WVU Football: A Successful Season?

West Virginia defensive lineman Dante Stills hauls down Army running back Cade Barnard

At the conclusion of West Virginia’s 2020 football regular season, I received a quick question from one of our social media followers: was this a successful season for the Mountaineers?

There are a number of different ways to evaluate a year’s play, ranging from strict statistical analysis to a subjective “look and feel” approach. Our Greg Hunter leaned toward the former in his look at the team a few days ago, so to balance things out a bit I’m going to try to take a more holistic view, and rely on thoughts and evaluations that played out during the course of the year.

My first thought on getting the question was to throw the brakes on a premature evaluation, because the season was not yet complete. I understand that a number of fans believe that bowls are worthless or carry little meaning, but I’m not in that group. I understand that the results of a mid-level bowl often don’t have a lot of carryover to performance the following year (as Greg’s analysis so excellently demonstrates), but we’re not looking at futures here. That bowl game was part of the season as a whole, and it often provides a capstone that shows how a team improved, or faltered, during the year. That matters.

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With that thought in play, the bowl game was a significant factor in my final call. Had West Virginia laid an egg in Memphis, or played without intensity or effort, it would have cast a damper on the entire year. And to be honest, when Army went up 21-10 in the middle of the third quarter, I was having a couple of negative thoughts. However, WVU’s rally quelled those, reinforcing the importance of not allowing the most recent result to unduly influence analysis.

Looking at the overall play all year, there’s no doubt that West Virginia’s defense improved. No matter the angle, from stats to the feel when other teams had the ball to the confidence one felt when the Mountaineer D took the field, this was a successful year. Did you ever have doubt that WVU’s defense could come up with a play to halt a drive? That didn’t always happen of course, but it did a lot of the time. I’ll take WVU’s 2020 defense any year.

Offensively, the answer wasn’t as definitive. There was clearly better play in the run game, but coming from where it was in 2019, there was bound to be at least an uptick. Still, WVU was reasonably successful in running the ball, and the passing game also saw some additional productivity – enough to win at a certain level, at least.

The third side of the ball (can we come up with a better phrase for special teams?) was also solid, if not spectacular. After a shaky first week, there wasn’t a holding of breath on kick coverage, and WVU managed to weather the loss of its starting placekicker adequately. That’s another passing grade.

West Virginia players, including Josh Chandler-Semedo (7) celebrate with the Liberty Bowl trophy

It’s here that we really get into the “feel” aspect, and that requires looking at where the Mountaineers stand in the Big 12, and how competitive they were this year. That feeds into the Trust The Climb mantra, which can lead one down the rabbit hole of comparative analysis.

Looking at the 2020 season compared to 2019, the call of success is yes. The win total went up, even though three games of the schedule were lost. (WVU’s record in those games would likely have been 2-1, as the Mountaineers would have, in my view, beaten Florida State and Maryland.) West Virginia would have also gotten the perceived boost of beating Florida State even though the Seminoles turned out to be below average. Had that occurred, there would have been zero debate as to whether or not this was a good year.

Looking at the year on its own, it’s also next to impossible to separate the battle against COVID-19 from play on the field. I tried to look at just the product between the lines, but the pandemic intruded in too many ways to do so. Being able to complete the vast majority of the schedule was a win.

You can probably guess where this is going. No matter the criteria used, this was a successful season for the Mountaineer football program. I understand that there wasn’t a big bowl. WVU still had a clear separation between it and the top three teams in the Big 12, although it did have a shot at a win Oklahoma State. The positives, though, outweighed the negatives, especially with that bowl championship plaque to hang in the Puskar Center.

Stamp it a success, and give us at least a few days before we start looking at 2021 – preparations for which begin next week as the team returns to campus.

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    At the conclusion of West Virginia’s 2020 football regular season, I received a quick question from one of our social media followers: was this a succ
    [See the full post at: WVU Football: A Successful Season?]


    I personally believe a bowl win is a successful season, But that’s just me


    Yes for the season.  Full season could have added 2 OOC W’s. Good bowl W against a very good Army team.  Recruiting is better.

    So, yes all around.


    I consider anything above .500 with a bowl win a successful season.

    2021 will be another tough one with two stout OOC opponents.

    (WINS) Long Island, K-ST, Kansas, TX Tech
    (LOSSES) Oklahoma, Iowa State
    (TOSS UPS) Maryland, Va Tech, Texas, Ok State, TCU, Baylor

    Four wins, two losses, split the six toss up games = 7-5.

    7-5 would be holding steady, while a one game bump up to 8-4 would be a trend upwards. 6-6 or worse would be a step back.


