By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
In truth, there is never a good time for a bye week, which is exactly what West Virginia is looking at this week before entertaining TCU on Nov. 3.
You win two straight going into a bye week and you are eager to get back out there and go for a third in a row, not wanting to chance losing that edge you have acquired.
At least you can enjoy yourself during a bye week in the midst of a winning streak.
But far worse is to lose two straight, especially the way West Virginia has been overwhelmed in consecutive games at Texas Tech and at home against Kansas State, being outscored 104-28, the offense and the defense battling it out to see which is the most inept.
“Is there ever a good time?” asked offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson when asked if this off-week wasn’t arriving at a good time. “I’d like to play right now. I’d like to go out there and start over right now. But we can’t. If we could, we would. We have to play with the hand we’re dealt.”
And that hand would seem to be aces and 8s ... the dead man’s hand.
Dawson’s quarterback, Geno Smith, who suffered through a game in which he threw for just 143 yards and had a pair of interceptions, a fumble and four sacks, says he’d rather not be off this week.
“This is bad timing for the bye week, but I am going to use this bye week as an advantage,” Smith said. “I am going to correct myself. I am going to look back on what I have done throughout the season. I am going to figure out a way to go out there and score points.
“My job, as the leader of this offense and the quarterback, is to make sure we score points,” he continued. “I think we had 80 yards at halftime, which is unacceptable. I am not going to hang my head. We still have a long way to go.”
Coach Dana Holgorsen, also asked if this were a good time for a bye week, let anyone who was within the sound of his voice know that this will not be a time of rest and relaxation, a time of healing both the physical and mental wounds.
“We’ll keep working,” the head coach vowed. “Any time you lost like this two weeks in a row, the only way to fix it is getting out there and playing a game. We’ll have two weeks to do it. Nobody likes what’s going on. We’ll try to get better and get ourselves in position the next time we play to put a better product out there.”
Offense, defense, special teams ... they all need a shot of Holgorsen’s Red Bull.
“Nobody’s got patience. I’m probably the worst one that exists when it comes to patience,” he said. “I understand the fan base is upset. I understand everyone wants to see it a little bit better. If you rewind two weeks ago, you were looking at a team that had won nine straight games.
“I didn’t forget how to coach and this program didn’t forget how to win just because we lost two straight games. We dropped a hard one on the road to a team that’s 6-1 now and we lost to the No. 4 team in the country.”
That would sound fine if the Mountaineers had been competitive, but they were overwhelmed in each game.
No one is really panicking over the offensive woes, although Smith has not been sharp with his passes in the past two games, perhaps because the Mountaineers have gotten in trouble and he is so intense that he’s trying to put the entire team on his shoulders.
“He was pressing. We all were,” Holgorsen admitted. “We talked about it all week. ‘Don’t get impatient. Don’t get impatient.’ But you get behind and start pressing. It’s inevitable.”
You try to be Batman and Superman all at once, when all that is needed is Geno Smith.
“We were trying to score 14 points on one play. That is just not very good offensive football. You can’t have that mindset. You can’t have that mentality or it’s not going to look very good,” Holgorsen said.
So that is something Holgorsen will look at correcting during the bye week.
Defensively, of course, it has been a season-long horror show and that falls on defensive coordinator Joe DeForest’s shoulders.
Bye week for him?
Hardly. He says he’s embarrassed and is going to find a way to make it work.
“I represent West Virginia. I’m going to find guys to do the things we ask them to do. I’m going to do a better job as a coach to get them in the right spot. If I have to stay here all night, I’ll do it,” he said.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.