Running Out of Time

Following its 35-12 loss at the hands of Kansas State, members of the West Virginia football team made their way into the interview room to talk - for the third week in a row - about where things went wrong.

A few of those players, including defensive lineman Shaq Rowell, represented the 15 seniors on this year's team.

While talking about the defense's struggles to get off the field on third downs and trying to keep confidence despite losing another game in which they had a lead in the second half, Rowell quickly took a look ahead at what's to come for WVU.

"I told the guys in the locker room, we've still got four games left. That's all we're guaranteed," he said.

"I want four more wins. If we get seven wins, that's a better bowl. I do want to go to a bowl game. We work so much, we put so much work in."

But if they want to get to that point, if they want to make it back to a bowl, things have to turn around.

And while it was easy to say that a few weeks ago after a loss to Baylor, it's getting tougher and tougher for the Mountaineers to do that as each game passes.

West Virginia is running out of time. If it's not already too late.

Yes, the Mountaineers still have two games against teams that - on paper - they are better than with Iowa State and Kansas remaining on the schedule.

From there, assuming they can win those games to bring their total to five, is when it becomes tougher to figure out.

For a large portion of the season, it's been pretty clear that Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech have been the class of the Big 12 Conference. Behind them is a jumbled mess between WVU, K-State, Texas, TCU, Iowa State and Kansas of teams that have shown flashes of talent at times but haven't quite been able to put everything together in order to consistently hang around with the top tier of talent in the conference.

If West Virginia could emerge and prove itself as one of the two or three better teams among that group, it still had a chance to finish with a successful season and move on to play in another bowl game.

But after Saturday's loss, another confidence killer in which the opposing team was able to chip away at the Mountaineer lead before going for the throat with a late score that put WVU away, it is starting to become harder to really judge where West Virginia fits into that second tier.

Now at 3-4, Kansas State obviously isn't one of the best teams in the conference. But the Wildcats - well-coached and led by a methodical offense and tough, hard-nosed defense - was able to make enough plays to convincingly win the game when it was all said and done.

In Big 12 play, West Virginia has shown time and time again that it hasn't been able to do that.

As they're going down the stretch in a lot of potential close games where there won't be much of a margin for error, the Mountaineers haven't done much to prove that they can be the type of team that can close out that type of a game.

With an offense that is totally inconsistent and desperately in need of answering a lot of questions (ranging anywhere from its overall lack of identity to its quarterback play and lack of ability to make plays at receiver) and a defense that is having a lot of problems getting off the field on third downs and stays on the field too long, West Virginia does not look like it's in position to become one of the best teams in that group of six.

It starts next week against TCU in Fort Worth. The Mountaineers are 4-6 in their last 10 road games and are 2-5 in Big 12 road games.

From there, they take on Texas before finishing the season with their two most winnable games.

With just four games left, WVU is quickly running out of chances the find the three wins to even make it to a bowl game.

Let alone a fourth one to get to a "better" bowl like Rowell talked about the seniors wanting to close out their careers out in.

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