"We went through what we did wrong, and now we are focused on Cincinnati," center and team leader Dan Mozes said. "I think everything is still out there. It's all a possibility except for the national championship. We have a lot of goals out there and we have to keep our heads up and stay focused. The young guys, it seems like they were getting so accustomed to winning that they did not know what losing felt like. That loss opened their eyes. It even opened veterans' eyes. They are not losing either. Now they know what the losing feels like. They don't want to be a part of that."
Before the loss to now-No. 3 Louisville, the No. 10 Mountaineers had not lost since an Oct. 1 home contest against Virginia Tech last year. The last time WVU lost consecutive games was to end the 2004 season, when it dropped three of its last four. It still has chances to win the Big East and get to a major bowl. And with this senior class still chasing last year's for the winningest in program history, every victory allows a bit more bragging. More important is simply to play well and execute the game plan on both sides of the ball. With that should come more success – even offensively, where, save fumbles, the Mountaineers did about as well as possible scoring-wise with 33 points.
Quarterback Patrick White took the harshest stand, noting both that West Virginia, if it executes, should be unstoppable, and that the talk of the loss to the Cardinals is now mute in all aspects, and has been since the team met on Saturday.
"Louisville is over. The only focus is Cincinnati," White said. "I'm not going to talk about or answer any questions about Louisville. We just have to play better, play Mountaineer football. If we execute our offense, all 11 guys playing as one, nobody should be able to stop us. It's like that in any sport, I'd think."
Undoubtedly, WVU is still somewhat surprised, both by its performance and by exactly how close it was to winning despite it. It turned the ball over three times, one of which was a fumble that, when ran back, put Louisville ahead 23-14. It allowed a punt return for a touchdown that made put it in a 30-14 hole with 11 minutes remaining in the third quarter before the Cards have even taken a second half offensive snap. Its defense, which made great stops in the red zone, was still torched for 350-plus passing yards, and receivers routinely ran wide open. Yet, and this might be the most promising part, with all of that and more, like also fumbling a two-point conversion attempt, it still had chances.
Should West Virginia have simply scored on its first possession of the second half – and it likely would have considering tailback Steve Slaton gained 19 and 20 yards on his first two carries – and not allowed the punt runback, it would have, at the very least, had multiple chances to win, or even have had the lead. Perhaps it took West Virginia until then to realize it could lose.
"You get so accustomed to winning, you don't even (consider) losing," Mozes said. "When you come in here the following Saturday, and you realize a lot of things happened because you and your teammates around you didn't play well, you know what the deal is with that."
Perhaps there is a renewal of focus on playing an entire 60 minutes, and playing the physical, heady style of game head coach Rich Rodriguez likes to term "Mountaineer football." If the team has overcome it, others seem to have yet to do so.
"I hear a lot of people talking about how the season is over," fullback Owen Schmitt said. "I heard some fans say they were not going to go to the bowl game because it wasn't the national championship. That's kind of ridiculous. Only two teams play for the national championship. There are still a lot of goals we can accomplish. There is no reason to think the season is over. It's not over."
One might argue it's just beginning anew, with the first challenge upcoming: Cincinnati.