By CAM HUFFMAN
for the Daily Telegraph
The Big 12 standings became irrelevant weeks ago. A 12th straight trip to a bowl game was taken off the table with a 31-19 loss at conference bottom-feeder Kansas on Nov. 16.
It’s not Pitt, Virginia Tech or another old rival. On the schedule for West Virginia (4-7, 2-6 Big 12) on Saturday is an Iowa State team that the Mountaineers have only played once before, a 31-24 WVU victory last November.
Tickets for Saturday’s game have been as common on Facebook this week as pumpkin pie recipes, and Mountaineer Field is expected to host a crowd that could almost fit inside the WVU Coliseum.
So what will be the motivation Saturday at 4 p.m., when the Mountaineers and Cyclones (2-9, 1-7) do battle on Fox Sports 1?
“I told them that we’ve got to play for the seniors,” said head coach Dana Holgorsen, saying its his responsibility to make sure the team is ready to play and admitting he failed in that duty at Kansas. “There are about 14 of them who have given a lot to this program and have been through a lot of changes, and their attitudes have been phenomenal.
“It’s the last time some of these guys are going to be playing football, the last time all of them are going to be playing on Mountaineer Field. So they deserve everyone trying to do their best this week to try to get the win. You play for pride.”
There’s certainly reason to honor this group of seniors, most of whom played for two different coaching staffs and experienced both some huge wins — the 2012 Orange Bowl and last year’s victory at Texas among them — as well as some shocking losses — last week at Kansas and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl loss to Syracuse last December on that list.
Some, like Darwin Cook, Doug Rigg, Shaq Rowell and Will Clarke have been stars, while others like Dozie Ezemma, Tyler Anderson, Curtis Feigt, Pat Egar, Nick Kindler and Ivan McCartney have been solid contributors. Others — William Marable and Nate Majnaric — have given their all in practices without the glory of game day playing time. Then there’s Charles Sims, who played only one season with the Mountaineers but was the team’s biggest offensive threat all year and a leader in the locker room.
“Everybody treats Senior Day the same way, regardless of what their record is,” said Holgorsen. “It means a lot to everybody. I would assume we are going to be as motivated to play as anybody else across the country.
“We’ve challenged them. We’ve talked about what we’re playing for, and these guys need to enjoy their last week together. It’s about who wants to get out there and play and who will play the hardest and give the most effort. Hopefully, that will be us.”
• • •
Holgorsen said Clint Trickett, who has started the majority of the games at quarterback this season, but missed the loss to the Jayhawks due to lingering symptoms from a concussion, has been cleared to play this week. He has not, however, been named the starter.
Holgorsen said he’ll evaluate Trickett, a junior transfer from Florida State, as well as junior Paul Millard, who started against KU, and redshirt freshman Ford Childress throughout the week before deciding on a starter.
Holgorsen promised he would make the decision based on which quarterback gives the Mountaineers the best chance to win and avoid the temptation to look ahead to 2014. He said it wouldn’t be fair to the seniors or the fans to not put the team on the field that gives WVU the best chance to win.
Other members of the injury report this week include Daryl Worley, Isaiah Bruce, Cook and Feigt. Holgorsen said none have been ruled out, but he listed each of them as “questionable” for Saturday’s game.
• • •
Saturday’s game will mark the end of WVU’s second season as a Big 12 member, and Holgorsen said it’s obvious the program is still adjusting to the step up in conferences.
“Seeing as how the Big East doesn’t exist anymore, I would say it’s very different,” he said. “We’ve talked a lot about that around here. We’re in a different time. We’re, in my eyes, a relatively young football team. The program’s young, just because it is new. Everything that we’re doing around here is new, and we have to reevaluate everything based on the Big 12. We’re excited as heck to be in the Big 12. It’s a tremendous challenge, but it’s going to make us better moving forward.
“We just have to evaluate everything we’re doing from coaching staffs, to schemes, to facilities, to practice, to recruiting and all that good stuff. We’re young in the process, but we’re making progress and we’re going to keep moving forward.”
— E-mail: chuffman@