West Virginia has become accustomed to playing in close games this season. In the team’s 12 games, the Mountaineers started the fourth quarter within one score of winning or losing nine times.
Every Big 12 game with the exception of Oklahoma was a one-score game at the start of the fourth quarter. Despite this, WVU started conference play with 1-5. The Mountaineers were finally able to pull out a win two weeks ago over Kansas State and again Friday night against TCU. While winning two of their last three games will not necessarily impress anyone, head coach Neal Brown said it is a step in the right direction for the program.
“We’ve been in every league game..in the fourth quarter, we just haven’t won enough,” Brown said after the game Friday. “So the last three games of the season, winning two of those, on the road, against really proud programs, is big for us in this first year of building a program.”
Brown said losing so many close games come as a result of the offense, defense and special teams not being able to play off of one another.
“We hadn’t played great complementary football really until the last three weeks,” Brown explained. “That’s what teams that win close games do. When one side struggles the other sides pick them up, when you get a big play, the other side takes advantage of it. If we had been a little bit better at that throughout the year we’d probably be sitting at a different record right now but that wasn’t the case.”
Brown said close losses also come because of self-inflicted wounds.
“We’ve done a lot of things, as we went through the year, that are the reason we’re sitting here at 5-7…We hadn’t been able to overcome those types of mistakes but we were able to do that today.”
The positive aspect, however, is that the young players making mistakes this season are not likely to repeat those mistakes moving forward, according to Brown.
“The thing that, I think, really speaks well to our future is because all those guys that are first-year players are going to turn into second-year players, all those guys that are second-year players are going to turn into third-year players and we’re not going to repeat those same mistakes. We’ll be more disciplined, we’ll have more experience.
“The margin for error in the Big 12 is so small, it really is. If you look at our league, from top to bottom it’s really tough…and you can’t be a team that beats yourself and we did that some this year. Where you clean up those type of mistakes is in your winter program and your summer program.”
Even though the team did not have the year it wanted, winning the season finale is still important.
“Winning makes everything better,” Brown said. “We’re going to go in this some momentum into the offseason. What we’ve done here in November validates the plan we have in place. It’s big for our fans as well.”