By Bill Nestor
West Virginia University’s football team went to Cougar Country (not to be confused with Shinston!) riding the longest winning streak of Head Coach Neal Brown’s career. With just 12 seconds remaining, his team had just overcome a double-digit fourth quarter deficit, and they were ready to celebrate. While watching the 50 yard pass play from quarterback Garrett Greene to Hudson Clement, I started to celebrate. The Mountaineers were just seconds away from a fifth consecutive victory and a 3 and 0 mark in the Big 12. The very best part was that it was coming at the expense of the second most winningest coach in WVU history, Dana Holgerson.
All was good in my neighborhood until I saw that yellow flag hit the field. At first, the fear of the penalty bringing the ball back into Mountaineer territory and repeating the down filled the room. The familiar thought of here we go again ran through my mind, followed by me questioning why I stayed up so late to watch this game. Then the good news came that it was a post play issue and the score would stand. The vast majority of Mountaineer Nation would rejoice and proclaim triumph over the previous leader of the kingdom!
However, a few followers and myself knew that West Virginia wasn’t out of the woods just yet.
One of the lessons we learn at a young age is to not go to a party too early, You never want to be the first person there because there is no one to party with and there is an early party penalty. Sometimes the pre party partier is made fun of and oftentimes ridiculed. Typically that individual learns a valuable lesson and never makes that mistake again.
After tossing the scoring strike to give his team the lead, Greene commenced to party. Unlike most party people who add a hat for the festivities, Greene took his off and that is an automatic 15-yard penalty. Big deal, said some unknowing fans, but the worrying type (like myself) realized that the ensuing kickoff would come from the 20-yard line and the battle wasn’t over. The cameras kept showing Holgerson as he paced the sidelines with a dazed and confused look on his face. As most WVU fans were busy mocking Holgerson, I would look away every time they showed the Cougar coach. I hate to admit it, but I’m superstitious and I didn’t want to bring any bad luck to Brown or his team. You know the ending and it wasn’t a happy one for anyone except for Holgerson. It was his first conference win, which added insult to injury to the entire Mountain State.
But I am going to say that there is good to take away and it will totally overshadow this heart breaking defeat. During the post game interview, Greene took 100 percent of the blame for the setback. He didn’t deflect the finger pointing, but absorbed it like a true leader. His play on the field was exceptional, a career best 391 yards with a pair of touchdowns and 47 rushing yards with two more scores. His play on the gridiron was undoubtedly leadership worthy and his willingness to accept the blame for the loss solidifies his position as leader of the team. Greene has turned the corner and I believe has learned from his mistakes. I don’t think you will see any more early celebrations from the junior signal caller, but I do believe that his play going forward will lead to more celebrations, only they will come after time expires!