For the first time since 2013, the West Virginia University football team will not be playing in a bowl game.
The Mountaineers enter Friday’s season-finale at TCU (4:15 p.m. on ESPN) with just four wins, so a West Virginia postseason appearance is off the table.
Don’t tell first-year WVU coach Neal Brown that the Mountaineers have nothing to play for Friday against the Horned Frogs.
“We’re trying to get better,” Brown said. “Most of our team is back for multiple years. We’re trying to make steady improvement and finish the year right. I believe our guys will show up and play hard. The only issue I’ve had with our team was how we played early in the Texas Tech game.
“I don’t know why this week would be any different. There’s two things from a motivational factor — sending our seniors out in a positive manner, and then having a building block into the offseason, which is really important for us.”
Brown’s first order of business — sending West Virginia’s 22 seniors out with a win — comes against a TCU team with plenty to play for.
The Horned Frogs have five wins so far in 2019 and have one more chance — Friday against WVU — to become bowl eligible. Of TCU’s six losses, five have come by one score or less.
“It means that we’re close,” TCU coach Gary Patterson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It means that you have enough ability to be close, but either we’re screwing things up or we’re not making the right calls or we’re not right there yet to be able to make those plays.”
Two of those close calls for the Frogs have come in the last month against Big 12 title game participants Baylor and Oklahoma. Both the Bears and the Sooners needed multiple overtimes to get past TCU — and last week against the OU it also took some controversial calls to put the Horned Frogs away.
“It’s football. Things happen,” standout TCU linebacker Garret Wallow told the Star-Telegram. “Whatever happened on that field is in the past. It’s time to move on to the future. It’s time to move on to the next game. This game is the most important of the season right now.”
Patterson described West Virginia as a “really good 4-7 football team” that has played much better on offense since Bowling Green transfer Jarret Doege took over as the starting quarterback.
“[Doege] has only played two ball games,” Patterson said. “He’s won one, he’s lost one, but obviously I think they’ve changed the offense. I think they like the way he throws the ball around. They’re a little bit more open throwing the ball since their off week. They’ve become more physical.”
HITTING THE TRAIL
Following Friday’s finale, the West Virginia coaching staff will quickly turn its full attention toward recruiting.
Brown has 14 commitments so far for his first full recruiting class, and the idea is to make that number grow between now and the start of the National Letter of Intent period on Dec. 18.
“The next couple of weeks leading into the Dec. 18 signing date will be huge,” Brown said. “Starting Sunday, we’ll be on the road full time with the first contact day being Monday. We’ve had a couple recent commitments that are important, and we’ll have a couple more in the next week to 10 days, we hope. Then we need to finish strong. I like the guys we have committed. They continue to play well, either as junior college players or high school seniors. We follow them each and every week, and we’re proud of the progress they’re making.
“We definitely have some positions of need. Without a doubt we have to make some improvements and some strides on the offensive line. And we have to continue to add bodies in the secondary. We have every intention of finishing strong.”