Column - Things won’t get easier for Mountaineers any time soon
Published: Sunday, November 6, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 7, 2011 00:11
Heading into its bye week following a 43-16 against Connecticut, things were really looking up for the West Virginia football team.
The Mountaineers were ranked No. 13, they were clicking on all cylinders, and it also looked like they were completely in charge in the race for a Big East Conference championship and a trip to a BCS bowl game.
Since then, WVU has gone from controlling its destiny, to not controlling it, back to controlling it again. And after this week's loss to Louisville, the Mountaineers will need a good bit of help – as well as winning the rest of their games – to be able to claim a conference title.
It's not out of the question yet, though. There's still a chance West Virginia will be able to do what it needs to find a way back to where it wants to be.
It won't be easy, though – especially if things don't start improving quickly.
West Virginia enters the final stretch of the season with three games that could be very difficult to win if the Mountaineers aren't able to find the consistency they have lacked the last few weeks.
Looking at the remaining schedule, if they don't improve, things could go from bad to worse.
Teams won't be successful when they get into conference play if they can't make stops on defense and they don't have good special teams.
Those are the two things WVU has had trouble with – especially in the last few weeks.
The Mountaineers are letting opponents score on 85 percent of their trips in the red zone. They've allowed 21 touchdowns when the other teams get inside WVU's 20-yard line, and 12 of those have come in the last three games.
Special teams ended up
being the big difference against Louisville.
WVU could have tied the game up on a Tyler Bitancurt field goal, but after Louisville blocked it and took it back for a score, the Mountaineers found themselves down 10.
West Virginia missed another field goal and had two more short punts- and those gave Louisville more chances to score with good field position.
And good teams are going to take advantage of those opportunities when they get them – just like the Cardinals did Saturday.
With offenses like Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and South Florida remaining on the schedule, WVU will have to take on teams that have proved multiple times throughout this season that they can put up 40 or more points.
If they don't improve defensively and can't make the necessary adjustments on special teams, it's going to be tough for the Mountaineers to come away with wins down the stretch.
All year long, the coaching staff and players have talked about how important it is for this team to handle adversity.
There will be no better time to see just how good they are at handling adversity than over the course of the next few weeks.
Every game from here on out is truly a must-win if the Mountaineers want to have a chance at winning the Big East title.
If they handle things well, and make the adjustments and improvements they need to, they could easily win out and finish 9-3.
If they don't and they look the same they have at times these last few weeks, it will be tough for the Mountaineers to win two more games this year.
And a 7-5 record – with the amount of talent this team has on it – just shouldn't happen.