No matter the outcome of Saturday’s regular-season finale against Oklahoma State, West Virginia (4-7, 2-6 Big 12) will not play in the postseason for the second time in four years.
Despite the team having no opportunity to “go bowling,” there is still plenty to play for, and reasons to believe Saturday is important for the program moving forward.
“This is our last game. … We don’t like it, but it is what it is. I think this week is about gratitude, about a lot of different things,” head coach Neal Brown said earlier this week. “We’re thankful for a lot of things. We’re thankful for the opportunity to end this season on the right note. This is the last week that this team will be together.”
West Virginia also entered its 12th game without postseason aspirations in Neal Brown’s first year in charge of the program in 2019. It was a similar scenario to the one the Mountaineers will face Saturday: coming off of a home loss to a ranked team, heading on the road to face a team that was ranked at one point in the year.
The Mountaineers won that game, picking up a 20-17 road win thanks to a long touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter. The victory ended the WVU season on a high note
and negated the Horned Frogs from playing in a bowl game.
“Huge win to finish the year,” Brown said after the game. “It’s been a long year, but our guys battled.”
The win also, in retrospect, springboarded the Mountaineers into an offseason that wound up producing the only winning season under Brown to this point. The program is hoping that a win Saturday could have the same effect.
“I think how you finish says a lot about you as an individual,” said Brown. “We fully expect as a staff and as a football team individually and collectively to finish in the right manner,”
“It’s an opportunity”
College football teams are guaranteed 12 football games each season, but due to the physical nature of the sport, nothing is guaranteed for players. Each game is another chance for athletes to step on the field and do what they love.
Saturday also provides another sort of chance for everyone on the field.
“It’s an opportunity,” Brown said during his weekly Tuesday press conference. “Every time you have an opportunity to put video out there and increase your value as a player, you need to do it.”
For senior players with pro-football aspirations, Saturday will be their last chance to put in-game production on their resume tapes.
For other players, it’s the last chance this season to show the coaching staff what they can do against an opposing team. It’s their last impression heading into the offseason.
Young players get the chance to travel
Speaking of opportunity, Brown stated Tuesday that West Virginia will travel a larger number of players than usual this week to Stillwater. That is due to a rule that allows teams to take an increased number of players on the road one week per season.
According to the head coach, though, not only will some of those young players travel, but they will play, too.
“We’re going to be intentional about getting some guys that we want to redshirt, that we’re going to redshirt but have games, we’re going to be intentional about getting them in,” said Brown.
Some of those players could be seeing the field for the first time this season, while others could be taking the field for the first time since the early part of the year.
Asked specifically if true-freshman quarterback Nicco Marchiol would play, Brown said that he and the coaching staff would have conversations about that throughout the week.
Garrett Greene is making his second start at QB.