The West Virginia Mountaineers and the 21 seniors on the squad finished their 2012 regular season with a resounding 59-10 thumping of Kansas on Saturday. It was the only easy afternoon in the entire Big 12 Conference season. Given the rough stretch the Mountaineers endured in October and November, it would have been nice to have seen the Jayhawks show up in the middle of the schedule rather than the end
WVU fans saw the last home appearance of a remarkable group of offensive players. It may be quite a while before we again see the likes of quarterback Geno Smith and receiver/running back Tavon Austin. Smith completed a remarkable 23 of 24 passes, tying an NCAA for completion percentage in a single game, as well as breaking his own school record with 21 consecutive completions.
It would be nice to see Geno at least get invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony this coming weekend. Passing for more than 4,000 yards and throwing 40 touchdown passes is a performance that deserves recognition, particularly coming against top-level competition. One could reasonably argue, though, that Tavon Austin was every bit as much an impact player in Morgantown. Whether receiving, running or returning kicks, he showed himself to be the best individual playmaker ever to wear a Mountaineer uniform.
It gives one pause to realize that West Virginia will enter the 2013 season without Smith, Austin, running back Shawne Alston, and three interior offensive linemen, including Parkersburg's Josh Jenkins. That is a lot of offensive firepower to lose competing in the Big 12, and we can only hope that there will be improvement on the defensive side of the ball to offset what will obviously be some dropoff on offense.
But we'll worry more about the 2013 season when it arrives. For 2012, it was somewhat of a disappointing result to go 4-5 in the Big 12 and 7-5 overall in West Virginia's first season in the conference. But Mountaineer fans saw college football at its best in Morgantown, not only seeing great WVU playmakers but two likely BCS teams in Oklahoma and Kansas State. We witnessed an unbelievable offensive fireworks show in a 70-63 win over Baylor, while suffering through two heartstopping one-point losses to TCU and Oklahoma. Although we would just have soon not done so, we saw three opposing quarterbacks throw for more than 500 yards, and several wide receivers who will be playing in the NFL. And thousands of Mountaineer fans were able to enjoy the high point of the season in a road upset of Texas.
The Mountaineers will be playing in the Pinstripe Bowl in New York City, most likely against old rival Syracuse.
WVU is in a four-way tie in the Big 12 standings, having identical records with Baylor, Texas Tech and TCU.
One might think that with marquee offensive players West Virginia might be a more attractive option for a slot in a warm weather bowl in Tucson, San Diego or Houston to play an opponent from the Pac 12 or Big 10, but it appears this is where geography works against us. Playing in cold weather before a half-empty Yankee Stadium against a middle of the pack Big East team doesn't sound all that exhilarating.
But that's what happens when you lose five games. Hopefully we'll make the best of it.