The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 25, 2013

‘You have to believe’

WVU’s Holgorsen trying to stay positive after Mountaineers’ lopsided loss to Maryland’s Terps

By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer

— Fans have time to pout. Coaches don’t.

So while West Virginia University football fans have been debating where Saturday’s 37-0 setback at Maryland ranks in terms of all-time embarrassing losses and putting lists together of who could possibly replace Dana Holgorsen if he can’t get the Mountaineers turned around, the third-year coach has been spending his time worrying about what’s ahead instead of what’s already passed.

Was Holgorsen pleased with what happened on the rain soaked field at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore last weekend? Certainly not. But with No. 11 Oklahoma State coming to Mountaineer Field on Saturday for a noon matchup, there’s no time to kick the walls to his office or pound his fist into his desk.

A national ESPN audience will be watching Saturday, and Holgorsen wants to make sure they see a better product.

“The sun came up Sunday, and we went back to work,” he said Tuesday during his weekly meeting with the WVU media. “There are plenty of things to work on. We are all smart enough to understand that.

“There is plenty of blame to go around on all three sides of the ball. The best way to fix that is to look in the mirror and figure out what you can fix. That’s exactly what we’ve done.”

So what did Holgorsen see when he stood at his sink and glared into the eyes looking back at him? What is he going to change about the way he’s done his job through the Mountaineers’ 2-2 start?

“I have to change my mentality, if (the players) are going to change their mentality,” he said. “I’m going to expect good things to happen. I’m going to be excited about going to practice. I’m going to go out and not be worried about calling the perfect play. If you sit there and worry about calling a different play, then you are going to call a bad one. That mentality needs to go away.

“We practice staying motivated, but we were not the most excited team to play Saturday (against Maryland),” he continued. “Were we prepared to play? Not as well as Maryland. They played with more excitement and with more passion than our guys did. When that happens, that’s on me.”

But Holgorsen isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel — or even the wheel route. He’s still confident that his team is just a step away from success, and he’s not ready to change his game plan.

“The one thing we are not going to change is how we practice, which works,” said Holgorsen. “I feel like we are on track with practice and we are going to get better. It does not look good now. I’m sick to my stomach with what happened offensively Saturday (WVU was shut out for the first time since 2011 and held to just 175 yards of offense), but this week we are trying to get better. Guys need to relax.”

In 20-plus years of coaching — six as an offensive coordinator and two as a head coach prior to this season — Holgorsen has never been in this spot. He’s had some offenses that were better than others, but he’s never had one among the worst in his conference — and definitely not the nation.

Maybe that’s why he’s so sure things will soon turn in the other directions.

“I’ve watched that film about eight times,” said Holgorsen of the Maryland tape. “Believe it or not, there are some things on that tape that resemble football.

“Our guys are trying. We have talented running backs, and we have experience on the offensive line. We have receivers who can run and catch. If we can get a little better, then we can get some confidence. Then, hopefully it will steamroll, and we can start scoring points and winning games. You have to believe it’s going to happen. Otherwise it will not happen.”

If WVU hopes to continue its streak of 11 straight bowl appearances, the offense, which has scored just seven points in eight quarters against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, will have to find its stride quickly. The Cowboys are in Morgantown this weekend, and a trip to No. 19 Baylor looms ahead a week from Saturday.

— E-mail: chuffman

@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.