What if I told you WVU would win the turnover battle 4-0, have a running back go for over 200 yards and Skyler Howard be responsible for 3 touchdowns? Then I asked you to guess the score. You'd say like 51-17 or something, right? I mean this one was weird because in so many ways it felt like WVU was dominating the action, but you kept looking up and the lead never grew past 10. Then you looked up with less than 3 minutes left and it looked like the Bears had the ball down 3 with the chance to take the lead. That wasn't the case, but the Bears did end up with the ball for real with just 50 seconds left.
It wasn't an easy win. But it was a win.
Let's get to it.
It's amazing how eager we were for the season to start, and bang, it's almost over.— MG's Bedlam Playbook (@RobertW_OkSt) December 3, 2016
Man this gets me every year. We spend all winter, spring and summer examining recruiting, talking about practice, studying every offseason move. All buildup to the season and then 13 short weeks fly by and it's all over. Before we even notice it. And for all you youngsters out there, believe me when I say every year it goes by faster.
Enjoy these seasons y'all. Especially the good ones.
And honestly, did anyone expect anything less? Skyler clearly had some mixed feelings leading up to his senior day and honestly the fans and how the program is or isn't perceived is the least of my worries. I just hope he enjoyed it, ya know? Kid worked his tail off and never gave a hint of trouble off the field. Team improved every year he was there and it culminated in a 10 win season. Be a shame if he was the only one not to savor it.
And that was pretty cool, right!?
But seriously, you've been awesome @SkylerDonHoward and every damn senior that built this program back to this point.— Smoking Musket (@SmokingMusket) December 3, 2016
But this day was about more than Skyler Howard. It was about a bunch of guys who showed up in the midst of an abysmal 2013 campaign or not long after. They showed up when people were wondering what WVU was doing in the Big 12 and when people were laughing at a program that had found a way to lose to both Kansas AND Iowa State in the same season.
They stared down Bama in 2014.
They surged down the stretch in 2015.
They were in playoff contention in November in 2016 and became just the 9th Mountaineer squad ever to hit double digit wins.
Not too shabby.
It was a pretty neat few minutes to be a Mountaineer fan, especially one with the good fortune to have split-screen capabilities on his TV. I sat for a few wonderful moments enjoying Mountaineer basketball and football simultaneously. Oh, and I was reading "The Little Blue Truck" (mostly by memory) as my 20 month old wouldn't take no for an answer. It was a pretty impressive demonstration of multi-tasking if I do say so myself.
But the Mountaineers got it done on the hardwood (ending UVA's 24 game win streak no less) and set the table for a great Saturday.
Extension? Check. #WVU hoops road win over No. 6 Virginia? Check. Baylor game? Soccer national title? Could be a good weekend in Morgantown.— Keenan Cummings (@rivalskeenan) December 3, 2016
(3 outta 4 ain't bad)
Skyler Howard will go down as having the most confusing career in Mountaineer history? #WVU— Sports Dude™ (@ImTheSportsDude) December 3, 2016
I spent the first half feeling bad for Skyler that he was having a pretty rough senior day. Then it dawned on me that his performance was about as perfect as it could be. On paper he threw for a pair of scores and ran for another. On paper he won his 7th league game and 10th game overall on the season. If someone hadn't watched the actual game and simply saw that set of facts, they'd think he'd had a pretty good day.
The game itself told a different story, however. I sent out a tweet in the second half along the lines of "Skyler Howard has thrown for two scores and run for another and we all think he's playing like crap." and instantly got half a dozen responses that basically said "that's because he is playing like crap." And they were right. He was often uncomfortable and consistently inaccurate. His first scoring throw had a lot more to do with an otherworldy effort by Daikiel Shorts to drag his toe on fourth down than anything Howard did. If anything he was an inch away from sailing the ball and coming up empty (again).
This game was the career of Skyler Howard writ small. Ugly at times and you wondered how in the world he was going to get it done while completing just 10 of 26 passes for 111 yards, but when you looked up at the end of the game 2 of those throws had gone for scores, he'd run for another and most importantly WVU had more points than the other team. And that's all that really matters.
Everybody gets so caught up in Baylor's offense and the number of plays that they run as the reasons their games take 4 and a half hours, and I guess that's part of it. But another often overlooked reason opposing fans dread seeing the Bears as a lead-in (knowing they won't see the first quarter of their game) is that Baylor has been the most undisciplined team in football for the last 4 years, being the most penalized team in the game 3 times and the second-most penalized team once. Behold the legacy of Briles.......
Details of Dana Holgorsen's new deal with WVU: 5-year contract worth 18.6 million. It tops out at $4.0 million in final year.— Pete Thamel (@SIPeteThamel) December 3, 2016
And we had some good news break during the game with word of Holgorsen's contract. It was great to get that distraction out of the way with the bowl layoff coming up but even better to lock down a coach who's showed the ability to both improve and evolve over the past 3 years.To get some perspective on just how far we've come, I went back and looked at my sixpack-fueled recap of WVU's loss to Kansas just over 3 years ago.
