MORGANTOWN — This was supposed to be about West Virginia’s character.
No less, no more.
It was nine days after Houston had ripped the Mountaineers heart out and the football world was waiting to see how they would respond.
It wasn’t about winning and losing a game. It was about winning and losing as a person, each and every one of them. It was, too, about a team, an organization.
They lost the game, yes, 48-34, but they won respect.
They could have quit coming into the game but didn’t. They could have quit after throwing an early interception. They could have quit when they ran into each other on a punt return. They could have quit over and over after mistakes that they made.
They were down 10-0 and came back. They got midway through the third quarter tied at 27-27.
They put all they had into it and at the end the tank was empty, but it wasn’t fatigue, it wasn’t conditioning.
Physically they were fine.
Emotionally they had spent all they had.
“We were right there,” Brown said when asked about fatigue or a hangover from that last game. “I refuse to take the easy outs here. The questions you ask are legitimate questions. I refuse to accept that as an answer.
“Every game is emotional. There’s high and lows,” he went on.
If you were to make this game into a graph it would look like a map of the Alps. One high followed by a low followed by a higher high and lower low.
But with each low they climbed the next mountain.
“If this were a game we weren’t in [you could blame it on last week’,” Brown said. “That wasn’t the case. We just didn’t get it done. If you want attack the why you have to ask why were we missing tackles, why we did not get separation on passes late in the game when we had a chance to score.”
That was what they will try to unravel this weekend, but they won’t look into the heart of the team.
They wanted this one badly.
“This one stings more than the one last week,” Brown said, referring to the Hail Mary defeat at Houston.
Coming in he believed they would respond.
“The team is going to be ready to fight today,” he said in his pregame interview.. “It’s kind of a microcosm of life, when you have bad things happen, you go fight. You deal with adversity. We’ve met it head on.”
The problem was that the same kinds of mistakes that cropped up in Houston rode the plane back to Morgantown and, in the end, that was the villain, not any lack of character, not a hangover from the week before.