At some point the Mountaineers had to start playing like the team that, since starting 7-0 and rising to No. 3 in the polls in 2006, has been favored in virtually every Big East game it has played, yet over that same period is just 25-11 in the league. Yes, that's the best league record over that span, but almost all of those losses were upsets.
Syracuse was no different. Rutgers was heading the same way when it led 31-21 at halftime. Perhaps something clicked.
"We had to look ourselves in the mirror and decide what we wanted to do,'' said receiver Brad Starks.
The second half, of course, was different. It was what is expected of West Virginia and has been for years now. Rutgers gained just 165 yards in the second half, didn't score and the Mountaineers won.
"This is our last year playing in the Big East. I told the guys who don't realize it, this is the last time we're playing Rutgers,'' linebacker Najee Goode said. "This is what they're going to remember. When they think back to who the last Big East champs were [during WVU's time in the league], we want it to be us.''
The problem for West Virginia is that this might have been the easy part of the schedule. Saturday brings a home game against a Louisville team that last week beat Rutgers and on Saturday pounded the same Syracuse team that just pounded West Virginia.
A week later there's a trip to Cincinnati to play what is now the only unbeaten team in the league, then the season ends with the Backyard Brawl against Pitt and a trip to South Florida, where WVU always struggles.
For one week, though - or at least one half - West Virginia found its answer in regard to playing hard and playing well at the same time. It was one of the few times the Mountaineers have managed that combination, but if they expect to win the Big East it had better not be the last.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.