From the needle being completely bottomed out on the spectrum, picked to finish last in the conference, the tide is shifting because of our fierce defense. Who would have seen that coming? I am not even sure Jordan Lesley saw that coming, and he’s the only one who should have. And yes, every forum on every site covering any type of WVU athletics has the same group going whoa whoa whoa, we’ve been here before. Three of his five seasons have started 3-1, so why is this different? Well, look at the team. The team acts differently. That defense hits the field and knows they can get a stop. The same missing links on the tracks for the hype train illustrate three other points worth addressing:
We Haven’t Played Anyone Yet
The idea that we have not played anyone of merit is somewhat baseless. Yeah, the teams we have won against are all currently 1-3 or 1-2, but let’s look at that. Pitt narrowly lost to Cincinnati, who held their own in a contest with Oklahoma this last weekend. Six points separated that game at the end. Then you have Pitt taking on a ranked team on the rise with a Heisman frontrunner with UNC. That was similar to our Penn State game, no one expected the Panthers to win that or their later season game against the Irish in South Bend. However, this team now has a chance to take the next three games and get back on the right side of .500 against Virginia Tech, Louisville, and Wake Forest before that marquee matchup against Notre Dame. Pitt was not ready for the defensive stand we took after their first drive and never recovered.
Texas Tech is a team that had a lot of preseason chatter about being a dark horse to make it to the title game at the end of the season. They are fast, relentless, and no less productive under Morton. The Red Raiders were surprised early by a better-than-advertised Wyoming team on the road, then faced Oregon and lost by only 8 points. Ask Colorado how serious the Ducks are. This was, again, a dramatic win for the defense to stop this quick delivery they like to do under the same QB that gave us an embarrassing loss in Lubbock last year.
Texas Tech Had Their Backup In
As noted, the Texas Tech backup mentioned is the same one who started last year when the Mountaineers traveled to Lubbock and left with one of the worst losses of the Neal Brown era. Morton is someone who can put plays together, who is accurate, and who the team trusts. We also had our backup quarterback in, with much less experience than Morton, leading the team.
The Big 12 Is Down
Is the Big 12 Conference seemingly stepping aside and letting the University of Texas and Oklahoma have their last moments in the sun as they walk out the door to the SEC? In general, it’s still very early in the conference schedule and the season to say all of these teams ahead for the Mountaineers are simply lesser versions of their previous selves. The most recent opponent, Texas Tech, should go on to show Dana Holgorsen the official bottom of the Big 12 as the Red Raiders begin their climb back out from the bottom. They are far from done winning games. And if a couple of these teams have built great seasons on the backs of our off years, shouldn’t that be a stepping stone for us, too?
You will never make everyone happy with the season’s progress. Some people want WVU to lose because they believe we must shake off Neal Brown and his staff and start rebuilding. Others believe that a win is a win is a win. While ‘defense wins championships,’ let’s just focus on winning week in to week out and see where that takes us.
Photo credit: WVU Athletics