Mountaineers Remain Motivated, But Need To Snap Top 25 Skid
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia’s game against Texas Tech is as much a battle with itself.
The Mountaineers have trounced a trio of less-than-stellar teams while settling for close-but-not-quite against Virginia Tech and TCU, now ranked 15th and sixth, respectively. That they were also ranked at the time WVU played them has become a point of consternation within portions of the fan base.
That’s because West Virginia has lost nine straight games to teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 – including twice when it was favored. WVU has also dropped 13 of its last 14 against such opponents, and 16 of 18. The trend – and that’s exactly what it is – begins to wear a bit thin. Some of those games can be excused, the competitive contest against No. 2 Alabama, even the lopsided losses at No. 2 Baylor and No. 5 TCU two seasons ago. But some are sticking points, a bit harder to digest, including the overtime loss to No. 21 Oklahoma State in 2015 and the blowout defeat to OU last season at home when both teams were ranked in the top 10.
West Virginia certainly deserves credit for its victories, the dominating defensive performance against No. 4 Baylor in a 41-27 win in 2014, and the back-and-forth defeat of No. 11 Oklahoma State in 2013. The Mountaineers, in fact, started 4-1 against ranked opponents under Dana Holgorsen, including the Orange Bowl stunner and the win at No. 11 Texas in front of what was then the largest crowd in UT history at 101,851.
Even a split of the games against then-No. 21 Virginia Tech and No. 8 TCU would have quieted the thoughts. But the string of losses, along with with games in which WVU was ranked and lost to an unrated team – Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl, Oklahoma State last season – combined with frustrating contests like the 24-23 loss at Kansas State to end the 2015 season have ushered in a sense of urgency for this weekend’s match-up against No. 24 Texas Tech.
It’s not just the fans. Certainly coaches have expressed frustration after such losses. The team feels it as well, to the extent that this season it’s 0-2 in such endeavors, and in danger of falling to .500 with another loss.
“I’d say so,” wideout David Sills said when asked if WVU needs a marquee, top 25 win to create momentum. “Conference play is always hard. Any way you can get a win, no matter what team it is, is huge. From now on it is just getting wins however you can get them.”
It’s not as though the team has been lost emotionally. It’s still early in the Big 12 schedule, and the Mountaineers are in fine shape at 1-1 in the league. But this game is looming large in the psychological atmosphere with major tests to come.
“We were all positive,” Sills said of the attitude after the TCU loss. “We had positive mindsets going into practice on Sunday. We’re all still very motivated. We all know the Big 12 is still up in the air. There’s really not an out-front leader right now. I know TCU is 2-0, but Oklahoma lost, Oklahoma State has a loss. We still think we can get back to Cowboys’ stadium and play whoever comes out of that.”
Which is true. But it has to start now.