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Harris: WVU's loss not end of the world

| Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, 12:02 a.m.
West Virginia's J.D. Woods has a pass broken up by Texas Tech's Bruce Jones, center, and D.J. Johnson (12) during their NCAA college football game in Lubbock, Texas, Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012. AP photo

One terrible game later, West Virginia is just another Top 25 college football team.

For reasons still not fully understood, the Mountaineers came out flat against Texas Tech and were deservedly flattened in the polls.

If you think a 49-14 loss is bad, what about the Mountaineers free-falling 12 spots to No. 17? That's quite a plunge.

A week earlier, WVU earned the right to be mentioned in early BCS national championship discussions based on their impressive 5-0 start.

Just as suddenly, they relinquished that right.

You know it was a bad game when coach Dana Holgorsen mentions the Mountaineers offense (ranked No. 6 nationally) and defense (No. 114) in the same sentence.

“We didn't play with a sense of urgency,” Holgorsen explained. “Our effort was spotty. We were way too hesitant. Then when the situation got the best of us, we lost technique and confidence.”

Not that one loss changes everything, but the Mountaineers played the willing role of a scorned team whose first loss of the season was as revealing as it was unexpected.

There was Holgorsen setting an unofficial record for conducting his shortest postgame news conference. Holgorsen answered his final question as some reporters were still entering the interview room.

“I told them to hurry up and get on the plane or hurry up and get on the bus, fly back,'' said Holgorsen, explaining the Mountaineers' urgency in making a fast getaway.

Looking invincible against Texas, Baylor, Maryland, James Madison and Marshall, quarterback Geno Smith didn't wear an “S” on his chest under his uniform against Texas Tech in passing for fewer than 300 yards for the second consecutive game.

In fact, Smith and Holgorsen couldn't agree if gusting and swirling winds affected Smith's throws. For the record, Smith said no while his coach said yes.

Oh, well. That's what happens when you win a game you're supposed to lose.

Forced to throw into tight spaces, Smith misfired on passes he completed in previous games as WVU failed to score 20 points for the first time all year.

With their leader not at his best, the rest of the Mountaineers — particularly their bend-until-it-breaks defenders — didn't resemble a Top 5 team or a national title contender.

“We're the offense that everyone's gunning for. We get all the media attention and everyone wants to say we're the best offense since sliced bread,'' Smith said. “We don't care about the media hype or the outsiders or the critics. We're a band of brothers and want to continue to fight.''

Holgorsen might take issue with the Mountaineers' fighting spirit against Texas Tech. Asked during Monday's weekly Big 12 Conference call about several of his injured starters, Holgorsen offered a blunt response how the Mountaineers responded to adversity.

“It has something to do with the mindset when mental toughness is an issue,'' Holgorsen said. “When it's a physical game, guys tend to go down and get hurt quicker.''

Oops.

At 5-1 and 2-1 in the Big 12, WVU still has a record-setting quarterback who's the best player in what's arguably the elite football conference in the country.

Despite whatever disappointment he may be feeling, Holgorsen understands the Mountaineers are still in the midst of a special season.

“I don't think there's anything wrong with what we're doing offensively. We had a bad game,'' Holgorsen said. “I don't think anybody across the country in the history of football is able to put up the kind of numbers that we were on a very, very, very consistent basis. We've got to be able to win games in other areas such as special teams and defense.''

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com.

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