MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After consecutive second-half stumbles in which West Virginia lost leads, lost games and lost face, Shaq Rowell said the prospect of missing a bowl game in his senior season “is hitting hard.”
The big nose tackle’s prediction for Saturday’s matchup at TCU? The winner will wind up bowl-eligible, while the loser—though still mathematically alive for the postseason—won’t recover.
“I don’t care if TCU sees this video or not—we have to beat these guys,” Rowell said. “They’re just like us, 3-5. We’re both lagging. Whoever wins this game, they’re going to bowling. Period, point-blank. Whoever loses, they’re not going to go bowling.”
West Virginia has appeared in bowls each of the past 11 seasons, while TCU owns an eight-year streak.
Rowell leveled frustrations over WVU’s meltdowns the past two weeks: Texas Tech closing the game with 21 unanswered points to win 37-27, followed by Kansas State scoring 28 points in the final 18 minutes to run away for a 35-12 victory.
“I believe we’re supposed to be 5-3 and not 3-5 right now,” Rowell said.
While losing three straight games overall, West Virginia’s total defense ranking (452.5 yards) has dropped to 102nd nationally out of 123 FBS teams. The inevitable spate of injuries has contributed to the downfall—WVU was missing three starters against K-State, along with three backups.
“The coaches don’t want to say it, but I’m going to say it: There’s a lot of guys that are hurting on defense,” Rowell said. “We’ve taken so many reps from the offense going three-and-out every other trip, it’s starting to put a burden on the defense.”
Third-down situations have been a pock mark on both sides of the ball: the defense ranking 101st in conversions allowed (44.4 percent), the offense at 111th while converting only 30.3 percent.
“We just need to find a way as a team … The defense needs to get off the field on third down and the offense needs to stay on the field on third down.”