West Virginia University had a legit shot to make the Big 12 championship game going into the season.
That opportunity was still there after its first loss at Iowa State.
And it was still there after its second loss at Oklahoma State.
Going into the last game of the season against Oklahoma, at home, the narrative was simple: win and you’re in.
WVU was unable to get that elusive win on Black Friday, meaning its shot of making the Big 12 championship was gone, as long with a chance of making a New Year’s Six bowl game.
This Mountaineer team was one of the best, if not the best, WVU teams in the last six or seven seasons.
If there was a year to vie for winning the conference or making a bowl game on New Year’s or even making the playoff, it was this year.
The Old Gold and Blue could not reach its goal with this team, a much improved and much better team than in 2017.
Will Grier, David Sills, Gary Jennings, Yodny Cajuste, Dravon Askew-Henry, and maybe David Long (if he declares for the draft) are all gone. That is the core of the team.
Three, if not all four, team captains will not be on the roster next fall.
One of the best offenses in the country, led by one of the best quarterbacks in the country, faltered when it mattered most.
All game against Iowa State, WVU was not able to get anything going offensively. Grier threw for just 100 yards, the lowest mark in his career in a full game (he had 50 yards in less than one quarter before breaking his finger in 2017). The offense totaled 152 yards in that game. That total number of yards will rarely win any team a football game.
The offense racked up 31 first half points against Oklahoma State. It only scored 10 in the second half (all 10 were scored in the fourth quarter).
And when points needed to be put on the board late against Oklahoma, that offense could not do that.
Just over midfield, Grier was sacked and fumbled the ball in which Oklahoma picked up and ran back for a touchdown, OU’s second scoop-and-score of the game.
The following drive, which started with 9:50 left in the game and West Virginia being down 59-49, WVU went three-and-out, not even gaining one yard.
By the time Martell Pettaway found the end zone with 4:20 left to cut the deficit to three, there was no stopping Kyler Murray and the Sooner offense.
Not only has the offense had its fair share of struggles, the defense has, too.
It allowed 498 yards and 25 first downs to Iowa State. Against Oklahoma State, 604 yards were allowed, including 377 in the second half alone.
And against the Sooners, there was very little semblance of a defense. A first half fumble recovery and second half interception was it. On 14 OU drives, eight ended in touchdowns, and a ninth ended in a field goal.
If there was ever a time for West Virginia to make a conference championship game and/ or a major bowl game, this was the year for it to happen.
Dana Holgorsen may take a different head coaching position. Team leaders will be playing on Sunday’s. Coordinators may be on their way out of Morgantown. And an inexperienced quarterback will be at the helm come next season.
WVU football may find itself swimming in mediocrity for the next number of seasons. Who knows when- or if- the Mountaineers will reach a conference championship now.