By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald
West Virginia University’s football team seems to be establishing an identity that nobody should like.
I call that identity, after eight games, a “carbon copy of faulty, folding finishes.” And that’s not only unacceptable to growing numbers of Mountaineer supporters, but seemingly mystifying to WVU third-year head coach Dana Holgorsen and his constantly changing staff.
The terribly inconsistent Mountaineers (3-5, 1-4 Big 12) folded in the fourth quarter of last Saturday’s 35-12 loss at Kansas State (3-4, 1-3) just as they had in the closing stage of the 37-27 homecoming loss to Texas Tech the previous Saturday in Morgantown.
West Virginia blew leads in both of those Big 12 contests. Granted, the Red Raiders and the Wildcats were solid favorites to win.
But both teams had to battle back from deficits against WVU, which gave up a combined 35 points in the fourth quarter of what were certainly winnable games.
Tech scored 20 consecutive points and KSU 21.
This latest one was No. 3 in that category of games WVU could have won, in my opinion (counting that 16-7 loss at Oklahoma on Sept. 7).
Following this third straight setback, Holgorsen told reporters:
“It’s a huge concern. It’s a four-quarter game. We talk about it being a four-quarter game. We talk about how we have to finish. And we didn’t.
“It’s a concern. That doesn’t happen to good teams.”
But it continues to haunt Coach Dana Holgorsen’s Mountaineers.
West Virginia, which now is 5-11 for its last 16 games dating back to last season’s shocking collapse after a 5-0 and No. 5 ranking start, yielded 35 unanswered points in the fourth quarter of the last two losses.
It is still baffling to many what has happened to that highly productive offense Holgorsen had success with elsewhere as offensive coordinator. Wasn’t that the main reason WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck hired him in 2011 to replace the late Bill Stewart as head coach?
West Virginia not only is in a losing mode but by large margins. Seven of its last 11 defeats overall were by 21 points or more.
The Mountaineers gained just 146 yards, made seven first downs and scored a mere three points on freshman Josh Lambert’s career-best 50-yard field goal in the entire second half at Kansas State.
For the game, WVU netted only 367 yards in total offense while giving up 448 yards to the Wildcats. The Mountaineers had 71 offensive plays, but trailed in possession time, 24:28 to 35:32.
Coaches’ answers to postgame questions are beginning to sound more and more like excuses. But no one with authority at the university seems to be concerned.
This, despite the growing feeling of numerous WVU alumni and others that the once-proud football program is sinking from the glorious past.
Give the players some credit, though. They seem to play hard most of the time.
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TCU (3-5, 1-4) has been installed as a 14-point favorite in Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. game against West Virginia in Fort Worth, Texas.