MORGANTOWN - J.T. Thomas sat in a room below Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge last Saturday night, sounding equal parts mystified and angry that West Virginia had just managed to lose a game it had plenty of chances to win.
"You guys watched the game,'' the Mountaineers' senior linebacker said. "That's one that got away from us.
"It sucks to know that feeling that you were better than the opposing team but still didn't come out with a W.''
Well, whether or not West Virginia is better than LSU is a matter for debate. The final score - WVU's 20-14 loss - is the only concrete barometer. It will be interesting to see what these teams do in the coming weeks and months. Perhaps when all is said and done, both sides will look back with altered views.
For now, though, perhaps the best thing for the Mountaineers to do is stew over the loss for a bit. Sure, coaches like to talk only about the next game. There's no sense dwelling on
the past because it just distracts from preparing for the game at hand.
West Virginia, though, doesn't exactly have a game at hand. With a weekend off and a 1-3 UNLV team on the horizon Oct. 9, there's not exactly a sense of urgency here. Shoot, many of the assistant coaches aren't even around, taking the idle week opportunity to go recruiting.
So what's wrong with replaying the LSU game - be it in one's mind or on video - over and over again? Think about the mistakes. Consider the lost opportunities. Play a few games of what-if this and what-if that. This isn't Pitt losing 31-3 at home to Miami, where no amount of second-guessing can even remotely quantify the loss. It's losing by six points to, at least for now, the No. 12 team in the country in arguably the most difficult venue in the college football.
Stew on it. Think about it. Replay it.
And, most of all, stay angry about it. Really, really angry.
Let's face it, we can dissect this West Virginia football team ad nauseam on a technical level and never come to a consensus. You and I and everyone else might as well agree to disagree on things like the emphasis or talent in the offense, the schemes, play calling, the ability of the coaches, all of that. We're never going to come to be on the same page.
What we can agree on, however, is that a little attitude and anger or even self-loathing is a good thing sometimes, especially in a sport where being just plain nasty sometimes is necessary. What's wrong with J.T. Thomas - or anyone else, for that matter - getting ticked off at himself? What's wrong with brooding over a loss like the one at LSU and holding onto the feeling?
Sure, eventually you have to let it go and get on to the next step, but why not make that an angry next step? One that says, by God, I'm mad about what just happened and not only am I going to prove I'm better than that, I'm going to do it with malice.
And if it takes a few days of stewing over what happened at LSU and not letting go of it, fine. Stew over it. Let it boil to the surface. And then make sure that instead of letting it go, you carry it with you next week and the week after and the week after that.
And if the anger eventually passes, don't feel relieved. Bring it up again. Shoot, there's a huge photographic memorial to West Virginia's win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl that is the first thing players see when they walk into the Puskar Center every day. Take it down and put up the picture of Patrick Peterson and his Heisman pose in the end zone. And put up that score.