A Fitting End

You really couldn't have picked a more perfect way for the West Virginia football team to end its 2013 season.

OK, so maybe "perfect" isn't the right word to use. Let's go with "fitting" instead.

For a West Virginia team that is going to be remembered – by those WVU fans who choose to remember this season a few years from now – as one that could not close out an opponent and was not able to come away with wins in close games with much consistency at all, what happened Saturday against Iowa State was an extremely fitting way for this team to finish its season.

Once again, the Mountaineers entered the second half and the fourth quarter with a 17-point lead. They were doing things that made you stop and truly believe that there wasn't going to be a letdown. This was going to be the game where they were able to put things together and possibly put an inferior opponent away.

Then, much like has become the case nearly every week since Big 12 Conference play began, things just slipped away.

Nearly every word that was used to describe the majority of the losses this season could be used again after Saturday's loss. They didn't have much to play for. They couldn't finish. They would take a step forward one minute, and then two steps back the next.

They ran out of time.

West Virginia has never been a team that is easy to beat at home. Prior to Dana Holgorsen's first season, WVU lost eight games at Milan Puskar Stadium from 2003-10. In Holgorsen's first three years, the Mountaineers have lost eight times at home, including three times in each of the last two seasons.

But Saturday's loss could possibly go right up toward the top of the list of worst home losses in a while.

Of course, this game didn't have the implications that West Virginia's 2007 loss to Pittsburgh had, but this one is a difficult one for this team to take. It lost while showing signs of something that is very troubling for any team.

With the exception of a few players who have stepped up and become better playmakers, this team hasn't progressed much throughout the 2013 season.

It's still a team that can't close. It's still a team that can't consistently take advantage of another team's mistakes and it's still a team that makes too many mistakes to give itself a true chance to take advantage of the mistakes its opponents make when they get the opportunity.

It's true that a lot of this can be attributed to the lack of depth and especially the amount of injury problems the Mountaineers ran into this season, particularly on the defensive side of the field.

Saturday proved once again that this was a team that was just not quite ready to really be one of the better teams in the Big 12. A lot of the progress will be seen once this offseason is over. If there's one thing this West Virginia team does have it's a pretty decent stable of young talent that is just beginning to scratch the surface when it comes to their potential.

So many of those underclassmen showed little flashes here and there of what they could possibly do someday. Now it's up to the coaching staff, and the players themselves, to get the most out of those guys and get them to meet that potential and become the players they can possibly be.

This year they weren't ready. That was clear to see all season, and it showed once again in the loss to Iowa State.

But there's still room for this team to grow, potential for something good in the future.

And for a season that began with talk of potential and how good this group could be, that's probably a "fitting" way to end this column.

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