agree now. I still think we have someone in Holgorsen that other schools would want. It has been said time and again here this season, but the team is young, and we aren't struggling to stay perfect in the Amateur Athletic Union Conference anymore.

4. Question: related to the fact that we have so often been underdogs, and this may seem counter to what I wrote in point 1, but have we really lost to anyone we shouldn't have? Okay, maybe Maryland, but I am not talking about assessing the games as they actually happened from a position of hindsight (On that score, I feel Oklahoma and Texas Tech could both have gone our way). But Vegas having us as underdogs in all five games against 1-A foes means that absent the memory of how those contests transpired, we are actually battling through a season on which the team could already have quit. We would have a different view of where we are if we were coming from a place where we were, say, 2-10, last season. Consider that three of our losses were to teams now residing in the top 15 of the first BCS poll. The fact is we have become accustomed to being a program that expects to win most games, not one that merely hopes to be competitive. But easier contests lie ahead. Iowa State and Kansas should be wins (if things haven't really soured and we have indeed quit by then), TCU and Texas are toss-ups, and, hence...

5. Kansas State may be a linchpin game. The Wildcats are not the team that humiliated us at home last season (Thank the Lord). Arguably, they lost as much from last year's squad as we did. In fact...statistically, they align with the Mountaineers evenly, and by yards-per-play and yards-per-point, my favorite gambling metrics, they don't appear deserving of a double-digit line. Should WVU be able to eke out a win in Manhattan, the season suddenly looks like one of positive progression for the Mountaineers. A loss puts us two games under .500 and the season becomes a question of character, and do we have it, in earnest.

6. I love passion. I love sports. But it is just a game. @SheaInIrving's rant on the Dan Patrick Show after a Cowboys loss a couple of weeks ago kind of put it in perspective for me. Shea is generally hilarious, but this call took a dark turn that had Dan and the Danettes sitting in silence, struggling to process the raw rage they were encountering. Shea, voice raised, for him, anyway, said:  "Change the poll question! I had to work this weekend. Schaub is still a millionaire, Romo is married to a beautiful blonde woman, I had to work this weekend, and all I got was a loss!" This was the Monday after Baylor went all Bo Jackson from the original Tecmo Bowl on us. It was comforting, somehow, to me, to hear Shea's fervor and know that these games have taken on an almost-religious level of importance for a lot of fans, in every fan base out there. Ours is not original in that regard...but to Shea, and to the depressed in our base, I would say this:  you didn't coach, you didn't play. The outcome of these contests isn't on you, so don't be too depressed about it, and certainly don't get kicked out of your apartment by a pissed-off girlfriend who thinks you are batshit crazy for following a game of territoriality anyway. Not that I have ever been in that situation....  Um, anyway, long live beer...and great bluegrass covers of pop songs.