Of course, long flights and overnight drives back home after such defeats tend to cement the images from those games into permanence, but after thinking about the unfairness of it all, I decided that what's really making them stick out is the closeness of the events as well as the accolades that WVU got for their valiant efforts, even though they were in defeat.
Taken by themseleves, each loss, although gut-wrenching, would probably fade with the coming of a new season. Indeed, that football loss to Miami was starting to do just that. Optimism about upcoming spring practice was blooming (more on that in a moment) and the bitter memories of 4th and 17 were fading.
However, now came the shot from Colin Falls (the player, not a geographic feature) that crushed the hearts and hopes of Mountaineer fans again. I had just convinced myself that WVU actually had a chance of winning the game, when, bang, the shot falls (or Falls), and the Irish escape with yet another lucky finish, and brought back memories of October in Miami.
Of course, we all seem to remember the bad plays, and the bad calls, more readily than the good things. In many instances, that's human nature. However, I feel my good nature and self control being stretched to the limit with this doubleheader of despair.
It didn't help any to have to do interviews with the Mountaineers right after the game. The atmosphere in the locker room was one of almost total devastation. You could feel the hurt pouring off the team in waves, and to be honest, I felt really bad in asking the players for a few minutes of their time after they had seen all their hard work get paid off not with a win, but with a bitter, last-second defeat. To the players' credit they answered questions politely and didn't blow anyone off or fire off bitter comments, which made me all the more proud to have them representing my alma mater.
The one thing we can do is try to remember the good things from these games. Lehnortt and Wiley all over the field. PacMan going toe to toe with "I'm an *&%!#^*@ soldier" Kellen Winslow, Jr. Quincy's run. Joe Herber's fake and spin to give WVU the lead. Two straight Patrick Beilein bombs, the second seemingly coming from Staten Island, to force a tie. Tyron Sally's acrobatic layup. Jarmon Durisseau-Collins excellent all-around play. Kevin Pittsnogle's solid post moves. All of those plays deserve to be remembered, just like Travis Garvin's TD catch or John Pennington's fingertip grab. Even though the former came in what ended up as very painful defeats, that shouldn't diminish the achievement, or the enjoyment we felt when we witnessed them.
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And now, a few words about football predictions for the coming season. Are you all nuts?
Our message boards have spilled out a number of predictions for 10-2, 11-1 or 12-0 seasons, BCS bowl wins and the like. I'm not saying that it can't happen, but there are a number of tough games on this year's slate that the Mountaineers aren't just going to breeze through. Think UCF doesn't believe it has the Mountaineers in a great spot for an upset? Think the Hokies will be working hard to avenge their back to back smackdowns at the hands of WVU? Or Pitt? Anyone remember Maryland? Heck, remember Cincinnati?
Once again, it's not my goal to rain on anyone's parade. It's nice to see some optimism in the ranks. I just hope that people won't view the season as a disappointment if West Virginia drops a game or two, or doesn't go to a BCS bowl this year.