The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

November 25, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU victory showed this team’s resolve

MORGANTOWN — Quitting is easy, and because of that it is a coach’s worst nightmare when things go bad.

Certainly, things had gone bad for West Virginia University’s football team.

What started like a national championship season, with five huge victories that sent hopes soaring, had turned into an equally deflating five-game losing streak that tested not only the sanity of all involved but the inner strength.

As they rode into Iowa State on a frigid Friday with a northwest wind whipping through the stadium and their very bodies, West Virginia’s Mountaineers could have said the hell with it all, Kansas is next week, and mailed in the Iowa State game.

They didn’t.

Instead, they survived adversity and, just when it looked like they were about to give away another game, they found a way to win … a difficult way, Tavon Austin running 75 yards with a touch pass for a touchdown and Darwin Cook causing a goal-line fumble at a time when all year WVU was the team fumbling.

It was more than just a victory that made them bowl eligible and may send them to San Diego and the Holiday Bowl at a time when the New York sky is gray and the weather is cold and snowy for the Pinstripe Bowl.

It was a victory of mind over matter.

“Throughout it all we stuck together,” said Tavon Austin, who has emerged as the most dynamic performer in college football today, adding 272 all-purpose yards to his resume in the Iowa State victory. “There were some bumps and bruises and some little conversations, but at the end of the day it was win together and lose together. We got each other’s back, and hopefully we can keep on winning.”

Losing is hard to take. Losing the way the Mountaineers had been, giving up 94-yard passes in the closing minutes, dropping a game to Oklahoma by a point, that eats your heart out.

“I’m proud of the guys the way they just kept fighting,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We knew exactly what we were going to get into tonight. This is a team that was not going to beat themselves. The environment was going to be hostile; it was going to be cold, and it was going to be windy.”

Those are all things that work against giving spirit to a dispirited team.

“I can give you a thousand different excuses or reasons why we wouldn’t be able to play and come out of here with a victory, but the guys were determined to get the win, and I’m proud of them,” Holgorsen said.

They dug down inside themselves and discovered that there was something left, call it pride or whatever, but this team that had been so beaten down actually made plays when it had to make them, even when they

were in the process of beating themselves with self-inflicted wounds brought on by senseless penalties.

The defense, so vulnerable all year, came up with a stop when it had to, and when the final gun went off the scoreboard said that they not only had held a team under 40 points — something they had not done since Oct. 22 when they beat Maryland, 31-21, but to fewer than 30 points.

“We have been practicing so hard the last couple of weeks, everyone trying to get better in every aspect of the game,” said cornerback Pat Miller, who had come to symbolize the frustrations of the defense. “Things were not falling right for us, but the ball finally bounced our way, and everything worked out for us.”

Part of it was those hard practices, practices that took the players’ minds off the misfortune on the field and directed it all inward, toward the suffering they were putting forth to gain a victory, giving it more value than they could imagine a victory that made you 6-5 could have.

“The last three weeks have been tough,” said Holgorsen, whose teams lost two one-point games and one 21-point game when special teams gave away 17 points. “We could be sitting here with a lot better record than we have right now if it wasn’t just one play here, one play there, but there’s nothing we can do about it. We had to look forward, and our guys were determined to get the win.”

And when it ended, they found themselves huddling together in the warmth of the locker room that until this week had been Iowa State’s home locker room, celebrating a victory for the first time since Oct. 6.

“It feels so new to us because of the losses we had. There’s nothing like going into the locker room and celebrating with your teammates and people you put your life on the line for basically every day,” Miller said, perfectly explaining just what this team concept is.

And so it was that the victory saved what was left of the year, made it tolerable if not acceptable.

“It feels good to know we’re not the only senior class not to go to a bowl game,” Austin said. “It’s not what we wanted. We wanted to go to the BCS and win a national championship, but things happen.”

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter@bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Luck open to WVU fans’ suggestions

    West Virginia’s fans have spoken, perhaps not verbally but nonetheless have had their voices heard, over the past few years as attendance has fallen at the Mountaineers’ football and basketball games.

    April 22, 2014

  • Mountaineers ready for slate of rivalry games

    Looking to put together a late-season run to get into the NCAA championships, West Virginia faces a pair of midweek rivalry games in a crucial five-game week coming off winning two of three games at Oklahoma.

    April 22, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Summer, Alabama will be used to get WVU’s mind right

    The ink had barely dried on the final reports out of West Virginia’s spring practice when thoughts turned forward toward the lazy, hazy days of late summer, days that will bring us into football season with a game that can either change the entire image of WVU football or sour it even further.

    April 21, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Watson tees off a new century at The Greenbrier

    You knew this was going to be one of those unpredictable, memorable days when you drove into the Greenbrier Resort and headed to the Old White Golf Course and found the best parking place in the joint.
    As Bob Uecker would say, right there in the front rooooow.

    April 20, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules

    At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.

    April 18, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Jackie Robinson’s impact extends beyond baseball

    It is Jackie Robinson Day as I sit here writing this today, and I feel as though I am doing it in a world gone mad.
    Every player in Major League Baseball wore No. 42 on Tuesday in honor of Jackie Robinson, the man who took racism’s best shot and integrated the game that was known then as the National Pastime even though it was as white a Ku Klux Klan robe.

    April 16, 2014

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

    From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

    April 15, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads