WVU football: Missing bowl 'an all-time low' for Holgorsen
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia had played in a bowl in 11 consecutive seasons, but that streak came to an end Saturday with the 31-19 loss at Kansas. Coach Dana Holgorsen hadn't missed a bowl since breaking into Football Bowl Subdivision coaching in 2000 at Texas Tech.
"I appreciate you reminding me of that," he said. "I guess this would be Year No. 14. I guess this would be an all-time low - not to take anything away from Kansas. They'd been close. We've seen it. We've talked about it. They've been close and they did a good job. Their effort was good. They sensed victory and they whooped us."
The Jayhawks, meanwhile, have not been eligible for a bowl since 2008 and hadn't won a conference game in three years and 10 days. The fans responded by rushing the field, celebrating with the coaches and players at midfield and taking down the goalposts, carrying them off the field and throwing them in a lake.
"When you come in someone else's house and you're not ready to play, they're going to take it from you," WVU nose guard Shaq Rowell said. "Those guys knew we were playing for a bowl bid and they said, 'We're going to take their bowl bid. They're not going to a bowl game.' They spoiled our dreams. That's what you live for as a player - to go out there and have something to play for. We had something to play for and they took it."
Saturday's game at Memorial Stadium was played before a crowd of 30,089. It's the smallest crowd to see a WVU game since 2005, when 25,893 watched the Mountaineers beat Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium. WVU (4-7, 2-6 Big 12) is off next week and plays host to Iowa State (1-8, 0-7) Nov. 30 at Mountaineer Field and with the students away from campus for Thanksgiving break.
"We've got to play for a win," senior center Pat Eger said. "We can get a better record. Hopefully we can get a win for the younger kids who'll be here next year and that'll help them with some momentum for whatever momentum can come from a win at home in the last game of the season and carry over into the offseason."
HOLGORSEN, 21-16 as the head coach and just 11-13 since winning the Orange Bowl after the 2011 season, thought his offense struggled again because the defense was having trouble, too, against Kansas (3-7, 1-6).
The Mountaineers, who had been outscored 89-57 in the first quarter this season, opened the game with a five-play, 65-yard touchdown drive in their first 11 a.m. CST road game since they joined the Big 12 last season.
"I was proud of how they woke up and we had energy in the hotel," Holgorsen said. "We got to the game and I thought there was energy in the locker room. We went out there and we started fast on offense and we scored. Then the defense went out there and they just laid down.
"Defensively, we didn't play with very much energy. Our offense has relied on our defense all year and when they saw the defense giving up points, I think our offense shook."
The suggestion the defense "laid down" didn't rest well with the players on that side of the ball.
"I'll never lie down," defensive end Kyle Rose said. "The defensive line will never lay down. Our defense won't lie down. I know our team won't lie down. Maybe individual guys weren't playing hard. That's their loss and that's our loss in the long run, but we'll find those guys and get them out. We play hard and we never take plays off."
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THE OFFENSE wasn't up to the task, either. After opening the game with a touchdown, WVU went without points on its next 12 drives and 53:02 of clock. The Mountaineers ran for 144 yards on 32 carries, but only 117 on the final 31 after Charles Sims started the game with a 27-yard gain.
"What's good offense?" Holgorsen said. "You finish blocks. You run the ball. You sit in the pocket and finish blocks up front and you throw and catch. It wasn't good."
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WVU'S SPECIAL teams had an eventful game. For the third time this season and the second time in as many games, WVU named its holder, snapper, kicker and punter as the game captains.
Then the game started.
Kicker Josh Lambert had a streak of 10 straight made field goals end when a 42-yard attempt was blocked at the end of the first half. Nick O'Toole averaged 44.6 yards on eight punts, but had 38-, 35- and 35-yard punts with the wind in the second quarter.
He was also party to a delay of game before one punt. That penalty wiped away a kick that went for a touchback and preceded a punt that went out of bounds at the Kansas 32-yard line.
James Sims ran for a 68-yard touchdown on the next play.
Jordan Thompson muffed a punt that lost 15 yards while Wendell Smallwood totaled 38 yards on three kickoff returns and had a 56-yard return erased by Justin Arndt's holding penalty.
O'Toole, Lambert and holder/backup kicker Mike Molinari were on the field for two failed fake onside kicks.
Molinari made the tackle on the first while the second didn't go the required 10 yards.
John DePalma, the long snapper, made his first tackle of the season on a punt in the second quarter.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.