MORGANTOWN, W.Va – To say the Mountaineers needed a big win would be an understatement. But either way, West Virginia got that big win on Thursday night, outlasting Baylor 43-40.
Now that WVU has evened up its record and claimed a conference win to boot, it’s time to digest it and discuss what this game taught us about this team.
Tony Mathis is for real
There have been questions surrounding Tony Mathis since it became clear he was going to take over for the departing Leddie Brown as WVU’s featured running back. And even after solid production through five games on the season, some still wondered if the emergence of freshman CJ Donaldson, who was actually out gaining Mathis overall due to big plays, was helping create space for Mathis.
Was Mathis just a solid piece in a duo or could he be the guy if called upon? Well, Mathis answered that and then some with Donaldson out while recovering from a concussion suffered in Austin. Mathis scored early. Mathis scored late. Mathis broke free for a big 34-yard run. He was a rock, leading the WVU offense up and down the field. On the night, Mathis ran for 163 yards on 22 touches for an average of 7.4 yards per carry. He stepped up when called upon. Questions answered.
This team still plays hard for Neal Brown
While it’s tough to argue the criticism of Neal Brown hasn’t been fair since he does have a losing record during his tenure at WVU and has failed to win games against quality opponents, it’s also necessary to point out how his group of Mountaineers have not quit on him. Not by a long shot.
This team could have folded after the loss to Kansas. They could have felt sorry for themselves and quit after getting dominated by Texas. Instead, they showed up on national television and pulled out a win. They also did it by fixing what problems existed and not allowing a “here we go again” mentality to sink in–which would have been natural in a back and forth game like this.
Brown talked about feeling a sense of relief and the ball finally bouncing their way, which shows the level of frustration that existed. For WVU to win this game the way they did, that’s a credit to Brown and his team.
The defense isn’t broken
It’s no secret the WVU defense has struggled this season. The defense let the team down in two of the three losses. Even Dante Stills hasn’t been producing up to his normal standards. But none of that was evident Thursday night. Sure, Baylor scored points. Everyone knew they would. However, the WVU defense forced critical turnovers and got stops when they absolutely needed them.
The defense played with their hair on fire, just as Jasir Cox said they had to leading up to the game. Stills blocked an extra point that led to points too. They obviously need to keep this up in order to fully quiet any doubters, but WVU doesn’t beat Baylor without that kind of effort from the defense.
While the vibes around the program are much better now, it’s still only one game. Next up is a trip to Lubbock, Texas to face Texas Tech, a team that has a win over the Texas team that roughed up the Mountaineers pretty easily.
You never know what will happen week to week in the Big 12 this year, which means WVU can enjoy this feeling of relief for a day or so… and then it’s time to get back to work.