WVU heads into bye with No. 13 K-State looming
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) In a span of two weeks, West Virginia went from fighting for first place in the Big 12 to the middle of the pack.
Back-to-back losses sent the Mountaineers (6-4, 4-3 Big 12) tumbling out of The Associated Press Top 25 poll. A bye week will give coach Dana Holgorsen time to get his players refocused and inject some confidence in an offense that struggled against No. 5 TCU and Texas.
''TCU's pretty good on defense,'' Holgorsen said Tuesday. ''Texas is pretty good on defense. The opponent has something to do with it.''
On Nov. 1, TCU erased a 13-point deficit, held West Virginia out of the end zone during the final 21 minutes and beat the Mountaineers 31-30.
West Virginia looked spent emotionally and physically last week at Texas, managing only three points during the first three quarters in the 33-16 loss. Holgorsen said the same energy and enthusiasm that he saw from his players over the first nine games of the season didn't exist against the Longhorns.
He couldn't pinpoint whether his team was tired from playing six straight weeks, still disappointed from the TCU loss or out of synch after traveling 1,400 miles to Austin, Texas.
''It was pretty evident that they were ready to play more than we were ready to play,'' Holgorsen said.
Rotating four running backs, West Virginia was unable to establish the run early against the Longhorns, resulting in punt on four of its first six drives. Holgorsen said part of the issue is his starters on the offensive line have played nearly every snap this season and are wearing down.
''Those guys need to regroup,'' he said. ''They had their worst game. The backups aren't ready to go yet. I wished we had another tackle, another guard and another center to where we felt comfortable to put those guys in.''
''Everything we do starts with the run game. I thought we did a great job in that against TCU. I thought it was pretty average against Texas. When we have favorable numbers to be able to run the ball, we need to be able to run the ball.''
And be able to hold onto it and finish drives, too.
West Virginia has lost 14 fumbles while recovering just one from an opponent all season. Over the past two games the Mountaineers had seven turnovers while getting three takeaways. And West Virginia failed to score twice inside the Texas 20-yard line.
Holgorsen figures his offense will see the same challenge when it faces No. 13 Kansas State on Nov. 20, a Thursday night game in Morgantown. The Wildcats (7-2, 5-1), who also have a bye this week, shut out Texas and held Oklahoma State to 14 points before losing 41-20 to TCU.
''We're going to face another good defense a week from now in Kansas State,'' Holgorsen said.
After Kansas State, the Mountaineers finish the regular season at Iowa State on Nov. 29 and try to salvage a winning record out of a season that wasn't expected to be much better than a year ago, when West Virginia went 4-8.
Holgorsen was reminded about athletic director Oliver Luck's declaration last December that he wants improvement from the team this season.
''I have a news flash for you,'' Holgorsen said. ''We expected improvement as well. It's our job to try to improve on what we currently have in place. I think we're about what I thought we would be. I thought we would show improvement on all three sides of the ball.''