By Cam Huffman
The numbers don’t paint a pretty picture.
Following Saturday’s 31-19 loss to Kansas, in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicates, West Virginia University has now lost 12 of its last 16 games, dating back to last season, and has beaten only two Football Bowl Subdivision teams with winning records during that stretch. It lost to a Syracuse team that was in the middle of the Big East pack in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, was shut out by a bottom-rung ACC squad in Maryland and, most recently, was dominated by a Kansas team that had lost 27 Big 12 games in a row and won just two of its last 37 heading into Saturday’s game.
But WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen isn’t focused on the present. He knows things are bad. That’s why he labeled Saturday’s loss as an “all-time low.” The third-year coach, though, said his job is looking to the future, and he still believes that the Mountaineers, who will miss a bowl game after a run of 11 straight, are headed in the right direction.
“I’m comfortable with it,” he said Monday during the Big 12 coaches teleconference. “Nobody’s happy with 4-7; nobody’s happy with being home for the holidays. We’re building a program, and the recruiting is going to continue to get better. We need to continue to step up our game as a university and continue to build facilities to stay in line with everybody else across the country.
“We need to continue to improve. We need to continue to build our roster. We need to continue to add depth.”
That depth, Holgorsen said, has been the biggest problem for his Mountaineers (4-7, 2-6 Big 12), who will end the season at home against Iowa State Nov. 30 — a 4 p.m. kickoff on Fox Sports 1, it was announced Monday.
In the Big 12, where WVU is in its second season as a competing member, Holgorsen said injuries can be costly if quality backups aren’t ready to step in and contribute. WVU has seen that first-hand, losing eight defensive players who were playing, or expecting to play, significant roles as the season has progressed. In most cases, the Mountaineers have been forced to plug in freshmen and sophomores to fill those holes.
Better depth, the coach explained, can only be increased through solid recruiting.
“We’ve only had a couple of recruiting classes to be able to sell them on the Big 12,” said Holgorsen, now 21-16 overall as the WVU head coach and 6-11 against Big 12 opponents. “When you go into a kid’s home and you can sell the Big 12 and you can sell the venues and the caliber of play, you’re going to end up getting a better kid because of it. And we’ve only been able to do that for the last couple of years.”
Holgorsen believes help is on the way. WVU is currently redshirting 30 players who could make an impact in the future, and it will have some extra time to look for more prospects who can come in and provide assistance, with no bowl preparation standing in the way.
“Everybody’s challenge across the country is to continue to try to amp your roster up,” said Holgorsen. “We’re redshirting about 30 guys right now. Some of those guys are walk-ons, and whether they develop into what we need or not, only time will tell. But I think we’re getting better. I do think that our recruiting has gotten better, and I think it will continue to get better.”
The Mountaineers also have guys like Marvin Gross, Darrien Howard, Jeremy Tyler, Daryl Worley, Wendell Smallwood and Daikiel Shorts, freshmen who were forced to play this season and should be much better with a year of seasoning.
— E-mail: chuffman@
egister-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH