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Attitude adjustment

MORGANTOWN - Dana Holgorsen saw plenty of issues with his West Virginia football team after reviewing the tape of Saturday's 49-14 loss at Texas Tech.

He didn't need a video replay, though, to confirm what he saw as the worst of the problems.

His team just gave up.

"I was really disappointed that we weren't able to bow up when we faced some adversity, when we were getting down,'' Holgorsen said Monday. "The bottom line is we were kind of getting our butt kicked there and we didn't have anybody bow up.''

And now, in the aftermath of a loss that sent the Mountaineers crashing down in both the polls and in the court of public opinion?

"Yeah,'' Holgorsen said when asked if he thought his team could reverse field again. "I do.''

Well, it had better happen right away because the test the Mountaineers face this week is perhaps far more difficult than the last. On Saturday night, the No. 17 Mountaineers (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) host unbeaten and No. 4 Kansas State (6-0, 3-0). The 7 p.m. game will be televised nationally by Fox.

 "Their sense of urgency [at practice Sunday] was a lot better than it was during the game. It was a lot better than it was during the travel,'' Holgorsen said. "Based on these guys having their confidence take a hit and being a little bit embarrassed, yeah, I do think that we'll bow up and I think that we'll play a lot harder and I think we'll play a lot better this week.

"It doesn't mean we're going to win because we've got a really good team coming in here and we've got to play like that, plus we've got to play well on all sides to win.''

Playing well on either side of the ball this week, though, seems problematic. On offense, West Virginia will face a team that plays as physical as any in the country, likes to stuff the run and then take its chances with the pass. Kansas State ranks just 74th in the nation against the pass, but it is No. 15 against the run. The Mountaineers have proven far more successful on offense when they can do both.

On offense, the Wildcats aren't especially good at doing what teams have done to knife through WVU's defense - they are No. 108 in passing - but they are balanced and they have one of the nation's best quarterbacks in 6-foot-5, 226-pound senior Collin Klein. Klein doesn't throw the ball nearly as much as Baylor's Nick Florence or Texas Tech's Seth Doege (who averaged 540 yards passing and combined for 11 touchdowns against WVU), but he is 17th in the nation in passing efficiency. So when he throws it, he's effective.

The bottom line with West Virginia's defense this season is that it hasn't been very good no matter the type of attack it faces. The Mountaineers rank almost dead last in both pass efficiency defense and passing yards defense, and No. 114 in total defense.

On Monday, Holgorsen defended his defense in a way, saying there was little wrong with the schemes that have allowed teams to average 496 yards and 37.3 points. The execution is what leaves a great deal to be desired.

"From a scheme standpoint, I'm happy with where it's at,'' Holgorsen said. "I can sit here and make excuses from a scheme standpoint, but I critiqued that very well [Sunday]. I did it on all three sides of the ball. I critiqued myself and every single call that I made.

"What it boils down to is there's a whole bunch of good schemes out there. In the Big 12 alone there are probably five teams that are running both our offense and our defense. It's not a scheme, it's the way that they're playing.''

While some of that no doubt goes to talent - or a lack of it - Holgorsen once again pinned at least part of the blame on mere attitude.

"The problems on defense were the same as on the offensive side,'' Holgorsen said. "We didn't play with a sense of urgency, our effort was spotty, we were way too hesitant, and then when the situation got the best of us we lost technique.''

  • BRIEFLY: Holgorsen seldom discusses injuries and Monday was no different. He was asked about the status of wide receiver Stedman Bailey, defensive end Will Clarke, guard Jeff Braun and cornerback Brodrick Jenkins, all of whom either missed the game or left it for whatever reason.
  • "It has something to do with the mindset,'' was all that Holgorsen would say. "When mental toughness is an issue and when it's a physical game, guys tend to go down and get hurt quicker.

    "We'll see how everybody practices [today]. I'm not ruling anybody out at this point. I'll know more after we get these guys in here for treatments and see what's going to happen.''

  • Holgorsen also addressed an issue raised on the television broadcast of Saturday's loss to Texas Tech when Chris Spielman went to great lengths explaining how left tackle Quinton Spain gave away run-pass options with his stance.
  • "I think it's predictable for every offensive tackle in the country on various plays,'' Holgorsen said.

    "It's something we talk about a lot,'' Holgorsen continued. "I know a lot's been made about it just because of the commentary, but it's something we're aware of and have been aware of ever since we got here and ever since we started coaching offense.

    "We try to make sure that our stances and our signals don't give anything away from the standpoint of the defense knowing whether it's run or pass. That's part of the trick of playing defense, that you don't know if it's going to be run or pass. And if we're doing anything from a personnel standpoint, a technique standpoint, a stance standpoint, a signaling standpoint, then it's something we need to get fixed and make sure that we're not predictable.''

    Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.

     

     


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