The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

November 3, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN- Hoping for November to remember

MORGANTOWN — It was a morning tweet from a senior lineman, Jeff Braun, one that he had to have been saving for this very moment.

“They remember November, Bill Stewart” it read.

To the freshmen and sophomores on this West Virginia University football team that will face Texas Christian at 3 p.m. today at Milan Puskar Stadium in this battle between the Big 12’s two new teams, this quote won’t mean a lot, but to the older hands, the guys playing their final year, it will mean the world.

The year was 2010, and WVU was in a hole. The Mountaineers had just lost consecutive games to Syracuse and Connecticut and were coming unraveled, 5-3, when Stewart addressed his team, much as he had three years earlier with his classic “Leave No Doubt” locker room speech before upsetting Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.

The message was delivered as only Stewart could deliver a message, letting his team know that what had transpired to date was only the opening act; that the football season is played in November (and now spills into the first week of December), and that is what decides a team’s legacy.

Sure enough, that was all the team had to hear. The Mountaineers went out and beat Cincinnati, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Rutgers to salvage a 9-3 regular season and a 5-2 Big East season. That they lost a bowl game hardly mattered, for Stewart was right when he said, “They remember November.”

It is November 2012 now, and WVU’s season is teetering on the edge. The Mountaineers have dropped two straight games after a 5-0 start that brought it into the Top 5 in the nation, the two losses being embarrassingly one-sided, 49-14 to Texas Tech and 55-14 to Kansas State.

Two highly ranked teams, yes, but games that were so out of character for the Mountaineers as to seem to having been played by replacement players.

Now it is November again, a time when the season must be put together just as it seems it always is.

In 2009, Stewart’s team won three of four in November. That 2010 team swept three November games (and one in December), and last year’s team lost its first November game to put it in serious trouble, only to win the closing three games (the last one on Dec. 1) to get to the Orange Bowl.

Three Novembers (with two early December games) and a record of 10-2. Bad Novembers and, quite probably, they still would be in the Big East.

This will not be easy, for after TCU sits Oklahoma State on the road, Oklahoma, a trip to Ames to face Iowa State and Kansas.

A sweep really would be necessary to meet the expectations the early season built, but even four of five would salvage a decent enough year out of the Mountaineers’ first in the Big 12, a season where the league can take note that a new quality program has joined them and that it is one that can fight through the hard times as well as enjoy the good times.

It won’t be easy, but the team and the coaches know that it is the direction that must be taken.

It begins with this TCU affair.

“I think we’re headed in the right direction. We just hit a rough skid in the last couple of games,” quarterback Geno Smith said. “We have to remain humble and stay calm and continue to do the things that let us to win nine games in a row going back to last year.”

“We refocused,” Braun said, speaking of benefitting from an off-week before heading into November. “There might have been some panic the week before, but if we win out we’ll be 10-2 and that’s the best record since I’ve been here.”

Win out sounds nice, but no one connected with the Mountaineers want to hears about winning out, for you can’t win out if you don’t beat TCU, and no matter how it looks on the surface, that won’t be easy.

True, TCU has those three losses in its last four games, two of them in a row, and a freshman quarterback who began the season on the bench. True, the Horned Frogs are the youngest team in the conference and suffering from injuries.

But they come carrying an amazing legacy of success with them and with a desire to prove themselves worthy of inclusion in the Big 12. Just a couple of years back there was a Rose Bowl victory and a history of beating ranked teams, WVU being No. 21, and of winning on the road.

This, though, is not about TCU. It is about West Virginia itself. It is about a team that has to grab a season that is slipping away from it and bring it back to life, for that is what good football teams do, and no one doubts this is a good football team.

The only doubt is whether or not it has the heart to overcome its recent string of adversity to prove it.

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

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • 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

  • WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete

    The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
    Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.

    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

  • WVU signs guard; Adrian arrested for DUI

    There was something good and something bad for West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins this past weekend as Kansas junior college player Tarik Phillip committed to play for the Mountaineers but rising sophomore Nathan Adrian was charged with Under 21 DUI after he was stopped at 1:20 a.m. Sunday for an expired registration sticker.

    April 15, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN- Most plays good, some not so good in Gold-Blue scrimmage

    There appeared to be a fine mixture of plays, most good with some not so good, in last Saturday’s West Virginia University’s Gold-Blue football scrimmage.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Garrison still proving he can carry the ball

    The running back raves from the West Virginia coaching this spring have been directly mostly toward Wendell Smallwood, and rest assured he earned every one of them with his versatility, but it was a reborn running back who well may have taken the biggest jump up the depth chart.

    April 14, 2014

  • WVU baseball drops seventh straight game

    One’s athletic skills are tested on a daily basis but every so often other aspects of an athlete’s makeup are tested, often far more important aspects in the game of life.

    April 14, 2014

  • Gold-Blue Game answers few questions at quarterback

    Dana Holgorsen finds himself in a quarterback quandary.
    He’s looking to have one quarterback and has five of them as spring practice ends, and nothing about the spring session has done anything to straighten out the situation.

    April 13, 2014

  • Moore ‘back at home’ under center

    There are a couple of ways to look at what Logan Moore did this spring after being moved back to quarterback and given a chance to compete for what is a wide open job, as wide open at the end of the spring as it was coming in.
    The first is to say that he didn’t wow Dana Holgorsen to the point that he’s willing to say he’s the leader going into summer drills, but that would be shortsighted considering from where Moore came.

    April 13, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos