Hickman: 8-5 vs. 7-6: No small matter
MORGANTOWN - It may seem only one small number. And in reality it is.
But for Dana Holgorsen and West Virginia's football team, it's more than that.
A win in Saturday's Pinstripe Bowl will give the Mountaineers an 8-5 record. A loss to Syracuse at Yankee Stadium reduces that mark to 7-6.
There's just something that seems far superior in an 8-5 record than in the alternative of being just one game over .500.
"That's why we're excited about the game, because there's some unfinished business from this season,'' Holgorsen said. "Eight and five is a heck of a lot different than 7-6.
"Much like we ended with the Kansas game playing for the seniors, those guys have been through a lot and I respect a lot of the things those guys have done. We have some pretty good football players in that group to the point to where we want to send them out on top. To win eight games sounds a lot better than 7-6.''
This year's bowl game is a lot different than the one the Mountaineers played in a year ago, of course. And it's more than the just weather and the status of playing in a BCS bowl, which WVU did a year ago and walloped Clemson, 70-33, in the Orange Bowl.
This game is also a week earlier than last year's Jan. 4 date, which changes bowl preparation. There is less of it, which means less preparation and less time to work with younger players.
"It's a little different situation because of the time crunch,'' Holgorsen said. "Last year, we had an extra week because the game was late. We had that extra week [in Morgantown].''
The Mountaineers were dismissed for Christmas after practice last Friday and reassembled Tuesday night in New York. The team will have just two practices in New York, today and Thursday.
"It's not going to be the same situation as it was in South Florida. From a weather standpoint and a practice facility standpoint, it was very convenient for us down in Florida, which means that we had more practices,'' Holgorsen said. "We were down there for about eight nights and had more practices, and it's going to be tough to do that in New York from a travel and logistics standpoint.''
And finally, Tavon Austin was reminiscing the other day about some of his bigger games as a Mountaineers. He brought up several, including that amazing night against Oklahoma this season when he played running back and came within 6 yards of the NCAA's single-game record for all-purpose yardage.
When asked if he had any regrets about his season or career from an individual standpoint, that Oklahoma game came up again.
"Yeah, I wish I had those 6 yards I was short of that one record,'' Austin said with a smile. "I wish coach Holgorsen had put me out there and given me a little sweep or something where I could have gotten 6 yards.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1