The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

January 1, 2013

Months ahead crucial for WVU football

NEW YORK — The year was 1986, Hall of Fame coach Don Nehlen’s seventh season leading the football program at West Virginia University.

WVU finished the year at Mountaineer Field with a 34-23 loss to Syracuse. The record that season was 4-7, the first losing season at WVU under Nehlen after five straight years with seven or more wins and three bowl victories in four trips.

In the wake of that loss to the Orange, Nehlen stressed that there must be a heavier price to pay to be a member of the WVU football team.

The following spring, Major Harris emerged as WVU’s quarterback. In 1988, West Virginia had the first undefeated, untied regular-season record in school history and played Notre Dame for the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl.

The 2012 Mountaineers, in the second season under coach Dana Holgorsen, didn’t have a losing record — finishing 7-6 after last Saturday’s 38-14 loss to Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. It was a campaign, though, that fell far, far below expectations in WVU’s first season in the Big 12.

Less than a year ago, WVU smashed Clemson in the Orange Bowl in warm south Florida, 70-33, to cap a 10-3 campaign highlighted by comeback victory after comeback victory.

“I can’t imagine it being any brighter than it is right now,” Holgorsen said at the time. “The future is pretty bright for West Virginia.”

Now, after six losses in eight games after a 5-0 start, WVU has endured its poorest season since the Mountaineers went 3-8 in 2001, Rich Rodriguez’s first as coach at the school before he got the program rolling.

In the cold and snow against Syracuse in the 2012 finale, the Mountaineers simply couldn’t respond offensively or defensively as the Orange turned the game into a rout in the third quarter.

It’s rather pointless to compare eras of football, but the lessons of history are clear. High expectations can be absolutely meaningless, as the 2012 campaign proved, and programs can get going again rather quickly following disappointments.

The latter is the challenge Holgorsen, his staff and players — current and future — are now facing.

The coach, of course, will be doing plenty of evaluation, and not just because of the loss to Syracuse.

“A lot of stuff that we did tonight didn’t work,” Holgorsen said moments after the game. “Why is that? Probably a lot of different variables. I’m not going to sit here and pinpoint one person or one thing, (say) all of a sudden our scheme is not very good or any of that. We just did a poor job of executing, which is overcoming adversity, which is a good defense. Syracuse has got a great defense. They do a good job.

“Basically, they guard the perimeter. They were motivated to play. Bottom line is, our team didn’t overcome a lot of things and didn’t do enough to keep us in the game.”

After a few days off, WVU’s coaches will initially focus on recruiting, “which is going to eat up 90 percent of our time, 95 percent of our time over the next month,” Holgorsen said.

“Then we’ll have some time to sit back and start working on 2013.”

These coming months, make no mistake, will be crucial. It’s essential, for the health of not only WVU’s football program but the entire athletic department, that the struggles of 2012 be a blip in the history of WVU football and not the start of a downward trend.

Email Cliff Nichols at cnichols@timeswv.com.

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • ‘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

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 23, 2014

  • Fleming, Billy.jpg WVU’s Fleming signs contract with Yankees

     Second baseman Billy Fleming of the West Virginia University baseball team has signed a professional contract with the New York Yankees, foregoing his upcoming senior season.
    “Ever since I was a little kid, it’s been my dream to play professional baseball,” Fleming said. “It is still surreal that I get to chase my dream, but I am ready to get after it. I loved my three years at WVU and want to thank all the coaches that made it possible for me to achieve my dream.”

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Big 12 Media Days Foo_time(1).jpg Trickett’s play key factor for Mountaineers’ success

     In the end, it comes down to the quarterback.
    Always has with Dana Holgorsen, always will.
    Quarterback is the offense with the West Virginia University coach. When he does well, the team wins – almost always.
    When he does poorly, the team doesn’t stand much of a chance.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Growing demands on college athletes concerns Wyant

    Fred Wyant, one of the greatest quarterbacks in West Virginia University’s history, has lashed out at today’s growing demands on college athletes.
    The 80-year-old Star City resident led the Mountaineers to a 30-4 record as the starter from 1952-1955. Percentage-wise, it’s clearly the best-ever record by a QB in school annals.
    Wyant, a member of the WVU Sports Hall of Fame, came here after graduating with honors from Weston High School. That’s where WVU coach Art “Pappy” Lewis signed him to a four-year scholarship.

    July 23, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 22, 2014

  • Growing demands on college athletes concerns Wyant

    Fred Wyant, one of the greatest quarterbacks in West Virginia University’s history, has lashed out at today’s growing demands on college athletes.

    July 22, 2014

  • WVU’s Fleming signs with Yankees

    Second baseman Billy Fleming of the West Virginia University baseball team has signed a professional contract with the New York Yankees, foregoing his upcoming senior season.

    July 22, 2014

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