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West Virginia Against Ranked Teams

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West Virginia is in the midst of a losing streak against ranked team.

West Virginia v TCU Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Losing sucks donkey and every time a team loses, fans look for a reason. When teams endure a losing streak, they look at the head coach. West Virginia is currently in the midst of a 9-game losing streak to ranked teams. That leaves many fans grumbling about Dana Holgorsen. Well as a WVU fan, you should know you’re history. Dana isn’t the only coach to struggle with ranked teams.

WVU Head Coaches vs Ranked Teams

Coach Years Record Record vs T25 Biggest Win
Coach Years Record Record vs T25 Biggest Win
Don Nehlen 1980 - 2000 149-93-4 14-38-2 #4 Miami, #4 Boston College
Rich Rodriguez 2001-2007 60-26 12-14* #3 Virginia Tech
Bill Stewart 2008-2010 28-12 2-2* #3 Oklahoma
Dana Holgorsen 2011-Present 49-33 6-17 #4 Baylor

I’ve included an asterisk for Rich Rod and Bill Stewart because Rodriguez left before the 2007 game against Oklahoma. Bill Stewart, in my opinion, deserves full credit for that win, so the win goes in his column. That win makes Stewart the only coach with a non-losing record against ranked teams in the past 37 years for WVU. If you choose to give it to Rodriguez, all WVU coaches would have a losing record.

Streaks Against Ranked Teams

On September 21, 1985, Don Nehlen’s Mountaineers lost to the Maryland Terrapins 28-0 in Byrd Stadium. That loss kick started a streak of eight straight losses to ranked teams.

That 28-0 loss was followed by a 27-0 drubbing at the hands of #3 Penn State. In 1986, the Mountaineers finally scored against a ranked team as they lost to #1 Miami 58-14. Nehlen’s squad were shut-out again by the Nittany Lions 19-0 as they fell to 0-4 against ranked teams.

1987 was particularly unkind to West Virginia as they lost four more games to ranked teams. #5 Ohio State pushed the streak to 5 games as they suffocated the Mountaineers 24-3. Then the tide began to turn. The team would go on to lose 3 more games to ranked teams: #18 Penn State by 4 points, #6 Syracuse by 1 point and #11 Oklahoma State by 2.

That streak was broken in a big way as the Mountaineers demolished the Pitt Panthers 31-10 in the Backyard Brawl.

Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, 1988 would start another long streak against ranked teams. In the final game of the 1988 season the team lost to #1 Notre Dame in the only time the Mountaineers have played for a national title. They would tie in the Backyard Brawl 31-31 before losing to #16 Penn State (19-9) and #14 Clemson (27-7).

The miserable 1990 season only saw one loss to a ranked team, the #24 Penn State 31-19 as the streak was pushed to four games. #8 Penn State extended to the streak to 5 games in 1991 with a 51-6 drubbing in Beaver Stadium before #2 Miami (27-3) and #16 Syracuse (16-10) made it seven straight games.

The Mountaineers almost broke the streak against #22 Boston College as they tied 24-24 before losing to #14 Syracuse (20-17), #14 Penn State (40-26) and #1 Miami (35-23) in the only time in school history that the Mountaineers played four straight ranked foes. The streak had now reached double digits at 0-10-2.

Nehlen broke the streak in 1993 with a 36-34 win over #17 Louisville. Nehlen ended his career with six straight losses to ranked foes which Rich Rodriguez promptly extended to 11 games as he started his WVU head coaching career.

Rodriguez lost to #25 Maryland and #6 Virginia in back to back weeks, along with a loss at #1 Miami and #14 Syracuse in his freshman coaching season at WVU. The 2002 season started out the same with a 34-17 manhandling at #21 Wisconsin. WVU concluded the streak with a 40-23 loss against #1 Miami before finally breaking the streak against #12 Virginia Tech.

Dana Holgorsen’s Current Streak

The Mountaineers are now in the middle of one more long losing streak to ranked teams. After beating #4 Baylor on October 18, 2014 the Mountaineers have now lost 9 straight games.

2014 - #10 TCU Horned Frogs (31-30)

The Clint Trickett gets his head ripped off but no foul game.

One defensive breakdown at the end of the game cost West Virginia a chance to upset another top 10 team in Morgantown. The Mountaineers gave TCU all they could handle. They befuddled Treyvone Boykin as he completed only 12 of 30 passes for 166 yards. One of those 12 was a 40-yard pass to Kolby Listabee which put the Frogs in field goal range with the end of the game nearing.

2014 - #12 Kansas State Wildcats (26-20)

Bill Snyder had a hex on Dana Holgorsen for the longest time. The Wildcats built a 17-3 lead at halftime and it looked like the Mountaineers were going to be lifeless again against the Wildcats. Quarterback Clint Trickett was injured for the last time in this game and in came Skyler Howard. Howard jump-started the offense, leading WVU to 17 points in the second half but the first half deficit was too much to overcome.

2015 - #15 Oklahoma (44-24)

Karl Joseph’s last game as a Mountaineer. This game started a real trend for quarterback Skyler Howard. Howard threw three interceptions and lost a fumble as the Mountaineers began to figure out the Sooners. Oklahoma held a 24-7 lead at halftime but the defense adjusted and West Virginia closed the gap to 27-24. Following a Karl Joseph interception of Baker Mayfield, Howard fumbled, which was returned for an OU touchdown, then threw consecutive interceptions.

2015 - #21 Oklahoma State (33-26 OT)

Another ranked foe, another large deficit at halftime. This time, West Virginia went into the half down 17-2 before once again fighting their way back to tie the game before regulation ended. In overtime, JW Walsh’s two-yard run proved to be the difference maker.

2015 - #2 Baylor (62-38)

Pre-Art Briles sex scandal Baylor was scary. They spread the field as far as possible and threw the ball as deep as possible. Once you began backing off the line of scrimmage to defend the pass, Baylor just pounded away at the run. The Mountaineers, fresh off the devastating loss to OSU, were unable to keep up. West Virginia was actually in the game at halftime, down only 27-17. Baylor used a 21-7 run in the third quarter to put the game out of reach.

2015 - #5 TCU (40-10)

The Treyvone Boykin high five game was peak Boykin at the end of four-straight ranked teams with three of them coming on the road. It was too much for West Virginia and really too much for any team. West Virginia was down 23-10 at halftime and just had no answer for Boykin as he ran over and around the Mountaineers.

2016 - #9 Oklahoma (56-28)

Oklahoma has been the one team who relishes playing the Mountaineers. The margin of victory continues to get larger and larger for the Sooners and last year was no different. Gary Jennings fumbled the opening punt, putting the Sooners in position for the first score. Justin Crawford fumbled, preventing West Virginia from scoring and setting up another Sooner touchdown. Howard and center Tyler Orlosky fumbled the snap and the Sooners against capitalized. Once again the Mountaineers blew their appendages off against a ranked team.

2017 - #21 Virginia Tech (31-24)

2017 didn’t do much to change the luck of the Mountaineers. They avoided too many costly mistakes but again failed to produce in the first half. As a result, they were forced to trade blow for blow. Cramping and inexperience between Will Grier and his receivers cost the Mountaineers a chance to beat a rival and a ranked team.

2017 - #8 TCU (31-24)

One more frustrating loss. Just like Virginia Tech, the Mountaineers failed to produce on offense in the first half. This time the Mountaineers shoved a TCU defender into a punt returner causing him to muff the punt giving TCU great field position. A receiver is blocked into and gives up on a route resulting in an interception. As WVU is driving with the game on the line, the referees called a questionable offensive pass interference on David Sills, killing any chance the team had at a comeback.