Mountaineers scatter Cyclones, finish vs. Baylor
Where was Rushel Shell? He couldn’t even warm up.
Where was Justin Crawford? He was wearing a protective boot by the game’s third series.
Where was Kennedy McKoy? He was gone after two carries.
And from out of nowhere comes Martell Pettaway, a freshman who had never played and whose future had him being red-shirted for the 2016 season.
West Virginia was out of running backs. In stepped Pettaway, maybe not wearing a Superman costume, but surely saving West Virginia’s day against Iowa State in Ames last weekend.
Only the week before, the Mountaineers were shredded by Oklahoma, losing by 28 points in a game ballyhooed as the “Big 12 championship game.”
And here was Iowa State feeling good about itself despite a 3-8 record. There had been recent wins over Kansas and 66-10 over Texas Tech. Would West Virginia be in a foul mood and feeling sorry for itself because of its mountain of injuries and lost hopes for a conference championship?
Scoring the last 21 points, the Mountaineers moved past the Cyclones, 49-19, securing a ninth win and making it possible to win a 10th game for the first time since 2011 when a 70-33 win over Clemson in a bowl adventure left West Virginia with 10-3 overall record.
Here comes Pettaway, carrying 30 times for 181 yards. He had never played in a college game. He has now!
Even though Iowa State had 561 yards of total offense, the Mountaineers exacted four turnovers from the not-yet-ready-for-prime-time Cyclones.
Now comes Baylor, a team reeling after a scandal that cost the coach his job and forced interim coach Jim Grobe to shoulder the load of uncertainty and stigma now associated with Baylor football.
With a marshmallow schedule, the Bears opened with six straight wins. Then came a series of conference games and the Bears had beet-red faces and five consecutive losses after getting drubbed last week by Texas Tech, 54-35.
Tomorrow’s 3:30 p.m. game finds the oft-pierced Baylor defense giving up 47.6 points a game in those five consecutive losses.
Skyler Howard threw for 330 yards and had five touchdown passes against the Cyclones last week.
Rasul Douglas had his eighth pass interception.
Baylor may score. And score again. But WVU is likely to score. And score again. And score some more.
The Big 12 championship will be decided by the Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State game.
West Virginia has two conference losses and cannot win the title.
With 10 wins, WVU would be an attractive bowl morsel for some enterprising group of glad-handing folks wearing loud sports coats.
The Sugar Bowl will go to the conference champion.
And then there are six more bowls taking Big 12 teams.
In chronological order, they are the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 23 in Ft. Worth against either Navy or an ACC team; (2) the Cactus Bowl on Dec. 27 in Phoenix against the PAC 12; (3) the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 28 in Orlando against the ACC; (4) the Texas Bowl on Dec. 28 in Houston against the SEC; (5) the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29 in San Antonio against the PAC 12 and (6) the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31 in Memphis against the SEC.
West Virginia defeated Arizona State by one point in last year’s Cactus Bowl.
It will likely be cold in Memphis and maybe even in Phoenix. But bowling in Orlando, Ft. Worth, Houston or San Antonio seems an ideal fit for a 10-win team and its fandom trying to escape the winter winds of interior West Virginia.