These are the games they said we couldn't win. These are the games WE said we couldn't win. It had all the elements - sandwiched between huge games against top 10 foes. Going on the road into a notorious place to play against a scrappy squad that had nothing to lose. Taking on a suddenly-undervalued team that a week before was 5-1 and top 15.
The Mountaineers said screw it all. WVU swaggered into Stillwater, Oklahoma and manhandled the Oklahoma State Cowboys 34-10 to bump their record to 6-2 and become bowl eligible. Oh, they also set up a mammoth showdown against the TCU Horned Frogs next week in Morgantown that could possibly coax ESPN's College GameDay to town.
Things started out fast, with the Mountaineers scoring on their first two possessions - TD passes to Kevin White for 19 yards and Mario Alford for 79 and frankly we all got greedy. But armed with a 14 point lead and facing nasty hot weather that threatened to fell his fast-paced team, Dana Holgorsen decided to eschew his 90 plays in a game philosophy and instead take the air out of the ball.
With Rushel Shell on the shelf, Wendell Smallwood saw the most work of his college career, carrying 23 times for 132 yards (a hefty 5.7 YPC avarage) and Dreamius Smith provided a spark in spot duty, making the most of his 5 carries with 72 yards and a score. The Mountaineer offensive line consistently gave room to run as the Mountaineers rode a solid 9/18 third down efficiency to play field position and nurse a 20-10 lead into the fourth quarter.
The style points came late, though as Dravon Henry returned his second collegiate interception 52 yards for a touchdown and Dreamius danced on the Cowboy grave 40 yards for a late touchdown. The result was better than any of us could have reasonably hoped for in a game WVU entered as a 3 point dog.
Here's the deal - quality coaching jobs are often lost in games like this, low-scoring slogs that seem overly conservative. But much credit today has to be given to the Mountaineer staff on both sides of the ball. Exercising that level of restraint when you have a toy like Kevin White in your toolbox can't be easy, but the also-effective, if not sexy deployment of Wendell Smallwood was enough to get the job done. Plenty of fans (myself included) grumbled about the lack of vertical passing game, but they were right and we were wrong.
That was not the environment (literally) to make your team race. Passing is great, but it also introduces more variables and the name of the game Saturday afternoon was keep it simple and get the win. This Mountaineer crew did that and all of the sudden we're seeing the real rewards of running game Dana Holgorsen has spent 4 years in Morgantown trying to establish. It was magnificent in its own bludgeoning way and it was beautifully effective.
So now we have a huge game against TCU on deck. If the Mountaineers can win that game there will be things on the table that none of us could have ever dreamed would be on the table but for now let's enjoy this one. This was the game they said we couldn't win. This is the schedule they said we'd never survive. Well, here we are, still alive for a conference title 8 games in with a world of possibility in front.
It truly is a great day to be a Mountaineer, wherever you may be.