The Times West Virginian

Sports

November 17, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: Questions aplenty for Mountaineers after Kansas loss

MORGANTOWN — Down in the stands in the closing moments of Kansas’ momentous victory over West Virginia University on Saturday, a Jayhawk student held aloft a sign that read simply:

“We Want Bama!”

One suspects, at that moment, there were quite a few people connected with West Virginia thinking “You can have them” for, you see, this dreadful group of WVU coaches and players opens next season in Atlanta with no less than Alabama.

Lord have mercy.

See, this was Kansas, not Alabama, beating up on West Virginia, 31-19.

Kansas!

Or should that be … Kansas?

The Jayhawks had lost their previous 27 Big 12 games, all the way back to a victory over Colorado on Nov. 6, 2010.

Do you know the last time they defeated a team presently in the Big 12?

Here’s a clue. It wasn’t this decade.

On Oct. 10, 2009 they beat Iowa State. That is 1,497 days since they beat a current member of the Big 12, and it ended against West Virginia, who wound up watching the Kansas students carting the goal posts out of stadium.

Talk about embarrassing moments! Talk about low points!

Watching this you got the idea why President Jim Clements sneaked out the back door to Clemson, which isn’t exactly jumping to the Ivy League, and why athletic director Oliver Luck tried to sneak out the same back door to Texas.

You might even have seen why, in the end, Luck didn’t get the job at Texas, the hire of Dana Holgorsen hardly being something you would want to feature on your resume as a manager at this point in time.

Now it’s true this happened to be a terribly beat-up football team that West Virginia took to Kansas.

It had lost its quarterback, Clint Trickett, a week ago to a concussion, but that isn’t quite like having Major Harris injured against Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl game for the 1988 national championship.

In truth, Paul Millard, who played this game, actually beat Trickett out to open the season and even redshirt freshman Ford Childress started a couple of games before Trickett was installed as the starting QB.

So you can’t be pointing fingers at the quarterback situation.

Where do you look?

True, this is a battered and bruised defense, one that had lost linebacker Jared Barber and K.J. Dillon for the season a week earlier and had nine players out for the season. A mid-game injury to star safety Darwin Cook did nothing to make defending Kansas any easier.

But everyone is banged up at this time of year, and, again, this was Kansas, a team that had lost those 27 consecutive league games and that had no problem beating West Virginia.

There can be no argument that WVU wasn’t ready to play this game.

Was it a reaction to the tough loss to Texas last week?

If it was, it was a lousy job of coaching. This team ought to be able get a team able to get a team ready to perform after a loss; they are doing it almost every week … winning just six of the last 20 games.

To Holgorsen’s credit, he has been brutally honest in defeat. He accepts the blame due him, admits that in the end the blame falls on him, because it does. It comes in the envelope every month with his paycheck.

But there is something that is getting really hard to swallow, and that is the dispersion that is cast endlessly on the success that came before him, talk as if the Big East was a minor league.

It wasn’t.

That he just doesn’t get.

“This is different than the Big East,” he said after this game. “The days of showing up and playing at a very marginal level, whether it’s effort, whether it’s execution, whether it’s coaching, whether it’s talent, I don’t care what it is, you can’t show up and be average and win.”

Well, let’s get this point across right now, Oklahoma and Texas are no better than were Miami and Virginia Tech. Syracuse and Pitt have national championships to their credit. Boston College had a little football history, including a guy named Flutie.

Yeah there was Temple and Rutgers and some down years, but I can remember over the years when some of these Big 12 teams were outclassed, too.

No, West Virginia’s best teams would have been competitive in the Big 12; some of them would have even taken down championships.

The reason this team has been getting slapped around hasn’t been the rise in competition.

Instead, it has been a decline in talent and, to be honest, in coaching.

The performance in this game against Kansas fit perfectly with the way this team performed not only this season with questionable talent, but through the second half of last season with talent that was good enough to be ranked in the nation’s Top 10 in mid-year.

Holgorsen made a statement that pretty much summed it all up. Noting that WVU beat Oklahoma State and almost beat Texas and Oklahoma, he said, “This team is good enough to beat anybody at the top. This team is not good enough to beat anybody at the bottom if you don’t play well.”

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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