By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
The storm that buried West Virginia under heavy snow on Monday was, in a football sense, much like an offense going to work on the West Virginia University Mountaineers.
There was no defense against it.
Dana Holgorsen is hoping that changes this week when the Mountaineers look to end a two-game losing streak in which they were twice overwhelmed by Texas Tech and Kansas State, being outscored 104-28.
Given a week to work on what was wrong, the coach said he liked the approach he saw out of his much-maligned defense that will be facing a team that may be down to its No. 3 quarterback and that also has lost a couple of games in a row.
“We had three practices last week. I was proud of how they played with effort,” he said. “They were attentive. They kept playing.”
And those two items were of great importance to Holgorsen.
“If 5-2 teams that are coming off of a loss pout, then they are probably not going to finish the year well,” he said. “There are a whole bunch of teams in the same situation that we are. There are some teams coming off losses. How you handle those losses comprises what you are going to be made of.”
Holgorsen is hoping that his defenders find a way to reach deep inside themselves and close strong, for if not it could be a long, hard road to the finish.
TCU is a struggling team like WVU, having lost two straight and three of its last four. Part of that is due to the suspension of starting quarterback Casey Pachall, who left the team to enter drug rehabilitation.
Freshman Trevone Patterson replaced him and played reasonably well, but his availability this week is questionable due to injury.
“We don’t know if he is going to play or not,” Holgorsen admitted. “They don’t know if any of our guys are going to play or not. You can prepare for what is on tape. They have a good, quality quarterback (Matt Brown) behind him who won a state championship in high school. I doubt they are going to be able to change their scheme in a week. Schemes are hard to switch. What you do is what you do.”
If that is true, then Holgorsen’s defense still might be in for a long day, but he said he saw things he liked as they tried to regroup, even though they are ranked last in college football.
“They were physical and played up with effort,” he said. “We wanted them to get away from it and be 18-to 22-year-old kids. They came back Sunday ready to go. They were glad to be back on Sunday. We had a good practice up at the indoor facility, and hopefully, they do the same thing.”
The truth is, TCU is a dangerous opponent, even though it is struggling, without its starting quarterback and playing on the road.
One thing about teams coached by Gary Patterson, being on the road doesn’t spook them, even in the Halloween season. They are 2-1 in the Big 12 on the road this year and are 20-3 in their last 23 road dates.
And losses don’t seem to rattle them, either, having won 21 of the last 28 games they’ve played following losses.
This, of course, means that the Mountaineers will have to bring their best, and that means quarterback Geno Smith regaining his touch and wide receiver Stedman Bailey has to be at full speed. Against K-State he caught just four passes for 34 yards without a touchdown after being slowed by an ankle injury.
Holgorsen got an edge on when it was brought up that Bailey’s health contributed to the offense’s bad performance.
“I didn’t know that our offensive problems were incredibly affected by one guy,” he said.
“Are we better with Stedman out there at 100 percent? Yes,” he continued. “Are we better with 100 percent out of Shawne Alston? Yes. Is that the reason we lost? No. There are a whole bunch of things that go into it, but we are working hard to fix it.”
One of those things that they are fixing is Smith’s least productive performance of the season against Kansas State, just 143 yards passing with one touchdown and four sacks.
“He is mature. You have to have a lot of guys like that. He has been in front of that camera a lot. He has been under center fielding snaps for many years, and he is one of the most experienced guys we’ve got,” Holgorsen said.
“He knows how to handle situations because he has been there before. He needs to learn how to lose better. We talked about that this last week, but he is not responsible for the loss. There is a whole bunch of people, probably 50 or 60, that play in the game. There are coaches that are involved in the game. There are a whole lot of people that can accept responsibility for the loss.”
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.