"Play with energy and excitement," Holgorsen said. "That's the only way you can win."
He added that his team was "learning how to play as a team," meaning the offense can pick up the defense when it's sagging, and vice-versa.
There was apparently some soul searching last week.
"I looked directly at the Syracuse game," said WVU quarterback Geno Smith, who completed 29-of-43 passes for 372 yards and a score on Saturday. "I looked at the film. I wasn't being the leader I needed to be."
Give the kid credit for being a stand-up man.
"We put ourselves in this hole," he said, referring to the Big East standings. "We can't make any excuses. But today we learned we can overcome adversity."
Like the many penalties. Like the five sacks allowed. Like the puny 32 rushing yards on 32 attempts.
Perhaps appropriately, both teams finished with exactly 404 yards of total offense. Cincinnati simply made one more mistake - allowing a gap for Smith to shoot and block the field goal attempt - and WVU made one more play of effort. ("I just shot the gap, put my hands up and blocked the kick," Smith said.)
Mountaineer defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel was asked to describe the game.
"It's just crazy the way the game went," he said after a chuckle. "When Zach [Collaros] got hurt, that changed the game. We had an opportunity in the third quarter where we had them pinned up and let the quarterback [Munchie Legaux] go 50, 60 yards. We didn't do what we were supposed to do. A kid makes a mistake. That flipped the field and is what got us in trouble in the second half. But to the kids' credit, they hung in there. It wasn't pretty, but we ended up with the win."
Indeed, West Virginia overcame the 65-yard Legaux run, a couple injuries and a couple moves. Starting strong safety Terence Garvin and backup cornerback Brantwon Bowser were out with head injuries. Brodrick Jenkins played most of the game in place of cornerback Pat Miller.
The biggest difference, however, was winning the battle of turnovers by 2-1 and displaying that fire.
On Saturday, against a team in first place, a place most thought WVU would be at this point, the Mountaineers earned their stripes.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvin...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.