    Yes … Big12 coaches predicted we would finish 8th in the league. I thought we would win 3 to 4 Big 12 games and 1 or 2 non conf ….. so a 6 – 6 would have been a good year in my opin … with crazy covid year I will call 6-4 a success


    This team’s record could have easily been 8-2 with the bowl win.

    The Texas game was a killer with those lousy calls and our dropped TD pass in the end zone.

    Capping the season with a bowl win against a solid team was big.


    Outside of the better than expected win total – I saw improvement.  I really like Neil Brown as a coach, but I still needed to see on field improvement and I did.  It was a also a tough second year for a coach of a young team with a limited offseason.  Now, there is still plenty of room for more improvement, and I really hope we clean some of that up.  Namely, drops and penalties.    Overall, I was pleased.  I worry about the QB position next year, but I think we’re trending in the right direction long term.


    Definitely successful.  Next year will be a challenge though.  See maybe a slight step back or standing pat


    A winning season (particularly this season) AND a Bowl Game win against a good Army team equates to a successful season. We got the USUAL ‘home-cooking’ at Texas, we should have won! We were in every game except Iowa State.

    Next year looks like the same or maybe a little worse. The new Texas coach will embarrass a lot of folks next year. Iowa State will continue upwards. Oklahoma is always a tough out and Oklahoma State is too. We might improve but the win-loss stats wont.


    All of us saw improvement.  We had a winning season and a bowl win.  Bowl wins aren’t appreciated as much nowadays of course.  But I went from birth to 1969 before I saw the Mountaineers win a bowl game and still remember an embarrassing Liberty Bowl loss in 1964 to Utah.  Getting a Liberty Bowl victory over a good (definitely well-coached) Army team was an excellent way to end 2020. Our guys played with enthusiasm in the bowl game and looked like they were having fun too.  I think Brown is building something.  It’s a slow, gradual process which kind of reminds me of Jim Carlen’s gradually building a good program, winning 3 games his first year, then 5, then 7, and then 10.  In other words I like the trajectory we’re on.  I think we win 7 or 8 in 2021, and we continue to climb, and I’m not an optimist by nature.


    Jim Carlen is a good comparison here, old guy.  And as a teenager, I agonized over that embarrassing indoor, short field Liberty Bowl loss to Utah in ’64.

    A more modern comparison is how Matt Campbell raised the Iowa State program.  Trust me, we haven’t seen the last of Iowa State prowess in the Big XII as long as Iowa State can keep him on the payroll.

    I am seeing Neal Brown using the Matt Campbell model here which bodes well.  So, I join the consensus and agree that this year was a successful season for us.


    It seemed successful. Then again looking at the talent on the defensive side of the ball one could ask how we managed to lose so many games.

    The answer, I believe, is pretty simple and it is o-line and QB play. You just cant win anlot of games when EITHER of those are suspect let alone both.

    Then there was the dismantling by Iowa State. That was tough to watch and a complete head scratcher. I too hope Brown can emulate Campbell.


    Mex, I think any problem we had on the D side was the lack of LB’s.  Both in numbers and then all of the injuries.  That should be addressed in this recruiting class.

    The problems on O have been the OL for years.  Lack of numbers and talent.  Give these young kids another year along with giving them some help on the 2 deep while giving the new young guys a couple years to develop is what it will take.

    Greg will tell us we have enough bodies.  I respectfully disagree.  At least not enough to allow our FR to develop for a couple years before throwing them into the fire.  I’ll go back to the Dandy Don years when we had a lot of upperclassmen starting on the OL and didn’t have to rely on FR/RFR to fill out the 2 deep.  Sometimes one came along that excelled, but not that often.

    QB is another discussion.


    Butler, I know no one, certainly not me, is going to change your opinion.  But I will continue with the point/counterpoint discussion without stooping to the Jane or Dan level of response.

    Here is what would satisfy me.  Recruit 3 Olinemen per year.  Of those 3 two will always be at least the equal of Behrndt and Brown by the time they are seniors (I would take better but this at least gives you a base line of minimum ability) and one would always make an NFL roster after they graduate.

    Assuming your “pro” potential players would start as seniors, juniors, and rs sophomores, that leaves you 6 linemen in those 3 classes to man the two other starting positions and the primary backup positions.  Meaning your “pro” caliber rs freshman would make the 2 deep and the other rs freshmen and true freshman would be in “development” mode.

    Would that always work?  Probably not.  But I could live with that model.  It takes continuity in coaching, good evaluation of talent, and good recruiting skills.  It also takes players who are content to “develop” for the better part of 2 years and then be in tough competition for their last 3 years for playing time.

    But I will never be convinced that overloading a position group in any one year (or two) is either good for the group or the team.


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