The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest Sports

November 17, 2013

WVU football headed in the wrong direction

How bad was West Virginia’s 31-19 loss to Kansas Saturday in Lawrence, Kan.? Perhaps nobody said it better than WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen in his postgame press conference when he labeled the loss as an “all-time low.”

To put it simply, after letting the Jayhawks snap a 27-game Big 12 losing streak, the Mountaineers have hit rock, chalk bottom.

Look, I know James Sims is a talented player, and I realize that Kansas has come close to ending the streak against some quality teams along the way, but it didn’t.

Sure it’s easy to overlook a team like KU, which has tried more flavors on offense than Baskin-Robbins and plays in front of a crowd that wouldn’t be kicked out of a library, but 27 other teams managed to find a way to overcome those obstacles. WVU couldn’t.

The streak of futility for KU actually goes back farther than the Nov. 6, 2010, win over Colorado, a team that’s no longer even a member of the conference. The last time the Jayhawks beat a current Big 12 member was Oct. 10, 2009, when they knocked off Iowa State. Since the beginning of the 2009 season, KU is 3-38 in Big 12 games, with one of the wins coming over the Mountaineers.

WVU’s tailspin may not include numbers quite so frightening — then again, you won’t find that type of horror in any haunted house. But WVU’s recent history hasn’t exactly been pleasing to Mountaineer fans.

Since back-to-back wins over No. 25 Baylor and No. 11 Texas last season, WVU is just 4-12 and it has beaten only two Football Bowl Subdivision teams with winning records during that stretch. One of those victims was Iowa State, which was just 6-5 before falling to the Mountaineers last November and ended the year at 6-7.

I know, I know, WVU is in a whole new world in the Big 12. I get that. In fact, I’ve preached that to disgruntled fans. But the problems that exist with the Mountaineer football program aren’t simply the side effects of joining a new conference. WVU wouldn’t be a good team in any league right now, unless it found its way into the Mountain East.

Syracuse isn’t a Big 12 team. The Orange, which trashed the Mountaineers 38-14 in last year’s New Era Pinstripe Bowl, were a middle-of-the-pack Big East team, and past WVU squads dominated that league. The Maryland team that shut out the Mountaineers 37-0 on Sept. 21 is 2-4 in the ACC with lopsided loses to Wake Forest and Syracuse on its resumé. Kansas is a bad football team, and it would be just as bad in Conference USA, the American Athletic Conference or any other league.

The Mountaineers’ problems are vast. The offense looked like the Baylor Bears in the second half against Texas and the first drive against Kansas, then transformed into the Bad News Bears the rest of the way. The defense gave up 31 points to a team that had scored just 33 in its previous three games combined. In fact, KU had already passed its points-per-game average of 15.9 with 17 points at halftime.

WVU’s kick return team apparently feels as though it will vanish into thin air if it crosses the 20-yard line, and the field goal unit has been about as consistent as November weather in the Mountain State.

Off the field, alumni, fans and even former players are losing confidence, and with two bad teams going head-to-head with no shot at a bowl game on the line, WVU might have enough room in the Coliseum to fit the crowd that will show up for the season finale against Iowa State.

When WVU athletic director Oliver Luck put in a plan to replace Bill Stewart in 2010 — after Stewart went 28-12 in three seasons, winning nine games each year — he made the comment that he expected “our Mountaineer program to compete at the highest levels.” He threw out the goal of winning a national championship. This year, the Mountaineers don’t even have an opportunity for a Pinstripe Bowl championship.

Luck also pointed to two crowds of fewer than 50,000 as “an indication that our fans aren’t satisfied with the product.” Following a four-game losing streak last season, WVU barely reached that 50,000 mark, putting 50,238 in the stands against No. 12 Oklahoma. When WVU takes the field on Saturday, it will be lucky to reach the 40,000 mark.

While Luck’s and Holgorsen’s desire to set the expectations for WVU football high is admirable, its become clear that the program is headed in the wrong direction.

— E-mail: and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

Text Only
Latest Sports
  • 072514 Loomis The Greenbrier impresses Payton, Loomis

    When a deal was finalized on March 13 to bring the New Orleans Saints to The Greenbrier for three weeks of summer camp, Saints officials never doubted that the facility would be ready a little more than four months later for the first practice.


    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • 072514 WV Open 1 Hess Former Mountain Lions playing well at Open

    In sports like basketball or football, home field advantage can be the ultimate difference maker. The same can be said in golf.


    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • 072514 WV Open 2 Westfall Evans leads the field on rainy day at W.Va. Open

    The wind picked up, the rain started to fall and the scores were low at second round of the 81st West Virginia Open.


    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • 072514 WVU Replacing Sims a challenge for WVU

    Every year, almost every college football preview publication available lists one key statistic that most use to evaluate the prospects for any given football team — returning starters.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • WVU rifle coach competing in native Scotland

    West Virginia University rifle coach John Hammond is competing in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games in his native Scotland.

    July 24, 2014

  • 072414 WV Open.jpg Familiarity with Cobb helps Hess take lead

    It wouldn’t be a stretch to say Kenny Hess is comfortable playing the Cobb Course at Glade Springs Resort.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Golf and motocross are Jude’s passions

    Motocross and golf have very little in common.

    July 24, 2014

  • WVU’s Worley clear starter at cornerback

    There were few bright spots in West Virginia University’s 4-8 football campaign last year, and even fewer on the defensive side of the football, where the Mountaineers gave up more than 455 yards and 33 points per game.

    July 24, 2014

  • How to discover and love Major League Soccer

    When I began my soccer fandom following a missions trip to Brazil in 2000, I didn’t know what my next step was. I knew I loved watching the game, but there weren’t a lot of options for seeing it in the U.S. I knew of Major League Soccer — mostly from my friend and current FC Dallas beat writer Drew Epperley — but it was hard to find.

    July 24, 2014

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Expectations too high for a rehabbing Woods

    Tiger Woods finished near bottom last weekend at Royal Liverpool, drawing out his drought of major tournament wins. Despite the disappointing showing, Woods' return to form remains a matter of when, not if.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

Saints Training Camp