WVU needs road win to keep bowl hopes going
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia must figure out a way to win on the road to have a shot at keeping a decade-long streak of bowl appearances intact.
The Mountaineers (3-4, 1-3 Big 12) need three more wins to become bowl eligible. And although the schedule gets considerably easier, the venues will not. The Mountaineers play three of their final five games on the road.
West Virginia is winless on the road this season and that’s where it will play the next two games, starting Saturday at Kansas State (2-4, 0-3).
“We have to stay positive, look forward, and realize that this season is not over yet,” said West Virginia linebacker Isaiah Bruce. “Every year it seems like Big 12 teams are always taking out each other. We just have to push through it and get better.”
The last time West Virginia didn’t qualify for a bowl was in 2001, Rich Rodriguez’s first season as coach.
Dana Holgorsen was hired in 2010 with the goal of competing for a national championship. Right now the third-year head coach is trying to avoid heading into the Big 12’s basement.
Holgorsen insists the focus isn’t on the season’s end product but on Saturday’s opponent.
“It’s Kansas State right now,” Holgorsen said. “A bowl game is important but a fourth win is a little more important at this point. We haven’t got to the point where I feel like we need to talk about motivation to win.
“I think the motivation to win is there. If you’re not able to execute things then you’re not going to win. So we’re continuing to focus on being able to execute better. Obviously going to a bowl game is one of our goals that we have as a program and obviously we want to meet that goal.”
Two months into the season, few things have been positive for the Mountaineers.
Last week, West Virginia led No. 10 Texas Tech by 11 points in the second half, but the offense was limited to one first down on its final five possessions in the 37-27 loss.
At least Holgorsen has settled on Clint Trickett at quarterback and he’ll get his fourth straight start. Until this week, Holgorsen had not named a starter before the Thursday of game week because of injuries or lackluster play.
Returning punts and kickoffs has been messy at times, and the defense has allowed at least 37 points in three of the last four games. Texas Tech scored 21 unanswered points after trailing 27-16.
“We’ve shown where we can play at a high level. We’ve also shown that we can play at a very low level,” Holgorsen said. “So we need consistency on defense, we need to continue to improve offensively and get into a rhythm. And then we need to continue to glue it all together with special teams and get better at what we’re asking them to do, which will lead to a victory.”
More and more, Holgorsen and his assistant coaches are being asked about the team’s mood, usually following a loss.
“It was a tough loss,” said defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. “But that’s the nature of college football. You have to hit that restart button, and it is our job as coaches to motivate and inspire them.”
For Trickett, the son of Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett, that motivation may come in the form of Kansas State coach Bill Snyder.
“I have always looked up to coach Snyder, because he doesn’t have the best situation at Kansas State in regards to recruiting, but he continues to win,” Trickett said. “As a coach’s kid, I have had so much respect for him. I have throughout my life. I was actually a fan of Kansas State when I was younger. I am excited to play against a legend in coach Snyder, he really is. The stadium is already named after him, and he is still there, so he is everything to that school, and I am excited to play against him.”