Fire Joe DeForest. Fire Dana Holgorsen. WVU won’t win another game. Scrap the move to the Big 12. Never been more discouraged, disappointed, disillusioned. The list goes on. The sheer volume of wailing heard from Mountaineer fans over the past two days borders not on extreme, but absurd. Never, in 15 years covering this program, in a quarter century of being a fan, have I ever witnessed such a complete and total collapse and willingness to pull a Roberto Duran on the part of the fan base.
This is a team and program that has won three BCS games in the last seven years, including one last season under the same head coach about which some are expressing not just doubt, but outright disownment. This, after a 10-3 mark and Big East and Orange Bowl titles last season and a 5-2 start this year that includes wins in the team’s first-ever Big 12 home and road games. West Virginia is 2-2 in the Big 12. It has won five of seven. It just beat among the most storied programs in college football history, and a then-top 10 ranked team, on the road in a significant game in front of a record crowd. It went unbeaten in nonconference play for the first time since 2007.
And because it laid two royal eggs, the season is over, the tally of 5-7 set in stone. Pack it in, Sally. It’s done, overwith, cooked. There wasn’t this level of animosity when teams were going 4-7 and losing to military academies and juggernauts like Temple. West Virginia has lost two games to top 25 foes, and that’s now suddenly it. The season’s a failure. Think about that. The season is a failure? Most WVU fans picked this team to go between 8-4 and 10-2. That’s still within range if the offense regains its stature. And it can. It had bumps last year and got into a groove to set bowl scoring and humiliation records. There are quite winnable games against TCU, Iowa State and Kansas. Texas, which West Virginia beat, defeated Oklahoma State.
Things are never as bad or as good as they seem. West Virginia was never going to win a national championship this season. And, likewise, it’s not going to lose every game the rest of the way. But that’s the mindset. It’s unreal, some of the complaints of this fan base. Wonder if the Big 12 regrets inviting WVU? Ridiculous, in notion, thought and consideration. Rejoin the Big East, it’s more our level. It’s the very definition of Appalachian fatalism come to life, and then taken to another level. Mountaineer fan simply court unhappiness, and if they can’t find it, they manufacture it. Uniforms. Gray helmets. Gray stadium walls. The incessant umbrage about mistaken identity with Virginia that borders on obsession. The lack of Chick-Fil-A in the stadium concourse. Seriously. All these are complaints. The schedule isn’t hard enough. Why don’t we play Ohio State, Notre Dame, Florida State and Penn State out of conference? Toss in Alabama for a fun 13th game.
And then, when WVU doesn’t reach double-digit wins with that slate, well, there will be the sort of rationale and bellyaching expressed that should be reserved for pre-teen catfights about wearing the same dress.
Holgorsen can’t run a program. Bill Stewart can’t run a program. Rich Rodriguez can’t run a program that wins big games. Don Nehlen could run a program, then he couldn’t. Scrap the odd stack. Bring back the odd stack. Jeff Casteel can’t coach. Bring back Jeff Casteel. I love the 3-4. I hate the 3-4. I love our coaching staff, they relate to young players. I hate our coaching staff, they don’t have enough of an old-school approach. We need more offense. We need more defense. Running up the middle is boring. Running up the middle wins games. Pass the ball more. We pass too much.
If Goldilocks was reincarnated as a modern-day Mountaineer fan, there’s be no just right, because there would be a psychological impasse to get to just right. She’d probably be taken away in a straitjacket, mumbling incoherently about how even the nice, perfect bed should have been thrown in the woodchipper and shredded like a femur in Fargo.
One astute observer noted that West Virginians showcase both extreme support and extreme disgust in irrational fashions because it mirrors ingrained state characteristics. “If West Virginia football is successful, it is rallied round,” he said. “It’s a feel-good story to be embrace. If it’s not, it’s just another thing to be overcome in a state full of them.” And, therefore, the bandwagon empties and fills faster than perhaps any other team. Mountaineer Field can literally go from more-than-sellout crowds to 1/3 empty in the course of a few weeks.
It’s been a bad fortnight. West Virginia, one might recall, started 5-0. It took a second long trip in as many weeks in the definition of a trap game – no matter what Holgorsen might say. Fans knew it, Vegas knew it and players played like it. It was a Texas-sized hangover. Then they got throttled by the Big 12 frontrunner and a top four team in the nation. And, suddenly, that’s enough to fold tent? Suddenly, the team won’t win again, the entire staff needs canned, and perhaps the program with it, while we’re making sweeping changes.
Let me offer this: There’s an off week coming. Time to take a proverbial breath, address some issues, get better and approach a winnable home game against TCU. We’re not changing horses in midstream. And, at least offensively, West Virginia has some thoroughbreds, and those horses didn’t suddenly forget how to run. Rest up, get healthy, make whatever changes can be made and get back in the saddle, physically and psychologically. This team has some glaring problems. It reads here it also still has some fight and some wins in it. Come along for the ride or don’t.
But don’t be the guy under the impression he is getting dragged along, when really he’s latched onto the halter, kicking and screaming and supplying dead weight.