Oh c'mon. You didn't really want it to be easy, did you? Who wants to coast to victories by three or four touchdowns? Adversity builds character. This road to success was much more rewarding.
I'm kidding, of course.
Fortunately I still have most of my hair left after pulling a lot of it out watching the Mountaineers play football these last several weeks, and I'm guessing many of you feel the same way. But when the dust settled from West Virginia's last second comeback 30-27 win over South Florida Thursday night the Mountaineers owned a 9-3 record and a bid to the Orange Bowl on Jan. 4.
WVU fans kept saying they were looking forward to one of those games where the team would perform to its potential all four quarters, or maybe to play well "on all three sides" as coach Dana Holgorsen likes to say. But in 12 games it never happened. It wasn't because they didn't give good effort or weren't well coached. In all candor, they really just weren't all that talented a team to "put it all together".
But what we did see in the final five games that were decided in the final minute (four of them wins) was a team that made plays when it counted and found ways to gut out a victory. A closer look at how these fourth quarter comeback wins transpired show some interesting similarities.
On Oct. 29 at Rutgers, the Mountaineers were trailing 31-28 and on their first possession of the fourth quarter drove 78 yards in 10 plays to take the lead. Two weeks later, at Cincinnati trailing 21-17, WVU went 74 yards in 12 plays to win the game, 24-21. Against Pittsburgh in the home finale down 20-14, WVU traveled 83 yards in 11 plays for the winning score.
At South Florida, West Virginia did it again, driving 77 yards in 11 plays to tie, and on the next possession going 63 yards to set up the game-winning field goal on the last play.
And equally important is that in all four games the West Virginia defense, which at times struggled during the season, held opponents scoreless each time after the Mountaineers took the lead.
Through most of the season, the West Virginia offense bailed out deficiencies on special teams and defense, but the roles were reversed on Thursday night. Through the first three quarters, 17 of the Mountaineers' 20 points were from an interception return, a kickoff return, and a field goal set up by a blocked punt. Until awakening in the fourth quarter, the WVU offense had managed to put up only 3 points on a late first half drive, and had committed turnovers on three consecutive second half possessions, turning a 10-point lead into a 7-point deficit. But when the game was on the line, the offense got it done.
This team must also be given credit for not folding its tent after the upset loss to Louisville when the season goals appeared gone. It kept playing hard and the effort has been rewarded.
The Mountaineers will be heavy underdogs but they have relished that role in two prior BCS appearances when WVU upset Georgia and Oklahoma. West Virginia might get smoked but don't count the Mountaineers out. This is one more chance to finally put together that complete game.