According to coach Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia's best days in the Big 12 are still ahead.
“We should be even better next year,” Holgorsen told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Jack Magruder.
“We've got everybody coming back on offense.”
Holgorsen is correct about that. And the way the offense performed in a 43-42 win over Arizona State in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl had to be encouraging.
Quarterback Skyler Howard threw for a career-high 532 yards and tossed the game-winning touchdown in the final two minutes. Receivers Shelton Gibson, Daikiel Shorts and Ka'Raun White made plays all night. And running back Wendell Smallwood averaged 5.5 yards per carry.
“It's about time it fell together,” Howard told Magruder. "Our goal throughout the season was to get better each week on offense, keep improving each week. It finally started clicking. I think we had a complete game on offense."
The key for West Virginia next year will be whether Howard and the rest of the offense can build off the Cactus Bowl performance and consistently deliver complete performances. Coming in, the Mountaineers had been sluggish at times on offense, due in large part to an inconsistent passing attack.
The defense will have some key faces to replace, notably linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski. But on the other side of the ball, virtually everyone is back, including true freshman receiver Jovon Durante, who didn't even play in the Cactus Bowl.
If Howard plays the way he did in the desert, West Virginia could get back to being a load on offense in 2016.