Disappointing end to a disappointing season
Published: Monday, January 14, 2013
Updated: Monday, January 14, 2013 00:01
The final snowflakes fell to the ground, and the muddy and disappointed white-uniformed Mountaineers slowly paced to the locker room one final time in 2012. Yankee Stadium’s scoreboard read yet another one-sided affair not in West Virginia’s favor.
But this wasn’t another outing in which the Mountaineers were out-matched by the heavy weights of the perennial Big 12 Conference.
This was completely different.
These were the guys WVU left in the rearview mirror as it headed for greener pastures when it changed conferences in July.
These were the guys the Mountaineers didn’t think, but knew, they were better than – Big East Conference members.
The Syracuse Orange whipped West Virginia 38-16 in the 2012 New Era Pinstripe Bowl, putting the final nail in the disappointing 2012 season coffin.
The trio of Mountaineers – Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey – ended their impressive careers in a West Virginia uniform with an another solid performance.
But much like the Mountaineers’ problem all season, the three couldn’t find much help.
The 2012 edition of the West Virginia football team began with arguably the program’s most impressive win – a 70-33 drumming of Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
The eye-opening victory led to many naming the Mountaineers the preseason favorite in their inaugural season in the Big 12 Conference.
Five straight victories to start the season, including a 48-45 win in Austin against the nationally ranked Longhorns, propelled second-year head coach Dana Holgorsen’s bunch into the top five.
No one expected what followed.
Five consecutive losses, the longest in the program since the late 1980s.
The Mountaineers struggled to keep some of the games close, such as a 49-14 loss on the road to Texas Tech and a 55-14 blowout loss at home to Kansas State.
The Mountaineers lost tough games to TCU and Oklahoma before rebounding to win their final two games and secure their 11th-straight appearance in a bowl game.
The bowl game appeared an ideal platform for West Virginia to earn its eighth win and end the forgettable season on a positive note.
But the Orange was able to do what WVU opponents had done since about mid-October: expose an inexperienced defense and sit back in a deep zone coverage and forcing the Mountaineer offense to make tough throws and methodically work the ball up the field.
It was an equation the West Virginia team and coaching staff couldn’t solve all season.
The roller-coaster ride of 2012 required more than a seat belt and one those straps that lower down over your shoulders.
The high expectations and the most disappointing season in nearly 10 years in Morgantown left a bad taste in the mouths of West Virginia fans everywhere.
Their beloved Mountaineers went from National Championship contenders led by three potential Heisman trophy candidates to a 7-6 football team who was blown out by a Big East team in the Pinstripe Bowl.
The consistent 10-2 and 9-3 seasons in the Big East Conference can’t be expected anymore.
Nine of the 10 members of the Big 12 went to a bowl game this season, making West Virginia a small fish in a big pond.
What will the 2013 chapter reveal?