MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — What to make of this shape-shifting West Virginia football team? Puny prey one week, fiercesome predators the next.
Jared Barber sounded almost laughable on Tuesday when the WVU linebacker said, “We can still win the Big 12.” Then, against all odds (not to mention odds-makers), the Mountaineers took down the team picked to win the Big 12.
Last week’s 37-0 loss at Maryland made for a seething fan base, one that equated zero points in Baltimore to zero chance of WVU reaching a bowl game. Then came Saturday’s 30-21 upset of No. 11 Oklahoma State, the mother of all U-turns in a season that could literally lead anywhere.
“There has been a bunch of emotions over the past week—embarrassment and disappointment,” said WVU coach Dana Holgorsen, his eyes noticeably reddened after an impassioned few minutes in the postgame locker room.
“Tough week. The whole week was challenging and you guys know that.”
So tough, in fact, that for the first time in his two-plus years at West Virginia, Holgorsen encountered a public referendum on whether he is the right man for the post. One caller to Thursday night’s radio show had referred to him as “Mr. Holgorsen,” saying he didn’t deserve to be called “coach.”
Such is the cheer/jeer nature of the fan/coach partnership, but Holgorsen kept his cool with that caller and—most importantly—kept his team energized for a bounce-back victory that proves WVU isn’t the god-awful outfit we witnessed a week ago.
Holgorsen doesn’t typically address outside influences, but there was no side-stepping the downturn of eight losses in his last 12 games, no avoiding the mounting doubt that engulfed his program. After a satisfying turn of events Saturday, the coach thanked the 57,280 fans who provided the 19-point underdogs with a home-field advantage.
“There was a lot of talk about people giving up on this team, and that they were going to get blown out,” he said. “But I did not sense that out on Mountaineer Field. The fans were as good as I’ve seen them.”
And Holgorsen’s team certainly was as good as we’ve seen it this season. It’s a winning form he’d like to see the Mountaineers maintain for a while.