Focusing in on the finale
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Both Dana Holgorsen and Paul Rhoads would seem to be facing an uphill battle this week where motivation is concerned.
Their respective football teams, West Virginia and Iowa State, have combined to win just enough games to be bowl eligible. Unfortunately, they can't combine those wins so neither will play again after this weekend.
Yet not unexpectedly, neither sees Saturday's play-out-the-string game at Mountaineer Field as meaningless. And so when West Virginia (4-7, 2-6 Big 12) faces Iowa State (2-9, 1-7) in a 4 p.m. game televised by Fox Sports 1, both expect to coach motivated squads.
In other words, there's no need to resort to tricks such as treating this game like a bowl game.
"I don't think you have to do that,'' Rhoads said. "Our football team's excited about playing. We're coming off a nice win and to have a chance to finish the season on a really positive note that's good for our seniors, that's good for us heading into the offseason.
"I think that alone gives us focus enough and excitement enough to play this next game.''
Indeed, while Iowa State has struggled mightily this season, the Cyclones put at least some of that in the rear-view mirror with a 34-0 rout of Kansas Saturday night. That's the same Kansas team that snapped a 27-game losing streak seven games earlier by beating West Virginia.
The Mountaineers, however, have no such momentum. West Virginia has now lost two in a row to fall out of the bowl picture and had to endure a two-week layoff while waiting to finish the season.
And, of course, a program that has been to 11 straight postseasons would likely have trouble passing off a game against Iowa State as a pseudo bowl game, so that's not an option.
"You can't treat it like that,'' Holgorsen said.
What the Mountaineers can and will do, however, is stress the importance of the game to a group of 14 seniors who will finish their careers on Saturday. In that light, at least, perhaps the game is no different than so many others that have or will be played across the country.
"Everybody treats senior day the same way,'' Holgorsen said. "Regardless of what your record is, it means a lot to everybody that it's the last time that these seniors are going to play. Everybody treats it the same, so I would assume we're going to be as motivated to play as anyone across the country.''
West Virginia's senior class includes linebacker Tyler Anderson, defensive lineman Will Clarke, safety Darwin Cook, defensive lineman Trevor Demko, offensive lineman Pat Eger, linebacker Dozie Ezemma, offensive lineman Curtis Feigt, offensive lineman Nick Kindler, running back Nate Majnaric, safety William Marable, receiver Ivan McCartney, linebacker Doug Rigg, nose guard Shaq Rowell and running back Charles Sims.
"We've got to play for the seniors,'' Holgorsen said. "There's about 14 of them that have given a lot to this program and been through a lot of change. Their attitude has been phenomenal.''
Whether Trickett starts, though, remains up in the air according to Holgorsen, who also has Paul Millard and Ford Childress available.
"We'll see what their mood is and what their mentality is and how they practice out here the next three or four days,'' Holgorsen said.
Others, though, including two of those 14 seniors, are questionable. That includes Cook, Feigt, cornerback Daryl Worley and linebacker Isaiah Bruce.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.