Record: 7-5 (4-5); T-5th Big 12
Highest AP Poll Ranking: 5th (Oct. 7th)
Highest Coaches Poll Rankings: 4th (Oct. 7th)
Highest BCS Ranking: 13th (Oct. 14th)
The largest crowd in DKR-Memorial Stadium of 101,851 screaming Texas Longhorns fans did not stop Heisman Trophy leader Geno Smith from leading his No. 8 WVU to victory over the No. 11 Longhorns. In the game, Smith finished with 268 yards and four touchdowns including three to Stedman Bailey. Smith delivered in the clutch, but sophomore Andrew Buie had a coming out party carrying the ball 31 times for 207 yards and two touchdowns, giving Texas’ defense all kinds of trouble. At that point in the season, it seemed like nothing could go wrong for West Virginia.
Honorable Mention: 70-63 Win, on September 29th vs. Baylor
Devastating Loss of Season: 39-38 2OT Loss, on November 3rd vs. TCU
In the thick of West Virginia’s five game losing streak the No. 23 Mountaineers were in prime position to stop the bleeding against TCU. Leading 31-24 with just three minutes left in the game following an electrifying Tavon Austin 76-yard punt return, WVU all had the game but wrapped up. But TCU’s freshman quarterback, Trevone Boykin was cool under pressure. After Josh Francis had sacked Boykin on the first play of the drive, the WVU defensive front got after Boykin again, but at that time Boykin eluded pressure, scrambled and hit Josh Boyce for a 94 yard touchdown pass to tie the game. In the first overtime, TCU shanked a field a goal, so WVU kicker Tyler Bitancurt had a shot to win the game, but it was then blocked by TCU. In second extra period, Geno Smith and Stedman Bailey connected for a touchdown to put 38-31. Moments later TCU ran a trick play that ended with Brandon Carter finding Corey fuller for the touchdown. TCU then went for the win and converted the two point conversion.
Honorable Mention: 49-14 Loss, on October 13th at Texas Tech
West Virginia fans represented University with utmost class in WVU’s inaugural Big 12 Conference game against Baylor on September 29th. Before the game Country Music Superstar Trace Adkins sang the National Anthem. With stripes gold and blue throughout the stadium, No. 9 West Virginia defeated No. 25 Baylor, 70-63 in perhaps the wildest Big 12 shootout of the season. With a combined 1507 yards of total offense between the two teams, WVU came out on top behind Geno Smith’s 656 yards passing and 8 touchdowns. After the game the entire Milan Puskar Stadium faithful stayed to sing “Country Roads” showing the Big 12 what Morgantown was all about.
Honorable Mention: Geno Smith singing “Country Roads” after WVU’s Senior Day win vs. Kansas
Worst Moment of the Season: Joe DeForest’s Postgame Interview vs. Kansas State
WVU Defensive Coordinator Joe DeForest used words like “unacceptable” and “embarrassed” to describe the way his defense played in the game. Whether it was the 55 plus points K-State put up or the previous weeks bottling up, DeForest sat in front of reporters dealing with tough emotions trying answer questions about what was wrong with the WVU defense. DeForest blamed himself, didn’t blame the players and truly was looking for answers himself. Later that week Head Coach Dana Holgorsen announced that DeForest would move from the field to the press box, and Co-Coordinator Keith Patterson would be on the field.
Honorable Mention: Special Teams Woes lead to WVU’s Demise in Stillwater
Most Hampering Injury: Shawne Alston’s Deep Thigh Bruise
It is hard not to imagine how many more wins West Virginia would have had with a healthy Shawne Alston. The big bruising running back Alston added a power element to the offense that couldn’t be replicated while Alston was out for nearly a month missing five games and not getting carries in two games. For Alston he was extremely productive when he did play. Finally when Alston returned to full-go status, he ended with back to back 100-yard games against Iowa State and Kansas. In times that WVU struggled to rush the ball against Texas Tech, Kansas State and TCU, if Alston’s healthy maybe some things change.
Honorable Mention: Stedman Bailey’s midseason ankle injury
Best Individual Performance: November 17th, Tavon Austin vs. Oklahoma
West Virginia’s most dynamic player, Tavon Austin had an absolute fantastic game that probably will not be replicated ever again in WVU school history or maybe even NCAA history. Austin put on a show leaving Bob Stoops and Mike Stoops on the opposing sideline scratching their heads. Making Oklahoma defenders look silly Austin, who lined up in the backfield for the first time since high school rushed for 344 yards on just 21 carries. Austin also added four catches for 41 yards, as well as 146 yards in kick returns scoring two total touchdowns. Setting a Big 12 record for single game all-purpose yards with 572, Austin kept West Virginia in the game. Despite losing 50-49, Austin’s performance will always be remembered. But if this game ended in WVU’s favor, Austin might have propelled himself into being a Heisman Finalist.
Honorable Mention: Geno Smith vs. Baylor
An argument can be made for either Tavon Austin or Stedman Bailey, but the offense throughout the season went through quarterback Geno Smith. Whether it was a high or a low point in the season, Geno Smith seemed to get all the credit or all the blame. Finishing the season with 4004 yards, 40 touchdowns and a 71.4 completion percentage, Smith captured the nation throughout certain points of the season. Early in the Smith even carried an interception-less streak that was maintained through 327 pass attempts. In Dana Holgorsen’s offense Smith shined an lived up to the hype. Add the fact that Smith finished against on a high note completing 23 of 24 passes, having the ball not touch the ground once, throwing for 407 yards and a touchdown, proves that when Smith is on point this offense is unstoppable. Smith is also a finalist for the Manning Award which goes to the best quarterback in the nation.
Honorable Mention: Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey
Season Defensive MVP: FS Karl Joseph
In a season where the defense was flat out terrible at times, one guy that consistently shined and gave the defense some hope was true freshman Karl Joseph at the safety position. Joseph ended up leading the Mountaineers in tackles with 95 on the season. The ball hawking safety also made a ton of big plays including two interceptions, three forced fumbles, seven tackles for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery. His bone jarring hits also made him valuable to this team. Joseph will be the guy DeForest and Patterson build this defense around for the next three years.
Honorable Mention: Isaiah Bruce
With WVU’s high and lows its exactly how the season went for Coach Holgorsen. Holgorsen’s offensive genius is never in doubt, continuously throughout the season he found ways for his top playmaker Tavon Austin to touch the ball as well as created plays that managed to get Stedman Bailey in man on man coverage. Now while the offense finishes eighth nationally in total offense, Holgorsen will never be questioned there, but looking at little moments in games things like clock management have to brought up negatively. In games like the Oklahoma one, Holgorsen’s using two timeouts on multiple two-point conversion and dead ball situations has to be brought to question, when he could have used them in the final minutes of the game. Also, give Holgorsen credit, when the defense struggled, he became more hands on with the defense, more involved especially after the midseason BYE week.
Grading the 2012 Regular Season: C
What started out as an unstoppable offensive group with a defense that just needed to improved turned sour when WVU traveled to Lubbock. When the wheels came off against Texas Tech and eventually turned into five straight losses, WVU went from National Title Contenders to a lower tier bowl game team. There were highs against Baylor, Texas and Kansas but extreme lows against Texas Tech, K-State and TCU. This was a team of inconsistent play despite having premier star power offensively between Smith, Austin and Bailey. Poor defense hampered the offense while shaky special teams never could be counted on. Because the team never quit they were able to finish over .500 with wins over Iowa State and Kansas, but because expectations were so high realistically it was an average season.