Bye week has WVU seeking improvements all around

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) West Virginia fell flat late twice on a national stage over the first month of the season, and coach Dana Holgorsen wants to use a bye week to better position the Mountaineers for a solid run in the Big 12.

Coming off a 45-33 loss to No. 4 Oklahoma, Holgorsen will work on some of the same problems that have plagued the Mountaineers for years - an up-tempo offense that sometimes sputters and the occasional meltdowns on defense and special teams.

Avoiding those meltdowns could make the difference between competing in the Big 12 and becoming the first West Virginia team in 22 years not to go to a bowl in back-to-back seasons.

At least Holgorsen believes the problems can be fixed. That has to do with his roster being older and more mature compared to last year when the Mountaineers went 4-8.

''I do like what the attitude is,'' Holgorsen said. ''I like how they're attacking everything that we're asking them to do.''

In two double-digit losses, the Mountaineers stayed close most of the game with No. 3 Alabama in the season opener and with Oklahoma.

''Nobody was happy about coming up a little bit short a couple games against what I consider the best two teams in the country,'' Holgorsen said. ''With that said, we can't feel sorry for ourselves or pout. We have to move forward.

''The teams that we're going to be playing are going to continue to improve, so we need to do the same thing.''

The offense amassed more than 600 yards in wins over Towson and Maryland, then couldn't find the end zone in the second half against Oklahoma until after the Sooners had scored three touchdowns. The Mountaineers had turnovers on two of their six second-half possessions.

''In order for us to be able to win that game against a Top 5 opponent, then we needed to be able to score a couple more touchdowns, which we didn't,'' Holgorsen said. ''Why? I don't know. It's a whole bunch of things - not making guys miss, not finishing blocks, not calling the right plays.''

The Mountaineers have allowed touchdowns on punt or kickoff returns the last two games. There also have been mixed results on defense following the promotion of Tony Gibson to defensive coordinator - the team's fourth in four years - along with the hiring of former longtime Penn State assistant Tom Bradley and a switch to a 3-3-5 scheme.

Despite shutting out Towson, the Mountaineers are allowing 29 points and 404 yards per game, both among the worst in the Big 12. West Virginia is one of only 12 teams nationally that has yet to recover an opponents' fumble.

After the Mountaineers intercepted Trevor Knight in Oklahoma territory in the third quarter, Clint Trickett threw an interception on West Virginia's ensuing possession.

''One play doesn't make the difference in a game,'' Holgorsen said. ''It did, however, suck the momentum out of everybody at that point in time, which is unfortunate.''

The Mountaineers (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) are off until Oct. 4 when they play Kansas in Morgantown. The Jayhawks snapped a 27-game Big 12 losing streak in last year's 31-19 win.

''Miserable performance,'' Holgorsen said. ''I've been watching it for two days and want to puke.''