I have been a West Virginia Mountaineer football fan from the time I was a small child. Long before I ever really even knew what a first down was or the definition of a safety, I was taught to hate Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech and to love West Virginia.
Fast-forward a few decades later and I may now vote differently than my grandparents and the religion I practice might be far different than the one I was taught in those early years of my childhood, but hundreds of miles and too many years to count later, there is still one thing that has stuck: The back of my vehicle may have out of state tags, but there’s a flying WV on the back window. My allegiance is to the boys in Morgantown.
Over the course of my life, I have seen coaches come and go. The reign of each coach somehow coincides with various stages of my life. First was my childhood and the years of Don Nehlen: that man was the personification of West Virginia football as far as I was concerned. Say what you will about him, but he’s a legend in my book. My first live game was the night game when Miami came to town. If memory serves me correctly, we were undefeated with seven wins going into the game and led 7-3 in the closing minutes of the game, until the final few plays when Miami blocked a punt in the end zone and ran it in for a touchdown. We lost 7-10.
As a little boy, I cried in the stands that evening, but I wore my blue and gold to school the following Monday, in the heart of Hokie country, proud to be a Mountaineer.
Nehlen was replaced by Rodriguez, but not before beating Eli Manning and Ole Miss in his final game in the 2000 Music City Bowl.
A West Virginia native, Rodriguez returned to home via Clemson, and as the sports almanac shows, his first season at WVU was pretty rough — to the tune of 3-8. We beat only Rutgers, Kent State, and Ohio. We lost to the Temple Owls that season (Temple concluded the year with only four wins), in fact, all the teams “we hate” beat us: Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Miami, Maryland and Notre Dame. It was a tough year to be a Mountaineer. Far worse than 2019.
Regardless of your personal feelings about him, it is undeniable that Rich Rod turned out to be a heck of a good coach for West Virginia… while he was here… Who knows what could have become of the program had he stayed… that’s a worthy debate in itself! His final three seasons were all ten or more win seasons and our program was thrust into the national spotlight like never before and it seemed like overnight we had become a perennial conversation piece in college football — yet the likes of some of these modern day Internet “sports writers” I see on Facebook posting their clickbait crap articles would never have allowed for this golden stretch of years if they had enjoyed the social media reach they have today — Rich’s first season (3-8) — in the Big East — was far worse than Neal Brown’s first season in the Big XII.
The Rodriguez era was preceded by the Stewart/Holgorsen era which can best be described as mediocre: In 2013 Dana went 2-7 in the Big XII conference and outside of his first year and the 2016 season, there were no ten win seasons.
Fortunately, in my opinion, the man with poor table manners and unkempt hair skipped town at the end of the 2018 season and most onlookers agree that it was part of an attempt to avoid the hells of the coming 2019 season: If he could only go 8-4 with the likes of Will Grier and Sills just imagine how bad the 2019 season was going to be when the cupboards were bare!?
In the end, Holgorsen’s record at West Virginia was 61-41 (.581) which equates roughly to a 7-5 season… Yes, after eight full years of coaching at West Virginia Holgorsen’s average season record was 7-5.
And yet, we now have fans crying about him being gone, stalking his social media page like jaded teenage girlfriends and even worse, decrying the gentleman who has taken over to clean the mess he’s left behind.
Looking toward the 2019 season, we all knew it was going to be bad — long before Dana decided to go to Houston, we knew this was going to be a rebuilding year. Back in the summer, I remember everyone making predictions about the new season: “Three wins and I’ll be happy…”, “As long as we don’t get beat by JMU it’ll be a good year…”, “Hopefully we’ll be competitive with Texas…” These were the sentiments.
But now, after we beat James Madison, NC State, and Kansas, and hung with Texas for three quarters, led Iowa State and almost beat an undefeated Baylor team, wannabee Internet sportswriters and social media coaches are quick to criticize Coach Brown and the players.
Listen people! We’re playing with freshmen and hand-me-down transfer players from other teams, just to put it frankly, and in all honesty, we’re doing far better than most logically thinking people could have imagined — we almost took Baylor into overtime Halloween night.
Neal Brown’s 2019 season at West Virginia obviously isn’t going to amount to much as far as the season records are concerned, but if you were expecting an eight win season this year, you’re probably clueless in a lot of other areas of your life, too. This is a young team, a proven coach and the years that lay before us in the windshield are a lot brighter than the string of 7-6 and 8-4 seasons spotted in the rearview mirror.
Three years from now, if we’re still losing to four games in a row then it’s time to start asking questions, but right now, I have to ask, What were you really expecting from this season? It’s a rebuilding year. Trust the climb!
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