The ugly stepsisters that were the UVA Cavaliers spoiled the ball, er, bowl. Leaving the Mountaineers to live unhappily ever after, or at least until next season.
If you simply looked at the statistics, you would have thought West Virginia won by a touchdown or two. WVU had more rushing yards, as expected, but Rasheed actually had more passing yards (215-182) than Virginia's Matt Schaub, the ACC offensive player of the year. While Schaub completed 73% of his passes, Marshall was no slouch, completed 67%. WVU had more first downs, more total yards, and won time of possession.
The game was lost, however, on big plays and breakdowns, and every phase of the WVU team contributed. The offense had two costly turnovers. The defense gave up the big pass plays. And do we really need to mention the special teams?
Much of the credit, however, goes to Al Groh and his coaching staff. They used the trick play to perfection, and it caused the Mountaineer defense to play tentatively, which opened up the rushing game. WVU's whole season was built around not making mistakes and forcing the other team to beat them. This game, the Blue and Gold were the ones who had the mental breakdowns.
To put it simply, Coach Rodriguez and his staff did not have this team ready to play this game. It was eerily similar to the MD game earlier in the year. WVU is a team that needs to think of itself as the underdog, that it has something to prove. They do not wear the mantel of a favorite at all well. Once a shred of cockiness, of complacency, seeps into this team, they are vulnerable, and it showed on Saturday.
It was a costly lesson, in that it denied WVU a spot in the top 10 and a great recruiting tool for the rest of the recruiting season. Rich and his staff made some mistakes leading up to this game, from giving Virginia some bulletin board material to getting the team mentally and physically prepared for what pretty much everyone knew Groh and his staff would throw at the Mountaineers.
However, if nothing else, this team and this coaching staff have shown that they can learn from their mistakes, and they will do so from this loss. As long as they can do that, I feel very good about where WVU is and where it is heading.
What does next year hold? Another fairy tale? A horror story? Who knows? At this point, it's a mystery. However, I have to think that the lessons learned Saturday will lead to a lot more happier endings in the years to come. Stay tuned for the next chapter.