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NCAA Football Big 12 FootballWest Virginia Mountaineers

Season Outlook: West Virginia Mountaineers

Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

The West Virginia Mountaineers lost their third consecutive game for the first time since 2005 on Saturday against the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs and have still not secured bowl eligibility.

The game was very close, and was decided by a two point conversion in overtime. After Tavon Austin returned a punt for a touchdown with three minutes on the clock, Mountaineer fans were going crazy. The atmosphere inside the stadium was electric.

Soon after, the WVU defense allowed a 94 yard touchdown pass to a wide open TCU receiver. The game went into overtime and the Horned Frogs won.

My thoughts on the Mountaineer’s performance:

I recently read a tweet from someone saying that the WVU defense played well enough to win the game….for 58 minutes. I could not agree with this more. The defense played what I think was their best game of the season. If nothing else it was the best one in a while.

They had a number of third down stands and forced an interception in the red zone. They pressured the quarterback and forced bad throws throughout the game.

Unfortunately, on the play that mattered, a receiver was left unguarded behind all defenders, was spotted and hit for a ridiculously easy touchdown pass.

TCU receiver Josh Boyce was forced out of bounds by a WVU defender and legally re-entered the field. The safety simply didn’t see the receiver on the sideline. He wasn’t expecting one of the sideline players to shoot off of the sideline and be eligible. It was a tough play to evaluate the defense on because it was just a crazy play.

Overall, I was satisfied with the defense’s performance. Surprisingly, it was the offense that’s going to receive the bulk of my criticism.

I stated in my preview of the game that the player to watch would be WVU quarterback Geno Smith. I said if Smith could get going, the Mountaineers would win the game.

Smith played his worst game of the season, maybe his WVU career. He threw into coverage, missed open receivers, including one pass in which WVU receiver Stedman Bailey was unguarded in the corner of the end zone.

He threw inaccurate, uncatchable screen passes that resulted in drops, and just didn’t look like himself.

I mentioned the possibility of an injury in a previous article about Smith. Watching this game made that seem like more of a realistic possibility.

Smith missed receivers in ways that I’ve never seen him miss in his entire career at WVU, and the errors he were making were relatively unforced. The defense was disguising coverage, but that doesn’t explain inaccurate screen passes.

He even made questionable decisions, which is something Smith has always been great at. He stared receivers down, allowing defenders to jump routes and threw an awful interception that went nowhere close to his intended receiver.

That being said, the defense is not the reason for the struggling offense. The defense played well enough that the talent on the offensive side of the ball should have won the game.

Where does WVU go from here?

Well, folks in Morgantown are questioning if the team will even win another game. This is a valid question.

They are a team that is down emotionally. The defense was struggling and corrected it, and now the offense is having problems. To make matters worse, the Mountaineers are headed to Stillwater, OK to face the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Frankly, I’m worried. If the Mountaineers can only hang with a beaten and bruised TCU team, I wonder if they can beat powerhouses like OSU and the Oklahoma Sooners.

The Mountaineers are 5-3, (2-3 in the Big XII). They have Big XII wins against the Baylor Bears and the Texas Longhorns. Two teams which have been exposed as the season progressed.

The remainder of the WVU schedule looks like this:

They travel to Stillwater to face OSU.

Then they play the No. 14 Oklahoma Sooners in Morgantown, before traveling to Ames, IA to face the Iowa State Cyclones.

They end the season in Morgantown against the Kansas Jayhawks.

With the way things are going, I think the Mountaineers will lose against the Cowboys and the Sooners.

I predict a win against Iowa State, and if fans show up to the Kansas game, a win there as well. However, there is a good chance either one of these teams could upset WVU with the way all three teams have played this season.

That being said, the Mountaineers will finish the season at 7-5.

However, with this team, it’s really hard to tell. It is capable of great showings, but I haven’t seen one in a while.

This is a team that started AP No. 11 at the beginning of the season, and was No. 4 at one point in the season. To finish 7-5 just seems unreal.

I see the Mountaineers playing in the Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl at the end of the season.

I really hope I’m wrong.

Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeAtkinsonRS or visit his author page.