November 17th, 2018 was a rough day for Mountaineer Nation. With a berth in the Big 12 Championship Game on the line, the Mountaineers blew a 17-point halftime lead to drop a 45-41 contest against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Had West Virginia had claimed victory, it would have secured a spot in the title game. Dropping to 6-2 in conference play, Will Grier and company now had to rely on a victory against Oklahoma the following week to claim a spot in the “big game.” This of course was much easier said than done.
Ultimately, West Virginia would lose the following week to Oklahoma, putting a sour taste in the mouths of fans. What could have been a magical season quickly went south. While the disappointment certainly stung for Mountaineer Nation, it was the loss to Oklahoma State that set the Mountaineers on the path for future success.
With the loss to the Cowboys, the probability that the Mountaineers would make the Big 12 Championship game was now slim to none. This was the first opportunity that Holgorsen felt he truly had a team that could compete against the blue bloods of the conference. Now that this opportunity had come and gone without results, things became stale between Holgorsen and the university. After no agreement on an extension was reached, the head coach decided to take his talents to the University of Houston. What at first seemed like doom and gloom for the Mountaineer Football program would quickly turn light.
In January 2019, Neal Brown was hired to be the next head coach. Since then, the football program has been running on all cylinders. Brown has completely revamped the culture, and has attracted big time talent to Morgantown. The Mountaineers finished with the 28th best class in the nation in 2020, and currently have the 17th best class for 2021. This is appearing to be a program changing hire for WVU, and it all stems back to the loss to the Cowboys.
Had the Mountaineers defeated the Cowboys, they would have earned a berth in the Big 12 title game. Holgorsen would have likely landed an extension, and Neal Brown would have landed elsewhere. The 4-point loss to the Cowboys may have stung for fans, but whatever divine intervention happened set up the Mountaineers for future success. All things happen for a reason, whether they be good or bad. In this case, it was heartbreak that is turning into one of the best things to ever happen to the Mountaineer Football program.