The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

December 11, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN - WVU proves worth down the stretch

FAIRMONT — There are those who would argue against West Virginia’s participation in a BCS bowl, a game with the prestige that the Orange Bowl carries.

Their point is that within a few years the entire system is going to be made over, and now one doubts that to be true, in part because teams like WVU qualify automatically by winning a weak conference like the Big East while teams like Arkansas, Kansas State and Boise State are not included.

In some ways they have a point but perhaps a bit more credit ought to go West Virginia’s way for its unique ability to persevere. In fact, the very reasons that some use to argue against their inclusion can be used to argue for their inclusion.

True, they lost to Louisville and were anything but a dominant team, yet the fact that were able to bounce back from seeming elimination to win their final three games and to do so in heroic fashion is the kind of stuff that should turn them into America’s darlings.

Think of it this way, when they were upset by Louisville in a game they admittedly never should have lost they put themselves in a position where they had to win out over the final three games and, at that, get some help along the way.

“The last three weeks weren’t pretty. They were ugly. But the one thing you can say about those kids, they found a way to win,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “You can say a lot about them, but they fought, they battled through adversity, they battled through a lot of things.

“I think we were down in every game but Maryland and won nine games and had a chance to win them all.”

That is a sign of resiliency, of heart, of guts. It is the quality that wins football games, yes, but it is also the quality that wins in life.

It isn’t where you stand that matters until the finish line and it doesn’t matter how you got where you were, only that you didn’t give in the circumstances.

“A lot of that is we put ourselves in a hole,” quarterback Geno Smith explained. “I don’t know if we like to make things harder on ourselves or what. My hat goes off to every opponent we play. It’s their Super Bowl. They play us tough. We had opportunities to put teams away in numerous games which we haven’t done but we fought. We will get up and find a way to win.”

It is a trait that was instilled at the top, by a coach that didn’t panic, that would look neither back at the disasters of the season nor ahead at the future. He preached keeping an even keel and he practiced it.

In some ways it was terribly boring for the media and for the public, both of who demand instant reaction and gratification in their jobs and lives.

Certainly it is in stark opposition to the emotional responses you get from the coach of West Virginia’s other major sport, Bob Huggins, who takes each defeat as a personal affront, who openly admits he “despises” losing.

Holgorsen certainly doesn’t like it, either, but he approaches it more analytically, less emotionally, and urges his team to simply move on, to make sure the next game is better.

Lose to Louisville in a key game … and Holgorsen first goes analytical. When told his team had gained 533 yards and had 28 first downs, he replied:

“I really don't care about yards,” Holgorsen said. “We had the yard. We had good yards per game. Our third downs were right about 60 percent (8-for-14). We moved the ball and got in the red zone and had ourselves in position to be 6-for-6, but we couldn't convert on the two field goals, which is the difference in the game.”

And then he talked with his team. Linebacker Najee Goode remembers the conversation.

“Coming off that loss Holgorsen told us we have to stop playing up and down and being content when we win,” Goode recalled.

The team did not panic, it simply moved forward and won three straight.

“After those three wins at the end of the season it established us being a team that can pull out a win in tough situations,” Goode said.

And isn’t that really the kind of stamp you’d like to have on your team?

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • HERTZEL COLUMN: O’Toole joins long list of eccentric WVU kickers, punters

    The star of the Big 12’s annual football media day wasn’t a star at all.
    He intrigued the media far more than Bob Stoops, the coach of preseason favorite Oklahoma, and more than Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, the preseason player of the year.

    July 25, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Five major sports topics of interest to area fans

    Tom Hart, a widely known retired Morgantown High School administrator and coach, continues to excel as one of the nation’s top bowlers.
    However, he told me he faces knee-replacement surgery. So he’s going to find it necessary to give up bowling during a period of rehab. Hart has competed in an amazing total of 45 U.S. Bowling Congress tournaments during his outstanding career.

    July 25, 2014

  • LINDLEY COLUMN: Better police needed for college teams enticed to cheat

    Cheating has been part of college athletics probably for as long as people have bothered to keep score.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: O’Toole joins long list of eccentric WVU kickers, punters

    The star of the Big 12’s annual football media day wasn’t a star at all.

    July 24, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Five major sports topics of interest to area fans

    Tom Hart, a widely known retired Morgantown High School administrator and coach, continues to excel as one of the nation’s top bowlers.

    July 24, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.
    The Mountaineers are scheduled to play N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2018, and then play host to the Wolfpack on Sept. 14, 2019.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 24, 2014

  • ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 23, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.

    July 23, 2014

  • WVU, Tennessee finalize 2018 meeting

    West Virginia University and Tennessee have finalized their season-opening, Sept. 1, 2018, meeting in Charlotte, N.C., at Bank of America Stadium.
    Both teams will receive $2.5 million for the game and have a chance to earn up to $3.2 million with ticket incentives.
    Each team will buy 12,500 tickets and set aside 2,000 of its allotment for students.
    The game, played on the home field of the Carolina Panthers of the NFL, is being put on by the Charlotte Sports Federation.

    July 23, 2014

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