After all, the games meet all the telltale signs. They affect how a person feels, thinks and acts, cause one to question that validity of what is real and imaginary. Some sufferers become unresponsive and withdrawn, and others to have difficulty expressing normal emotions in societal situations. All that jazz about fan being short for fanatic, you know.
What’s the real definition of insanity, i.e. doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results? It’s the definition of West Virginia football.
The first quarter was – again – a microcosm of all that has plagued the Mountaineers. The multiple pass interference penalties that extended drives. The dropped passes, all half dozen of them. The lack of being able to establish the run. Skyler Howard skipping passes into the ground and not hitting checkdowns. Wideouts slipping out of routes. The inability to make plays within the secondary on balls that could have been intercepted, or at least knocked down.
Consider this: WVU has been outscored 48-7 in the first quarter of Big 12 play this season, including 34-7 in the last two games against Baylor and TCU. In the first half, it has been beaten 91-36, including scores of 24-7 and 17-2 – the latter a game in which the offense didn’t even score.
There were missed tackles, missed chances, missed opportunities. It’s all been written before. A dash of blown coverages here, a missed assignment there, some poor angles and poorer execution on all three of those sides o’ the ball.
The Horned Frogs, meanwhile, weren’t at their absolute best, yet put up 17 points and 179 yards of offense in waylaying an admittedly beat up Mountaineer defense. But at a whopping 8.1 yards per play, even the injuries don’t quite cover for the first half mess. In penalties alone, WVU awarded TCU five first downs to extend drives as a part of seven overall penalties for 89 yards in the first half.
The offense? It managed just 10 points and, toward the end of the half, went ahead and checked off the last box remaining, that of some questionable time management that allowed TCU to hit a field goal for a 23-10 halftime lead. Just when one though that holding the Horned Frogs to three points on their assumed final possession was big, WVU (starting at its nine-yard line via yet another special teams penalty) throws an incompletion, then throws short of the sticks on third down. TCU takes a timeout, then cashes in on a 57-yard field goal by Jaden Oberkrom. In a salt-in-the-wound style, the kick tied TCU’s school record for length, and snapped that of all foes against West Virginia, besting the 55-yarder by Rutgers’ John Benestad in 1990.
A record-setting effort, indeed. The Mountaineers never gathered themselves, allowing Texas Christian an unholy-like 14 points on less than five minutes of second half possession for a 37-10 deficit. In the midst of the third quarter, the game became Trevone Boykin’s personal highlight film, the agile quarterback toying with West Virginia’s defense in a series of jaw-dropping plays. If it was a fight, which it never was, they would’ve stopped it. Instead, the onslaught continued as the nation watched the October demise.
If nothing else, the contest-that-wasn’t truly showcased the program distance between TCU and West Virginia. Since both finished 4-8 in 2013, TCU has gone 20-1, including a current 16-game winning streak, good for second-best nationally. With the injury to Baylor quarterback Seth Russell, TCU could be the favorite to capture at least a share of a second straight conference title. West Virginia is 10-10, with wins over four Power Five teams with a winning record and a pair of months – October this year and November the last – with at least a three-game losing streak. Add in the 2012 five-game losing streak, and the ’13 six-in-seven swoon, and the Mountaineers have lost three games in a month five times in four years.
Read that again. WVU has actually lost three games in a calendar month an average of more than once a season. Time for propriety, if not levity. This isn’t to note that there must be a complete revamping of the coaching staff, that any moves should be made without consideration of what truly faced this team in four foes – three undefeated – currently ranked among the nation’s top 15; the last two were ranked second and fifth, respectively. But the self-inflicted errors, the lack of disciplined play has to stop.
Maybe the passing of the O-for-October stretch will help. Perhaps the team has all the ghastly, ghostly performances out of its system, the kind of horror film whitewashings that have all but crushed hopes for a winning league record. Maybe the things that have haunted West Virginia this month will pass, and the freshness of a turned calendar – and some less daunting competition – will help to right a team that has seen so much promise turned by the wayside.
That might all happen. But it’s hard to see the light from the depths of darkness now.