The Times West Virginian

November 10, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN- Everything comes undone for Mountaineers

By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — Somewhere the sun is shining.

Somewhere, Sunday morning arrived with a laugh and a smile.

Somewhere.

Not here.

This, you se,e is a football city, a place where the games people play spill out from the confines of the palaces built in which they play them.

And on a Saturday evening in the month of November, at a time when things finally seemed to be going West Virginia University’s way after a season of discontent, everything came undone.

Just when it seemed as if the Mountaineers, everyone’s heroes, had pulled off another stunner, just as they had a week earlier against TCU and a month earlier against Oklahoma State as three-touchdown underdogs, the Earth split open and swallowed them alive.

This was against Texas, one of college football’s legendary universities, home to Vince Young and Earl Campbell and so many others. It was a place where the Heisman Trophy and the national championship trophy has resided, unlike West Virginia.

Now Texas was trying to do it again, this time the hard way, losing two of its first three games this year before racing through the Big 12 schedule, trying to save its coach, Mack Brown’s, job, winning week after week after week.

But the Mountaineers led in a game that had turned from disaster to delight.

It was the fourth quarter.

All WVU needed was one more stop and the game was theirs, a bowl trip almost guaranteed, even Dana Holgorsen’s job virtually assured.

All they had to do was play some defense …

And that’s when the sun faded, the clouds gathered and the season could be felt slipping away.

Until then they had been if nothing else courageous.

The starting quarterback, Clint Trickett, had been torn limb from limb by Texas’ savage pass rush.

How bad was it? He had been sacked five times while able to get off only four passes.

“He got his bell rung,” Holgorsen said. “He was knocked out there for a bit. He was back on the sidelines a little bit later, so I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

If he is, he will be feeling better than most of the WVU faithful, who are not used to what’s transpired the last couple of seasons.

This is a football city, a city where Major Harris did his thing and Pat White did, too.

It has been a city where winning football is played, not .500 football.

Now WVU stands 4-6, 2-5 in that Big 12 Conference it was forced into joining, and that hurts, even worse when it wakes up on this same morning to find Marshall down south at 6-3.

It isn’t supposed to be that way, not today, not any day.

Since a 5-0 start last season that had people talking about national championships and wound up something less than a Pinstripe Bowl championship, WVU is 6-12. That’s one win every three games, and that’s absolutely unacceptable.

Losing is one thing, but losing the way WVU has is something else.

In this one the Mountaineers were down by that one touchdown in overtime.

They came out and ran a wonderful play, a reverse to the fleet Mario Alford that went for 20 yards.

Now it was first and goal with just 5 yards needed to tie the game and force a second overtime.

Five yards, 15 feet.

WVU gained one yard in four plays and it was over.

Sadly, softly over, done with an interception on a pass that had no chance.

The shame was there were people who deserved so much more.

Charles Sims had fought the good fight at running back, scoring three touchdowns, carrying 24 times for 93 yards, even laying the key block on Dreamius Smith’s 8-yard touchdown run.

Then there was Millard, who was courageous against the savage rush, and Alford, who not only had the 20-yard overtime run but a 72-yard touchdown reception in which he turned on the jets to run away from a Texas corner.

But there were too many others who couldn’t get it done, blocking for the quarterbacks, snapping them the ball.

In the end it was just another loss, something that has become far too common in this football city.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.