End Of WVU Football Season Leaves Questions For 2019
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Morning is supposed to be a new beginning.
In the spring you wake up to the chirping of birds outside a window that is bathing you in sunshine. You brush away any bad taste of yesterday with your toothbrush, then kick into gear to face what is ahead of you with a cup of coffee.
It wasn’t that way Saturday morning in Morgantown.
Not after another bowl loss.
Friday night lingered. It always does when you lose 34-18, when that is your third straight defeat of a season that promised you the world and instead gave you the Camping World Bowl.
You couldn’t spit yesterday away with the used toothpaste and the coffee had a bitter taste, the air was chilled and it was dank and damp and just eight days into winter.
Some awoke wondering about their futures.
Certainly Dana Holgorsen arose and did some self-evaluation, wondering what went wrong and what he might have done differently to stop it. We’re not talking about coaching a bowl game that they couldn’t win considering that offensive’y they were going against a six-shooter with a derringer.
We’re not even talking about a history of bowl losses: two wins in seven tries.
We’re talking about moving up to the next level, of knocking down the door to the Big 12 championship, of reaching the big time bowl games.
One suspects — having seen how WVU played in the Orange Bowl under Holgorsen and how it played in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma under Bill Stewart and how it played in the Suger Bowl against Georgia — that if the Mountaineers can climb into such bowls they will find they will respond with spirited, winning efforts.
They have such a history.
The question Dana Holgorsen has to be asking himself isn’t whether he is capable or getting over that final hurdle in his career but what it will take to allow him to clear that final obstacle.
The morning brought other thoughts to others, too.
David Long, the magnificent linebacker, had some soul searching to do come Saturday morning.
Asked after the bowl defeat whether he had decided to return for his senior season or go into the NFL draft he was non-commital, but said he would sleep on it — if he could — and a commitment was imminent.
“Right now I’m just going to take this on the chin,” he said of the loss.
But the groundwork has been laid for the decision over the past number of weeks, knowing that the time would eventually arrive.
He’s discussed matters with those closest to him, to his family, to his girlfriend. He planned on “chilling” with them before acting.
And perhaps the man most interested in his decision other than himself, Tony Gibson, the defensive coordinator who spotted him as a star player almost immediately and nurtured him along through injury and success, had a long discussion a while back.
“Everything was on the table. Good, bad, positive, negative,” he said. “That’s a decision they have to make as a family. I love David Long like I love my own son, whatever he decides to do. He’s done everything right since he’s been here. He’s graduated. There’s not much left for him to do with this program. If he decides to come back, he’ll have a hell of a year. If he moves on, I’ll hug him and tell him I love him and, ‘Go give it your best.’ “
When you look at it the way Gibson described it, it sounds like there really isn’t much of a decision.
His future lies in the NFL, not in lame duck graduate season at WVU, so why not get going on it, especially with the uncertainties that lay ahead with this program that has lost as much talent as it has this year.
With those who are returning, Saturday morning brought the normal post-game soreness along with the sorrow that comes with defeat… but it also brought a chance to evaluate what went wrong this year and what they can do within themselves to change it.
Kenny Robinson, for example, who is on the fast path to the NFL, will certainly run over and over in his mind the targeting penalty he drew with the game very much equal that led to his ejection and ultimately helped lead to the dejection that comes with defeat.
But this is football, not patty cakes, and in such a physical atmosphere sometimes you get carried away and do something you wouldn’t do in chemistry class.
And so it goes as another season is put into the books, one that was born believing a Big 12 championship was within reach and that died at 8-4.