MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - All of a sudden, everything seems different for West Virginia's football team.Of course, whether it is or not is a matter for some debate.In reality, not much has changed with the team itself, right? It is still swimming upstream with an offense that only occasionally - although a bit more frequently of late - has its moments of clarity and success, a defense that alternately dominates and collapses, and special-teams play that is seldom wonderful or atrocious but tends to fluctuate among all points in between.Really, now, do you have any more confidence in any of those units to perform at a higher level than you did a week or a month ago?Didn't think so.Sometimes, though, it is merely the situation that changes, and that's certainly true for West Virginia.A week ago, all of those ingredients combined to create a sense of panic, at least among the faithful. A team that had lost three straight games and hadn't won on the road in almost a year needed to win three out of four and at least one or two away from Morgantown in order to avoid a losing season.
It wasn't hopeless, but it was, well, grim.And then the Mountaineers played exactly the way they'd played all season - sputtering offense, opportunistic and then flailing defense and so-so special teams - and won a game. On the road. In overtime. Under great pressure.And suddenly a team whose fans seemed resigned to a dismal fate had hope. Shoot, not just hope, confidence.
Who doesn't think this team can - actually should - win at least two of the last three and get to a bowl game? Who now worries about playing on the road, especially given it's Kansas? Even if you are inclined to write off a game this weekend at home against Texas, who fears Kansas and a home game against Iowa State? It's not that either are gimmes, especially for this team, but hasn't the feeling done a virtual 180 from pessimism to optimism?Shoot, even Dana Holgorsen admits to a sense of some relief."Well, it's not like it was our first win of the year,'' Holgorsen said Monday. "But yeah, any time you win there's some relief after the hard work you've put in that week.''Relief is certainly the best word to use here, no question. It can't really be optimism because this team is still deeply flawed. It's not as if a win over a rather mundane TCU team suddenly puts West Virginia in position to make some sort of late-season run at anything grand. There's still nothing out there except mere bowl eligibility. That's it. That and perhaps building toward something next year.The point, though, is that while that one win doesn't really alter the fact that this will go down as an utterly forgettable season in WVU football history, it does make it far more possible that instead of looking back on it as a complete disaster (think 3-8 in 2001), there's a chance it just becomes another blip on the radar (like 7-5 and a Music City Bowl the year before that).
That's what people do when they reminisce about seasons past. They always remember the great ones and the lousy ones, the former because they cherish them and the latter because, no matter what they do, they just can't forget.That West Virginia won a game at TCU in 2013 is never likely to be recalled as anything monumental, if it is recalled at all. It was a 3-5 team beating another 3-5 team. It was nothing special.It could very well be the reason, however, that this team won't be relegated by history to the status of memorable for its ineptitude. While that's not a grand accomplishment, well, at least it's something.Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.