Blowout losses have West Virginia readjusting to life in Big 12
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia battled out of a midseason slump last season to win its final four games. The finale for the Mountaineers was a 70-33 win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
During that difficult stretch, WVU lost 49-23 at Syracuse, won 41-31 at Rutgers, and lost to Louisville 38-35 at home.
The Mountaineers this year entered their second bye week following consecutive losses to Kansas State and Texas Tech by a combined 104-28 score.
Coach Dana Holgorsen is hopeful for a similar turnaround, but he realizes circumstances may be different.
“Whenever you put up two losses like that back-to-back, it is a little different,'' he said of the Mountaineers, who are 5-2 and 2-2 in their first Big 12 season. “There are some challenges this year that didn't exist with last year's team, and there were some challenges last year that don't exist with this team.''
While acknowledging those differences, Holgorsen admits there also are similarities.
Playing an improved schedule with essentially the same roster that won the Big East in 2011 may be the biggest challenge.
“Basically, it boils down to having to bounce back, and that doesn't happen overnight,'' said Holgorsen, who is 15-5 at WVU. “We bounced back last season. This is different because of who we are playing. We just played the No. 3 team in the country (Kansas State). It is going to take a whole year of going through the Big 12 for everyone to understand the Big 12.''
Until then, Holgorsen wants to put the focus on his team.
On defense, the plan is to simplify things for as many as nine freshmen who already have received playing time.
“We have to make things more manageable,'' Holgorsen said. “We can't try to manufacture plays or people. We can't come up with tricks because that is not the solution. We are going to focus on trying to get better at things we are already good at.''
Offensively, the Mountaineers have gotten away from doing some of the things they do best. For instance, look for a return to the short passing game that was effective early.
“We should have done a better job of completing the ball underneath,'' Holgorsen said following the 55-14 loss to Kansas State.
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.