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Viola: If the Mountaineers Get it Together, They can Salvage Season

October 31, 2013
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

MORGANTOWN - West Virginia has developed a bad habit. The Mountaineers can't seem to finish games.

Against Texas Tech and Kansas State, halftime leads have turned into disappointing losses.

''We just need to find a way to play four good quarters. It doesn't matter whether we are on the road or at home,'' defensive lineman Shaq Rowell said. ''The last two games that we were in at the start of the fourth quarter, one was at home and one was on the road. Texas Tech, we couldn't wrap up in the fourth quarter. Kansas State, we had them all game, but seven plays on third down, they kept us on the field, so we need to get off the field on third down. The offense needs to stay on the field on third down as well to give us a chance to win the game.''

Bingo.

WVU was a 10-point favorite against the Wildcats, but lost by 23 points, was outscored 28-3 and was pretty much outdone in every statistical category in the second half.

This week, TCU is favored to win by 14 points. The Horned Frogs haven't even scored more than 17 since August.

There's no reason the Mountaineers shouldn't be riding a two-game winning streak and looking to lock up a bowl berth when they arrive in Fort Worth on Saturday.

Instead, they're holding on for dear life.

The last time the Mountaineers didn't earn a bowl bid? 2001.

Looks like that could change to 2013 unless they can win three of their next four.

Considering West Virginia hasn't won a game since September, don't hold your breath.

You don't have to say anything to Rowell, though. He already knows the importance of this week's game.

''Whoever wins this game is going to go to a bowl game,'' he said. ''Whoever loses is likely not going to go to a bowl game.''

Pretty much.

''I think what it boils down to is confidence,'' defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. ''We need to play to win, and not play just hoping to win and that something good is going to happen to us. That is how I have felt over the past couple of weeks. Instead of going out there and trying to take the win, we have played flat. We need to go out with confidence and take the win. If we do that over the last couple of weeks, then we will have a chance to win.''

That's a big if.

Don't get me wrong. The Mountaineers still have a shot at earning a bowl bid.

Right now, though, their biggest obstacle is themselves.

This game on Saturday is going to be physical.

TCU leads the Big 12 with 24 sacks, 16 by the defensive line. Chances are the Horned Frogs are going to get to Clint Trickett a few times. West Virginia ranks seventh in the conference in sacks against.

The Horned Frogs also have held three of their last six opponents to 46 rushing yards or less. Again, chances are they're going to hit Charles Sims and Dreamius Smith in the backfield a few times.

The thing is, the Mountaineers can't let the little setbacks ruin it for them.

If WVU wants to salvage its season, the first thing it has to do is believe in itself.

Tony Viola can be reached via email at tviola@theintelligencer.net.

 
 

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