In terms of big wins, a frustration for fans often extends to the fact West Virginia hasn’t had enough of them in recent years. This is then used as a criticism of head coach Neal Brown’s tenure as a whole. And while more are definitely needed, there have been a few wins under Brown that could argue as “big” ones, or they at least garnered that label at the time.
Where does this win over Baylor rank among the others that elicited a conversation about it being a pivotal moment or game for Brown’s time at WVU? Before you answers that, let’s go over some of those.
WVU Upsets #24 Kansas State in 2019
Rewind back to 2019 and Brown’s first season at WVU. Back then there was a lot of optimism about Brown taking over in Morgantown. He ingratiated himself to the fans, the media and even to former distinguished players throughout the history of the program, many that admitted they didn’t feel welcome under his predecessor. Most were also willing to give him time and some even called the 2019 season “Year 0” because he was having to start from scratch. And that’s how the season was going until Nov. 16th. On that day, WVU beat a then ranked Kansas State team. That win was only the 4th of that season, but was then used as a sign of better days, even though the team finished 5-7, failing to reach any postseason opportunity.
Liberty Bowl Win Over Army in 2020
After enduring a rough 2019 season, expectations were increasing for the 2020 season and then a global pandemic hit the world. COVID-19 provided a lot of people, and that includes college football coaches a bit of a pass due to having to face so many circumstances that were completely uncontrollable, including having a game against Oklahoma canceled all together. But what really sold people on trusting the climb was how this season ended for the Mountaineers.
WVU won a bowl game, which was the first bowl win for the program since 2015, snapping 3 straight bowl losses. And WVU won a relatively descent bowl game that had some history behind. So not the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. WVU won the Liberty Bowl over an Army team that did win 9 games that year. The team picked up 6 overall wins in a season of complete disarray after struggling so much the year before. They did all of this under a head coach who had not been on the job two full years at that point. There was hope, and for good reason.
WVU Beats #15 Hokies in Renewal of Rivalry with Virginia Tech
A win over a team ranked as the number 15 team in the country is good, right? Well, that can actually depend. When WVU beat Virginia Tech in 2021 it created a memorable atmosphere with players carry around the Black Diamond Trophy, a trophy that had only been played for once (2017) since 2005. It was a cool scene for WVU fans. A win over a ranked opponent, especially one your program has a long history with, would be a feather on anyone’s cap. But WVU did have to hang on for that win after almost blowing an early big lead. Virginia Tech then proceeded to expos themselves by losing 5 more games before the season was over. WVU finished the 2021 season tied for 5th place in the Big 12, a 6-7 overall record and with a loss in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. Despite the “big” win over an old rival, some could argue it no longer felt like the program was climbing.
Now to the win over Baylor
For this win over Baylor to happen in year 4 and in the midst of so much uncertainty about the future of the program, it feels like the biggest one to date for Brown. Some could even argue it was more of a “necessary” win than just a “big” win too. A loss and the Mountaineers are 2-4 and 0-3 in the Big 12. The chances to even get to 6 and a bowl game seem impossible. This year also represents the end of being patient for many fans. Baylor did lose their ranking the week before, although some could argue a loss to a top 10 team shouldn’t have dropped them out of the top 25 all together, so this win is not against a ranked team or in a a bowl game like the others. But the case for this win being the best relies on the need for it at this time and the fact that WVU did have to get going in such a wild back and forth game. This win also showed the team still trusts in Brown, which is the most important thing.