By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Honest to badness, Dana Holgorsen saw the same football game you saw Saturday when Maryland humiliated West Virginia, 37-0.
As he watched it, his reaction was much the same as yours, especially on the offensive side, which he said made him sick to his stomach.
But eight times through the film since returning to Morgantown has not had him send off for a lifetime supply of Pepto-Bismol, but instead given him a different outlook on what transpired.
No, during his Tuesday afternoon press briefing in advance of Saturday’s noon home meeting with Oklahoma State, he did not back off from the blame he placed on himself, but it has made him realize that the situation may be desperate but not hopeless.
“Our guys have done everything I’ve asked them to do for eight months,” he noted. “It goes back to January, after the sick feeling in my stomach from Syracuse. We came back here and met and went to work.”
And, he says, his team, his players have responded as well as they could, right up and through Saturday’s debacle.
“They had an opportunity in this game Saturday to quit. You’re down 30-0 at halftime, whatever the reasons,” he said, about to go through many of them.
“If you look back at it, the punt hits Ronnie (Carswell) and three of their guys were there to jump on it. Shoot, five or six plays later we punted and it hit their guy and we were two, three steps from jumping on it. They caught a break and we didn’t catch a break, but you got to make your own break.
“Then they intercept a ball — a heckuva play by that kid, an outside linebacker snatches it out of the air and runs 30 yards for a touchdown. But Jared Barber missed one by about an inch that could have been returned for a touchdown,” Holgorsen continued.
“Why is that happening to them and not to us? Fine, it happens. The point is, make your own breaks. They made their breaks and we didn’t, and we’re down 30 points and the kids could have quit, but they didn’t.”
And that was important.
“So if I’m sitting here in front of you saying they quit, we’re not getting the effort we want, we got attitude problems ... but none of that is existing. So I’m comfortable standing here saying whatever we’re missing, I think we’re that close to being a damn good football team.”
With that, Holgorsen held his fingers about 37-34 apart, not 37-0 apart.
“But right now, we have to change it and I’m the one who has to change it.”
Don’t mistake this for Holgorsen crying about breaks going against him or for overrating what his team has done or is capable of doing.
It isn’t that.
He knows his quarterback has a lot of growing up to do, that his offensive line isn’t playing as it should and that his receivers have been terribly disappointing.
But he saw something in that film he probably didn’t ever expect to see, and he is hoping a change in approach can bring it out.
“It’s a challenge. It is,” he said. “I’ve watched that film probably eight times since we got back Saturday night and there’s some things that resemble football. I know that’s hard to believe, but there is. Our guys are trying. We have quality running backs. We have experience on the offensive line.
“We have receivers who can run and catch, although I thought about changing their title on the depth chart to blockers, because that’s what we’re asking them to do so much.
“We have guys who can do it and they’re trying. If we can get just a little bit better and they can gain some confidence, then maybe it will steamroll and we can start scoring some points and win some games.”
Probably not this week, with the nation’s No. 11 team in town, and probably not even the week after that when Baylor and the nation’s top offense is the opponent, but Holgorsen is hopeful that he can create a change in attitude that will allow slow progress to take place.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.