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Wednesday Wind Down: WVU has turned the page

Just three weeks ago after West Virginia got blown out against Baylor it seemed as all hope was lost. The Mountaineers sat at 2-4, and still had games against some of the better teams in the league. All of those thoughts seem to be a distant memory however, as this team has turned a page from the first half of the season, and has taken a big step forward.

What defines a program defining win? Is it beating a top-25 team, is it beating a team who has beaten you three straight years, or is it beating a team who demolished you a season ago?

Well, West Virginia cleared all three of those checkpoints this past weekend when they defeated reigning Big 12 regular season champion, and No. 22 Iowa State at home, the biggest win of the Neal Brown era, in a 38-31 win over Iowa State.

The Mountaineer offense seemed to have another gear to it, while the West Virginia defense was able to get a stop at the most opportune time of the game.

Despite how ugly it looked at times, despite the questionable officiating at time, and despite continually getting knocked down, West Virginia continued to pick itself up, until the Mountaineers were finally able to deliver the knockout blow.

What stands about from Saturday is West Virginia’s ability to match Iowa State every time they score the ball. West Virginia had almost 500 yards on offense, completed 60 percent of their third downs, and each time Iowa State scored a touchdown, West Virginia did too. West Virginia rose to the occasion, when it seemed they had every opportunity to go away and lose.

This week though will be a different kind of test. Yes Iowa State was good, yes the Mountaineers played well, but beating top-25 teams in back-to-back weeks is easier said than done.

When the Mountaineers welcome the Cowboys of Oklahoma State to Morgantown on Sunday, they will be trying to defeat the No. 11 Cowboys. West Virginia is 4-8 all-time against Oklahoma State and they will be looking to win for the first time since 2014 — when Clint Trickett was under center, and Oklahoma State’s offense was led by none other than Tyreek Hill.

Oklahoma State ranks first in the Big 12 in scoring defense, rushing defense and defensive efficiency. The Cowboys come into this game having just suffocated Kansas 55-3 last week. This game has the potential to be an upset, but West Virginia would have to play close to perfect.

When West Virginia takes the field this Saturday, no matter the outcome, fans now have an identity to this program — something they could not say after the loss to Baylor. The defense is playing aggressive, the offensive line is starting to figure things out, and that is leading quarterback Jarret Doege to sit in the pocket longer and deliver better throws to receivers who are making contested catches.

This team has life, this fan base has life, and this Saturday can give this program new life if they win. Obviously it will be hard, but expect fans to begin to trust again. Major Harris will have his number retired, the Mountaineers will be playing a talented Oklahoma State team who seems to have its sights set on the College Football Playoff, and it will be opportunity for Neal Brown to get not a program changing win like Iowa State, but a program defining win — the type of win you look back 20 years later and say this was the turning point.

Photo by Dale Sparks, All-Pro Photography

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