By BRAD JOHNSON
You could hear it in everyone’s tone of voice Wednesday evening. Local residents’ speech sounded flat and lifeless. We spoke in slow monotones.
We were depressed.
Why? Because we’d just watched our beloved Mountaineers lose a bowl game.
WVU started strong in the 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl. The Mountaineers’ defense looked great, and when Kennedy McCoy scored the game’s first touchdown to give the good guys a 7-0 lead, fans across the Mountain State were feeling happy — not overconfident, but definitely happy.
And then the roof fell in.
The less said about Miami’s 28 unanswered points the better. Skyler Howard kept fighting in the second half, but the lead was just too much to overcome.
When your favorite football team loses a college bowl game it’s more depressing then when your teams lose in other sports.
In college football, if your team has played well enough to earn a bowl bid, there’s about a month’s wait after the end of the regular season until your squad actually gets to play in the bowl game.
That’s a long wait and a lot of build-up for what could turn out to be an unexpectedly lop-sided loss.
And when the bowl game’s over, the season’s over. Just like that.
I’m telling you, it can be depressing. Just remember how you felt Wednesday night.
But let’s look on the bright side. Yes, the bowl game was disappointing, but we shouldn’t let it overshadow what WVU accomplished on the gridiron this season.
Coach Dana Holgorsen’s 2016 squad achieved the ninth 10-win season in school history, becoming one of six WVU teams to do it in the regular season.
He is one of three WVU coaches, along with Don Nehlen and Rich Rodriguez, to post multiple 10-win seasons. The seven Big 12 wins also are the most in a season, tying for second place in the standings, WVU’s highest finish to date.
WVU went 4-1 away from home this season and Holgorsen has a 12-2 home mark over the past two years. His 46 wins at West Virginia place him fourth on the school’s all-time win list, and he has led the Mountaineers to bowl games in five of the past six years, including three straight.
West Virginia has been ranked in both major polls for most of the 2016 season, spending time in the Top 10, and currently sitting at No. 14 in the Associated Press Poll.
In the national rankings, WVU’s offense came into Wednesday’s bowl game ranked No. 12 in total offense, No. 13 in first down offense, No. 18 in rushing offense, No. 24 in passing yards per completion, No. 29 in pass efficiency and No. 30 in pass offense.
Defensively, WVU was ranked No. 10 in turnovers gained, No. 19 in fumbles recovered, No. 23 in passes intercepted, No. 31 in turnover margin, No. 32 in pass efficiency defense and No. 36 in scoring defense.
WVU placed nine players on the Big 12 All-Conference teams and 10 players on the Big 12 All-Academic teams. Also, 16 of the 21 seniors were set to have their degrees when they played in the bowl game.
Howard finished his WVU career Wednesday. During his time with the Mountaineers, he passed for more than 7,000 yards and threw 60 touchdowns and only 24 interceptions.
He is also one of only five quarterbacks in school history to rush for more than 1,000 yards. Pat White, Major Harris, Rasheed Marshall and Jarrett Brown were the others.
All in all, this was an excellent season for WVU football. The bowl loss stung, but hey, spring practices are just a few months away. Let’s go, Mountaineers!
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