West Virginia's 31-19 loss at Kansas has assured that the 2013 edition of the old gold and blue will suffer its first losing season since 2001. A win over Iowa State will not change that fact-although it might ease the pain a little as the Mountaineers' string of postseason bowl appearances will end at 12.
One doesn't have to look back too far, however, to find the next as Don Nehlen's 1999 squad finished with a 4-7 mark. The Hall of Fame coach and his team bounced back the next season to post a 7-5 mark and capture the Music City Bowl with a 49-38 win over Mississippi.
Hopefully, Dana Holgorsen and his staff will be able to right the ship enough over the next 10 months to return WVU to its winning ways and silence the critics-this writer among them-that are calling for both his as well as Director of Athletics Oliver Luck's jobs.
But should Mountaineer fans expect the 2014 team to accomplish that feat?
A non-conference slate of games that opens with a showdown with two-time defending national champions (and it could very well be three) Alabama, Towson State and a Maryland squad that completely throttled the Mountaineers by a 37-0 score this year equates to a 1-2 mark-maybe 2-1 if we are lucky.
Then WVU enters Big 12 Conference play where Holgorsen's first two programs have combined for a 6-12 (7-11 with a win over the Cyclones after Thanksgiving) and have been less-than-competitive in several of them.
The good news is that the Mountaineers can become competitive, but the process may take longer than some fans would like and it doesn't appear that it will happen in the very near future.
Let's face it, the talent pool is not close to where it needs to be.
Even if all three quarterbacks return for next season, none of them have displayed the level of talent of a Geno Smith. Fans can hope that a member of the Class of 2014 will be able to change that, but I wouldn't bet my house on it.
Far more important, at least in my opinion, will be the young men on the offensive and defensive fronts. Neither were consistant enough this season for the offense to mount a solid running attack or stop the opposition from running the ball.
I have confidence that Parkersburg South graduate Ron Crook can accomplish the feat based upon what he did at both Harvard and Stanford. Same for defensive line coach Erik Slaughter, if he stays in Morgantown.
There are lingering doubts that offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson is the answer at that position just like there are lingering concerns surrounding the abilities of Keith Patterson and Joe DeForest with the defense and special teams, respectively.
Recruiting will be the key for all three. Bringing in better, and more, talent is the only way to avoid a repeat of this season.
Contact Jim Butta at firstname.lastname@example.org