“Last year we found ways to win. This year we’re finding ways to lose.”
— West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, summing up the difference between last year’s 10-victory season and this year’s 5-5 year.
MORGANTOWN — You might have noticed this past week that West Virginia’s Mountaineers suffered what might be considered a tough loss in some quarters.
You know, at home, against a legendary college football team, nationally ranked, at that, leading not once, but twice in the final five minutes, blowing each lead and then having one final Hail Mary pass fall to the earth as if it were an angel banished from heaven.
That’s a tough loss ... score 49 points and lose.
And it wasn’t the only one.
Two weeks earlier they led by 10 in the second half against TCU, then had Tavon Austin break a tie with 3:56 to play by running back a punt 76 yards for a touchdown, only to give up a 94-yard touchdown pass with 1:28 to tie the game, then miss a field goal and, in the second overtime, lose on a 25-yard pass on a trick play and a two-point conversion.
Another tough loss.
“How many losses like this do we have to go through?” Coach Dana Holgorsen rhetorically asked after the Oklahoma defeat.
Take those two losses and make them wins and see where WVU is going into the final two games of the regular season. Certainly they aren’t scratching just to get a winning season, their record at 7-3. They aren’t worried about a bowl bid, instead hoping to win two straight and maybe get into the BCS. They are probably ranked and enjoying today’s plane ride to Iowa for Friday’s 3:30 p.m. matchup with Iowa State.
Last year, rest assured, they would have won those games.
Last year they knew how to win close games, right from the start.
They survived a tough one at Maryland, building a 34-10 lead before clinching it with a late Tyler Bitancurt field goal, 37-31. Then their stretch run was filled with nail-biters, 24-21 on the road at Cincinnati, 21-20 at home against Pitt and 30-27 over South Florida, again on a Bitancurt field goal as time expired to clinch the Orange Bowl bid.
Win close games one year, lose them the next — why?
“The games typically come down to one or two plays and you don’t know which play it is going to be,” Dawson analyzed. “This year those plays are going against us. It’s just the way football is. The ball is bouncing in the wrong direction, just like at Oklahoma State. Karma is like that. When it starts going against you it really goes against you.”
“It’s just the ball bounces your way,” quarterback Geno Smith said. “This year we had some tough breaks. Last year we got those breaks in key situations. The difference in winning and losing is a small margin.
“No one is going to be able to go out there and dominate. That’s not football.”
“All of the games that we have lost, the guys are playing and working hard in order to try and get a win, but like you said, the ball hasn’t always bounced our way. It was pretty much the same last year in terms of effort, but we are not having the same type of luck,” said defensive lineman Jorge Wright.
They talk of bouncing balls. They talk of karma. They talk of luck.
But in reality, that’s all it is — talk.
You make your own luck. The bounce of the ball at Oklahoma State may have been bad luck, but it wouldn’t have been if Tavon Austin had gotten out of the way.
Karma ... or bad defense.
Give up a 94-yard pass in the last 1:30 of a game and karma has nothing to do with it, unless it’s the name of your cornerback.
In truth, it’s easier to take losses if you get pummeled. No one is talking about the Kansas State loss any longer. Tight losses, giveaways, stick with you.
“It is frustrating. The nail-biters, when you lose by one point or in overtime, are especially bad, because you go home and wonder if you could have done something differently on a play. You always beat yourself up more when you lose like that,” Wright said.
Holgorsen sees no lasting danger from these losses.
“I don’t see that,” Holgorsen said. “Yeah, there’s a worry to that, but we’re still playing for a lot. We’ve got 22 guys who’ve got 12 days left in their college career unless we win one or two and extend this to a bowl game. A bowl game is a reward. You get to a level where a bowl game is much more than a reward, but we’re not at that stage right now. We’re at the stage where we’re playing for the betterment of our program.”
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.
“Last year we found ways to win. This year we’re finding ways to lose.”
5 memorable college hoops tourney buzzer beaters
It's March, which means the NCAA Tournament is just around the corner. But before March Madness takes hold, the conference tournaments, which get under way this week, often provide their own share of exciting finishes. Here are five memorable buzzer beaters from conference tournament play.
Fairmont Senior bullies Ritchie County to claim regional title: PHOTOS
While remnants of a winter storm remained outside of the Woody Williams Armory, No. 1 Fairmont Senior was on fire inside, beating Ritchie County, 69-31, for the Region I title.
It was business as usual for Fairmont Senior, which will advance to the state tournament beginning next Wednesday in Charleston.
North Marion tops Webster, 76-48
North Marion rebounded from a sectional championship loss to beat Webster County, 76-48, on the road Thursday night to punch its ticket to the state tournament.
The Lady Huskies, which had four of their five starters in double figures, used a team effort to get the win.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Huggins just wants WVU to compete
In the end, with Bob Huggins, they count victories and losses, and he has always been one to pile up the victories while keeping the losses to a minimum, at least until the last two seasons at West Virginia University.
And, in the end, when he tries to analyze why the losses have come rather than the victories, he comes to understand that he just doesn’t have the manpower to compete.
Cold-shooting Lady Falcons fall to State
In its biggest game of the season to date Fairmont State suffered its worst performance.
Fifth-seeded FSU shot a season-low 29.5 percent from the field (18-of-61), including a dismal 8-of-33 showing (24.2 percent) in the second half and as a result fell, 71-59, to fourth-seeded West Virginia State in the quarterfinals of the first Mountain East Conference Women's Basketball Tournament here Thursday night at the Charleston Civic Center.
Falcons hope for tournament run
Since day one, making another post-season run has been at the top of Fairmont State coach Jerrod Calhoun’s mind.
Last season the Falcons went three-for-four in the WVIAC Tournament, falling to West Liberty in the tournament’s final game. The strong run, though, propelled the Falcons into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 4 seed.
Carey, Bussie headline Big 12 awards
To the victors go the spoils, and West Virginia University’s newly crowned Big 12 women’s basketball regular-season co-champions certainly took down their share of the conference’s post-season awards, headed by coach Mike Carey and senior center Asya Bussie.
FURFARI COLUMN: Women’s finale fitting as all-time Coliseum great
If you weren’t among the thrilled, extremely vocal 5,502 fans at the WVU Coliseum last Tuesday night, you missed one of the most memorable sports events in that 44-year-old arena’s history.
The No. 7 nationally ranked West Virginia University women’s basketball team’s capture of the Big 12 Conference regular-season co-championship beating Kansas 67-60 on Senior Night was followed by a wild, wonderful celebration.
Local product enters Mount St. Mary’s Hall of Fame
Fairmont Senior graduate Heather Wable DeWees has been inducted into Mount St. Mary’s University Athletics Hall of Fame.
During her time on Mount St. Mary’s women’s basketball team, she was described as a “winner.”
Elliott, Delligatti share state championship win with their fathers
As human beings, we love to share special moments with those we are closest to.
For Ryan Elliott and Vincent Delligatti, that moment was winning the state championship, something they were both able to accomplish with their father as a coach on their wrestling team.
- More Sports Headlines
- 5 memorable college hoops tourney buzzer beaters