MORGANTOWN - It wasn't that long ago - late July at the Big 12 annual football media days, to be exact - that Dana Holgorsen seemed anything but concerned over the state of the reconstruction process through which his offense was going.
Losing Geno Smith and Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey to the NFL? A mere bump in the road.
"I haven't lost any sleep over Tavon and Stedman moving to the NFL,'' the West Virginia coach said at the time. "It's not the first time we've lost receivers to the NFL and been able to line up next year and execute our offense. It gets me excited, being able to get out there and face the challenge.''
That was late July and WVU was 0-0. Now it's nearly November and the Mountaineers are 3-5. The difference?
"I'm losing sleep now,'' Holgorsen said.
Indeed, after Saturday's 35-12 collapse at Kansas State, there is plenty to lose sleep over for Holgorsen. His football team has lost three straight and, with just four games remaining, must win at least three of those in order to extend WVU's bowl-game streak to a dozen years.
The Mountaineers have a lineup of TCU, Texas, Kansas and Iowa State against which to accomplish the goal. Next up is Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game against TCU, which lost 30-7 at home to Texas over the weekend.
But in order to have a chance to get those needed three wins - or four - Holgorsen has to finally figure out some solutions for his sputtering offense. The reason he wasn't losing any sleep over the reconstruction prior to the season was because he had always been able to find answers. The reason he's losing sleep now is because this time he hasn't.
Did he underestimate the difficulty involved with this task?
"Yeah, I probably gave ourselves a little bit too much credit,'' Holgorsen said. "I thought we could coach them up a little bit better. I thought our continuity would take care of itself just by playing together and practicing.
"Leading into [Kansas State] we did show improvement. We have shown improvement. But it's not winning football. And then your confidence takes a hit, you get discouraged. It's tough. They're trying. It's just not clicking.''
There are, of course, all sorts of reasons for West Virginia's worst record this late in a season since Rich Rodriguez's first team was also 3-5 on the way to 3-8. It's impossible, however, not to pin most of the blame on the offense. The defense might not be great, but it is unquestionably improved over last season. Special teams have been average overall and sometimes poor, but with only one possible exception (Oklahoma) haven't caused any losses.
The offense, however, has consistently done only one thing this season - underperform.