Texas loss took big toll on WVU locker room
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said in the two decades he's coached college football he never has been associated with a team more disappointed than his Mountaineers following Saturday night's 47-40 overtime loss to Texas.
While he shared the opinion with his team, which fell to 4-6 (2-5 Big 12) and must beat Kansas and Iowa State in its final two games to become bowl eligible, he sees their reaction to the loss as a good sign.
“The one thing I'm thankful for is the players are attentive. They're playing hard — I think you can all see that and appreciate that,” Holgorsen said Tuesday. “They are getting out there and playing hard, and it means something to them. I've never been part of a locker room that disappointed, which means they care, and they're trying.”
As long as that is going on, Holgorsen said he can live with it.
“I can sleep at night because of that,” he said. “It didn't make that loss (to Texas) any easier. They're trying hard. The coaches are trying hard. We remain united. We have a plan, and we're building something bigger than just lining up a team to beat Texas.”
The problem is the disappointment grew out of the fact that WVU should have pulled out the home upset against a team going eyeball-to-eyeball with Baylor for the Big 12 title.
It came down to WVU being a yard away from getting a first down that would allow it to run out the clock in regulation and take a 40-37 victory. But Texas stopped WVU on a second-and-1 and third-and-1, forcing a punt that led to the tying field goal.
In overtime, Case McCoy connected with Alex De La Torre, a fullback who had not caught a pass all season, for a 2-yard score. The Longhorns then held WVU from scoring the tying TD on four plays from the 5-yard line.
Backup quarterback Paul Millard, who had replaced an injured Clint Trickett in the first quarter, was intercepted on the final play.
That left WVU at 4-6, even though the Mountaineers have led in the second half of each of their past four games.
“I think we're close,” Holgorsen said. “I think we've been close all year. We're playing quality teams. We're getting better. We're playing a lot of young guys. I don't know. I think we're close. I'm hoping it happens this year.”
This year? Is not this year gone? Is not a 4-6 record a lost season?
“Our goal is to go win this one,” Holgorsen said, referring to Saturday's game at Kansas (2-7, 0-6). “Take a week off after that, get refreshed and go win another one. Take a few weeks off, get refreshed and then go win a bowl game.”
Do that, and the Mountaineers would finish 7-6 with a three-game winning streak after having led in the second half against Texas, TCU, Texas Tech and Kansas State.
Holgorsen realizes at this level, the difference between winning and losing isn't always what it seems to be.
“The margin of error is very slim,” Holgorsen said. “When you play good football teams, you have to perform at a high level every week. If you don't, you will get beat.”
Bob Hertzel is a freelance writer.