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.
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.......
.......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.
A) that's pretty good writing for being half drunk.
B) Man were we in the ditch.
The older I get the more appreciation I have for how difficult it is for people to evolve. It makes the re-build Holgorsen has done since 2012 all the more impressive. Fans are quick to chase the shiny object and the first time we lose 2 games in a row we'll all be ready for new blood, but I'm glad WVU has made a long-term investment in their coach. I think continuity has had no small part in the recent success and this makes that more likely. With a shot at 11 wins on deck and an exciting 2017 on the horizon, it's safe to say we've come a long way in 3 s
hort long years.
Pay the man.
Holgorsen gets to 10 wins and a new contract extension. I'm not ready for "elder-statesman" Holgorsen— Chris B. Brown (@smartfootball) December 4, 2016
He drinks his Redbull out of a coffee cup. He addresses referees as "sir" before cussing them over the horizon. Still goes for it on 4th and short even when maybe he shouldn't though.
He's Elder Statesman Holgs.
Would actually be the 6th 11-win team at WVU ('88, '93, '05, '06, '07). But yes. Still processing. https://t.co/ucoZkp6Nfj— Patrick Southern (@patricksouthern) December 4, 2016
Look everybody! Patrick's kinda almost happy!!
(in his defense this whole thing snuck up on me too. The idea that we're a game away from an 11 win season in the Big 12 is just.....wow.)
Oh, I think they have one more left in 'em. What about y'all??
Holgo addresses the haters. (and yes, that napkin absolutely says "Skylar" on it)
Without @D_shorts6 I have no clue where WVU would be this season. What a player.— Sean Mulligan (@sean_mulligan) December 4, 2016
Play-for-play I would call Shorts among the most valuable players on the offense this year - he was Skyler's security blanket. It felt like every catch extended a drive or ended one at the goal line. His 4th down grab on Saturday changed the entire complexion of the game. Instead of going into the locker room down 11, WVU cut it to 4 and had momentum and the ball coming out for the second half. He just did every single thing right this year and I don't know that this is even a 7 win team without him.
Through 9 big 12 conference games the DAWGS finished #1 in scoring defense #1 in total defense #1 in turnovers gained. So proud of them.— Tony Gibson (@TonyGibsonWVU) December 4, 2016
I have nothing to add to this besides we found our template and Mountaineer Football is back. I love that we have a unique identity within the conference - makes us that much harder to prepare for and deal with when we're different. The fact that it's an identity consistent with over thirty years of football tradition just serves to make it all sweeter.
Big 12 commish wants answer for Ohio St. in CFP https://t.co/uEGGDZ5hau— Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach) December 4, 2016
Oooooooo Bob Bowlsby's angry. And believe me, you wouldn't like him when he's angry....
(Bowlsby instantly metamorphizes into an ill-tempered English lit teacher wearing spectacles and turquoise ripped capri pants).
Honestly, how stupid is this guy? I mean was he REALLY buying the playoff committee's line about conference championships and the mythical "13th data point"? Because if that's the case, I've got a package deal for you Bob. You can have this ocean-front property in West Virginia, the Brooklyn Bridge AND a 50% cut of Art Briles' paycheck for next year. Now normally I'd charge somebody well into six digits for this amazing package, but for you $100 right now. Cash please.
I say again, how stupid is this guy? If he needed someone to explain to him why the playoff committee was more excited about the prospect of Ohio State than either TCU or Baylor two year ago, it makes me wonder what in the world he's doing at the helm of a major conference. It should make other people wonder, too. And he clearly did, because he took the committee's advice and immediately went out and created the first conference championship game for a conference that has every team play each other in a round robin format.
I can't begin to explain to you how galactically idiotic this is. A conference title game will be an unmitigated disaster. Just take this season. If we were playing under the rules on tap for next year, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma would currently be preparing to play each other again. This is monumentally unfair to the team that wins the first game, a team that could very likely be primed for a playoff spot only to be asked to beat the same opponent two weeks in a row. Why on earth would you give your conference champ the biggest roadblock imaginable on the way to the playoff? Or created a scenario where the committee (which quite clearly has demonstrated no qualms with considering teams that don't win their conference) is confronted with teams that have split a pair of games?
This whole thing is going to end horribly for the conference, so I hope everybody goes and buys something nice with that $3 million dollar check they all get for the game.
(And I am 100% convinced this manages to screw WVU out of a conference title at best and a playoff spot at worst next year. Call it blogger's intuition)
And as a parting shot I'll leave you all with the last touchdown a Mountaineer team scored against the Miami Hurricanes.
Let's enjoy 10 and settle in for 3 weeks of bowl prep to get to 11. Let's celebrate a coach and program headed in the right direction.