MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - On Saturday, WVU's football team didn't suffer a terrible loss.
There was nothing horrendous about losing to Texas Tech, the nation's No. 16 team. The Mountaineers were fine through most of the 37-27 loss before 53,084 on an overcast fall day at Milan Puskar Stadium.
Just don't misunderstand.
The loss wasn't terrible. But it certainly was bad.
The Mountaineers were at home. Obviously not overmatched, they were winning 27-16 with 4:36 remaining in the third quarter. The crowd was into the game. It appeared West Virginia was headed for Oklahoma State II.
Instead, it was Three-and-Out I.
Down the stretch, the Red Raider offense fought. The Mountaineer offense floundered. When it was all over, WVU had lost its 10th game in the last 15. It had fallen below .500 for the first time since a 1-2 start in 2008.
Instead of turning around this season, instead of rebounding from another wipeout with a home win over a Top 25 team, the Mountaineers drooped.
And all in the WVU locker room knew it.
"It's a game we should have won," said Mountaineer coach Dana Holgorsen.
"We completely froze up at the end," said Shannon Dawson, Holgorsen's offensive coordinator.
"We had it in the bag," said Mountaineer linebacker Jared Barber.
Indeed, forget the cat. West Virginia let the Red Raiders out of the bag. Or, rather, it allowed the Red Raiders to fight their way out of the bag.
What's bizarre is it should have been the Mountaineers that were motivated. If memory serves, was it not Texas Tech that firebombed West Virginia's season last year around this time? Almost a year to the week, the Red Raiders laid a 49-14 job on a 5-0 West Virginia team that was basking in the national spotlight.
On Saturday, WVU seemed set for redemption, up by that 27-16 count. But then ...
"We were playing Mountaineer football," said center Pat Eger. "We were playing together ... we had them up against the ropes. But they made more plays than we did."
All understand this West Virginia team will have trouble rallying from a deficit. It simply doesn't have the offensive firepower, especially at quarterback.
It should, however, be able to hold a late lead before a rowdy Mountaineer crowd. Instead, down the stretch, the hosts curled up.
"We weren't playing with 11 people," Eger said. "When you don't complete assignments, that's what happens."
We know what can happen to a tired defense. On Saturday, though, WVU had 82 offensive snaps to Texas Tech's 81. Oddly, it seemed as if the Mountaineer offense wore down.