By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
Shaq Rowell was sitting down in the West Virginia University postgame interview area, but managing to be a standup guy at the same time, as he always is.
The nose tackle’s team had just lost another game, its fifth out of eight games this season, 35-12 to Kansas State. It left him, a senior, in the position to be counting down the games to the end of his collegiate career while most of his Mountaineer teammates were simply counting down the games to the end of the year.
Someone asked him where the team goes from here, “here” being 1-5 against FBS teams, having been outscored 219-118 in those games?
It was something he had already thought of.
“I talked to the seniors after the game,” he replied. “We still have four more games left. All you can do is go on to the next game. We got TCU next. We’ll watch the film, make our corrections and just keep playing.”
The TCU game is on the road, where WVU has not won this year, and where they enter a 14-point underdog against a TCU team averaging only 14.2 points a game in Big 12 play, the line being so high telling you that the nation’s bookmakers believe it will be difficult to get much WVU money to roll in on the game.
Can WVU win three games, with Texas still ahead along with TCU, Kansas and Iowa State?
“I want four more wins,” said Rowell. “That’s seven wins, and if we do that it’s a better bowl game than going to the Buffalo Wild Wings game, you know.
“But seriously, I do want to go to a bowl game. It means so much. You put so much work in. We got to go back, watch the film, regroup and figure out a way we can put something together for all four quarters.”
It’s guys like Rowell you feel sorry for as WVU tumbles from among college football’s elite.
Such players came to Morgantown with big dreams, wore the blue collar — not with a Nike swoosh on it, either — that always has been required dress for a West Virginia football player. Rowell worked his way up until he became a solid player on a defense that would spring leaks all around him.
But now it looks as if it may have been for naught, that the end may be sour.
People try to deflect the blame, and certainly there has been enough blame on this team to go around, but as noted, Rowell is a standup kind of guy, even while seated.
Someone said something about the coaching.
“It ain’t got nothing to do with the coaches at the end of the day,” he said. “It’s up to us. Coach (Dana) Holgorsen can only call the plays. He can only do so much. It’s up to us, the players. We have to execute the plays.
“We got to find a way to come out and play all four quarters. The last two weeks, in my opinion, we could have won both those games but we just didn’t play all four quarters. That’s what happens when you lose games.”
Again it was noted that the offense had faltered badly.
“It’s not that,” he said. “You can’t point fingers at the offense if we weren’t getting off the field. The first five games we were averaging 70 percent getting stops on third downs. The last five it’s about 25 or 30 percent.”
And that’s just the way it’s been the last two weeks as first Texas Tech and then Kansas State dominated the second half, K-State holding the football for more than 21 of the 30 minutes in the second half.
The offense couldn’t make a third-down play, the defense couldn’t stop one, the Wildcats being successful on their last seven third-down attempts after missing on their first in the second half.
The second half has been a disaster for WVU when facing its six FBS opponents, being outscored 86-51.
Even that is misleading, for 28 of those 51 points came against Baylor’s second and third teams after they fell behind 56-14 at the half. In four of the six games WVU did not score a second-half touchdown, which could indicate that halftime coaching adjustments have been deficient.
This really is nothing new. Last year Texas Tech outscored WVU 14-7 in the second half and K-State 24-7. In fact, since the season’s final game WVU was outscored in the second half, 145-125, but that is misleading, too, for WVU outscored lowly Kansas 24-3 in the second half.
Whatever the reason, it is killing WVU.
“We have to find a way to play for four full quarters,” Rowell said. “Two great quarters isn’t going to get it, especially against a well-coached team like Coach (Bill) Snyder’s.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.