ORLANDO, Fla. - It seemed rather ironic that in the moments following the last game of his senior season, Noel Devine harkened back to something he said quite often before the first game.
It seems so long ago now. It was back before shocking losses the Syracuse and Connecticut, before coaching upheaval, before anything had happened during what eventually became a nine-win season that now seems somehow a failure.
But back in August was when Devine first said that the only team that could stop West Virginia was West Virginia. That he said it again Tuesday night spoke volumes.
"This whole year our motto was we can only stop ourselves,'' Devine said. "And that's pretty much what we did.''
Indeed, five turnovers will stop just about anyone.
Those certainly went a long way toward stopping the Mountaineers Tuesday night in a 23-7 loss to North Carolina State in the Champs Sports Bowl.
N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson had a big hand in it, too, passing for 275 yards and two touchdowns to earn the game's MVP award. Josh Czajkowski's three field goals played a part as well, particular given that WVU's Tyler Bitancurt missed his only two tries.
But it is hard to look at those five turnovers - four lost fumbles and an interception, all in the second half - and pin the blame for this loss anywhere else.
"When you turn the ball over, bad things are going to happen,'' West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said.
It is also hard to look at them and figure that the forced changes in WVU's offense for next season - athletic director Oliver Luck has fired offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen and replaced him with Dana Holgorsen, who will then replace Stewart the following season - was anything but a necessary move. Playing the final game of the season and with nothing to lose, this offense generated just seven points.
But while the offense's sputtering and fumbling was not entirely unexpected, that N.C. State was able to generate 23 points against West Virginia's defense was. Granted, those turnovers often times put the defense in awful situations, but it was Wilson's clutch plays that were the biggest difference.
He completed 28-of-45 passes without an interception. He completed passes to 11 different receivers - 10 in his first 14 completions - and was uncanny on third downs during scoring drives.
Wilson threw a touchdown pass of 16 yards to Mustafa Greene in the first quarter and 7 yards to Jarvis Williams late in the game, led three field goal drives in the middle two quarters and that was enough. West Virginia's impotent offense really had no chance to rally the Mountaineers.
How bad was WVU's offense?
Well, it generated just 326 yards, 130 of them rushing and 196 passing. Quarterback Geno Smith completed 22-of-39 passes and threw a touchdown to Stedman Bailey, but otherwise the Mountaineers never seriously threatened.