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Like MU, all WVU can do now is make bowl game

Nov. 14, 2012 @ 11:30 PM

MORGANTOWN -- Following a win against Texas in early October, things couldn't have been going much better for the West Virginia University football team.

The Mountaineers were 5-0, armed with an unstoppable offense and had dreams of making a possible trip to the BCS National Championship Game.

But after its fourth straight Big 12 Conference loss Saturday against Oklahoma State, the team's goals heading into the final three games of the season have changed drastically. No. 13 Oklahoma (7-2, 5-1 Big 12 Conference) visits West Virginia (5-4, 2-4) for a 7 p.m., Saturday, game in Milan Puskar Stadium televised on WVAH-11.

"We just want to make sure we get to a bowl game," said redshirt junior wide receiver Stedman Bailey. "It'd be very disappointing if we weren't (in a bowl game), and we won't let that happen. That's our goal now; just get to a bowl game."

Since their win against Texas, the Mountaineers have been outscored by opponents, 198-100, and have lost three games by 20 or more points. It's the first time they've lost that many games by that margin in a single season since 2001.

And its four-game losing streak in Big 12 play is the first four-game conference losing streak in program history.

"It just seems like we can't find a way to win. We're finding ways to lose," said senior quarterback Geno Smith. "We've just got to figure it out. Somehow, someway, we've got to bounce back.

"We've got three weeks left. We've got to pick ourselves up and get off the mat and get back to work."

Smith was considered the Heisman Trophy frontrunner after that Texas game.

Since throwing for more than 300 yards in each of the first five games of the year, Smith surpassed that number for the first time in WVU's four losses with his 364-yard output against Oklahoma State, but is averaging just 261 yards per game with seven touchdowns during the slide.

"It's heartbreaking. That's the only way to sum it up," Smith said. "I've got to figure out a way to play better, obviously, and get our offense to score enough points to win the game."

Following the loss to the Cowboys, the players said they could start to see frustration building among the team, and the Mountaineers weren't playing together with the cohesion they saw at the beginning of the season when things were going well.

"Whatever it is, something's got to change. Everybody's got to play as a unit; everybody's got to play for each other," said redshirt freshman linebacker Isaiah Bruce. "We've got to play for fun. It's like we're not having fun anymore.

"With how the last couple of weeks have been going, it's just not what it used to be, and we've got to get it back."

Seeing how quickly things have dropped off in the matter of four games has been difficult for the Mountaineers to handle. But it's tougher for seniors like Smith who know this was their last chance to make their mark on WVU football.

And the senior signal caller has noticed it's bothering some people a little more than others.

"I don't think it means as much to every one of us as it means to some of us," Smith said. "It's hard because this is my last time playing with these guys. It's my last time suiting up in the West Virginia gear. I wanted to win them all.

"I wanted to win a national championship, but that's all down the tubes now, and it's hard."