After his three-touchdown performance in No. 21 West Virginia's 35-14 win over Rutgers in the Mountaineers' season-ending game at Milan Puskar Stadium sophomore fullback Ryan Clarke was reported to be "all smiles" when asked by reporters about his day's work.
"I did my job today," Clarke explained. "We put together drives and it's my job to finish them."
However, asked about his costly fumble during WVU's opening drive which was recovered by the Scarlet Knights' Manny Abreu at the Rutgers' 8-yard line, Clarke reportedly continued smiling and replied, "It (fumbling) is part of the game".
One has to wonder if that same cavalier attitude was present when Clarke and his Mountaineer teammates sat back later that evening and watched Connecticut's Dave Teggart's drill a 52-yard field goal in the waning seconds of the Huskies matchup with South Florida which sealed the Big East's BCS bid for his team and sent Clarke and WVU to the Champs Sports Bowl on Tuesday, Dec. 28.
It's understandable for athletes to have short memories when it comes to the negative things that can happen in athletics. And it is commendable when coaches attempt to keep their player's spirits high when they make a mistake which costs a team a contest.
But at some point, someone needs to take responsibility.
Sure there were several miscues by the Mountaineers' offense in its 16-13 overtime loss at Connecticut. And one could appropriately place the blame for WVU's 19-14 loss to Syracuse on the arm of sophomore quarterback Geno Smith, who tossed three first half interceptions in the setback.
In our politically correct world, it just isn't acceptable to place blame on an athlete, a coach, or even a politician.
But the reality of it all is that WVU was a turnover away from laying claim to a very attainable Big East title and its first BCS berth since 2007.
Now, Mountaineer fans have to settle for a late-December holiday in sunny Florida-not a bad runner-up award, but not remotely as prestigious as playing in one of the five "major" bowls.
And just like a year ago, WVU finds itself matched up with an opponent which has nothing to lose and everything to win in North Carolina State. It also finds itself pitted against a coach-Tom O'Brien-who is more than familiar with the Mountaineers after spending years playing against the old gold and blue as coach of Boston College.
Oddsmakers have already tabbed West Virginia a slight favorite, but given the team's last two performances-a 31-30 win over North Carolina in the 2008 Meineke Car Care Bowl and a 33-21 loser to unranked Florida State in the 2009 Konica Minolta Gator (or was that the Bobby Bowden) Bowl-that line will rightfully drop and may even favor the Wolfpack by the time the game kicks off at 6:30 p.m.
Yes, WVU can proclaim itself Big East champions just like Pittsburgh can after its win over Cincinnati. But, the real winners-thanks to a fumble-will be in Glendale, Ariz., in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1.
Contact Jim Butta at firstname.lastname@example.org