Coming off a 38-35 loss to Louisville at home, the traveling roster was trimmed to 64 players and decimated due to injuries including starting safety Terence Garvin, one of the most consistent players on defense. Head coach Dana Holgorsen had threatened earlier in the week to bring only the players that had the intensity to play and wanted to win for their teammates.
WVU, with a loss, would be in a worse position than the Mountaineers were a year ago at this point – and not even be in contention for a BCS bowl.
There were a lot of things on Cincinnati's side.
West Virginia, though, had more determination and will to win on Saturday in the Mountaineers' 24-21 win over the Bearcats.
UC kicker Tony Miliano's 31-yard field goal attempt with three seconds to play was blocked by senior safety Eain Smith, and the Mountaineers escaped on the road.
Smith couldn't control his emotions as he celebrated toward the sideline following the blocked kick and his teammates on that side of the field rushed toward him to join in on the fun.
It was just that – fun – for WVU.
For the first time since perhaps the LSU game, it looked like West Virginia was a team. When one unit struggled, the other picked it up. When it came down to it, the special teams unit that had a field goal blocked earlier in the game gave the Bearcats one right back.
The Mountaineers showed resolve in a game that was so hard to find on TV that many had to listen on the radio or watch via Internet for much of the contest.
Now, it seems WVU has a better chance at a BCS bowl. Pittsburgh defeated Louisville earlier in the day, and the Bearcats went down to the Mountaineers making it a heated conference race once more.
It looks as if Cincinnati starting quarterback Zach Collaros is going to be done for a significant amount of time – maybe this season – after a knee injury in the second quarter, too. That puts the Bearcats, still the leaders in the conference, in a difficult position with Rutgers, Syracuse and Connecticut remaining on the schedule.
WVU now has a shot, which is something it couldn't say as strongly before the game.
The Mountaineers had determination and heart that it didn't against Louisville, and the late victory over the Bearcats proves why Holgorsen made such a big deal about the team's body language throughout the week.
WVU will need to continue to play with the same energy over its last two games. They are must-wins.
It's just nice to see this team play like every snap might be its last. It may be the key to a Big East title run.
In it's final season in the Big East, West Virginia doesn't seem ready to quit just yet. The Mountaineers want to go out on top.
They went a long way toward doing that this afternoon.
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