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COLUMN: WVU’s strong finish to 2021 will mean a lot heading into 2022

After a 25-point beatdown at the hands of Baylor on Oct. 9, the product was about as bleak as it could be for the WVU football team.

It was probably the the lowest the program had been since 2013, sitting at 2-4 with three straight losses to open Big 12 play. Fans wanted the starting quarterback benched, coaches fired and a complete overhaul 2 1/2 years into head coach Neal Brown’s tenure with the Mountaineers.

Fast forward a month and a half into late November, and WVU flipped the switch on the second half of the season, going 4-2 down the stretch following a tough 34-28 win over Kansas on Saturday night. Knowing what they needed to do during the bye week to get to a bowl game, the Mountaineers did just that to get their sixth win and finish the regular season at .500.

We will learn WVU’s bowl destination next week after conference championship Saturday, and while it’s not what many may have wanted or expected heading into the season opener at Maryland in early September, earning a postseason berth, with where the team was in the first half of the season, is a positive to take out of 2021.

As maligned as quarterback Jarret Doege was for most of the year, he threw for 1,464 yards with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions during the last six games, compared to 1,444 yards, eight touchdowns and five picks in the first six.

While the season isn’t even over yet with a bowl game in the near future, finishing the last six games with a 4-2 mark should create some momentum heading into 2022, which could set the tone for the program under Brown.

Next September, the Mountaineers will play at both Pitt and Virginia Tech. You will be hard pressed to find two teams fans want to beat more, and facing both on the road in a span of less than three weeks to open the season.

And simply put, there needs to be stark improvement in Year 4 for Brown. It can be argued Year 3 was a step back from Year 2, but with how COVID-19 affected 2020, it’s hard to compare. This is his program now. There is no more blaming what Dana Holgorsen did or didn’t do during his final few years in Morgantown.

Will Jarret Doege be back? Who will the surprise transfer both in and out of the program be? Will what is shaping up to be a tremendous 2022 recruiting class remain in tact?

Some are reading this who probably don’t have a care in the world and still want Brown and Doege gone.

But the fact of the matter is 2022 is the real test for the future of Brown and the Mountaineers. Finishing 2021 strong and earning a bowl bid, no matter how hilarious the title sponsor may be.

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