MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- There once was a time when college football was played in 10-game regular seasons, never mind 11-game seasons.
We're well beyond that now, but where West Virginia is concerned, it might as well treat the remainder of the 2012 season as a throwback season.
This is now a 10-game schedule. If the Mountaineers, still ranked despite being routed in back-to-back weeks by 76 points, want to salvage things, they need to eliminate the memories of the 49-14 loss to Texas Tech and the 55-14 loss to Kansas State.
Beginning with Saturday's 3 p.m. Fox game against TCU at Milan Puskar Stadium, the Mountaineers must remember they were once 5-0 and ranked No. 5 by the media and No. 4 by the coaches. They must try to imitate that team during the five games left to play in this regular season.
The previous two games, the painful moments and headlines each produced? Learn from it and then dispatch it.
"We tell our team not to worry about what the paper says, what the rankings say, what the television says or what the Internet says," Coach Dana Holgorsen said. "All of people that said you were great are now saying you are so bad. Why pay attention? Pay attention to what we say in here."
Well, the rankings, television and Internet have points to make and to be understood. WVU was throughout this season overrated. How much is debatable, but there were warning signs that the lows were coming, even at the height of all the highs. This was a young team without much depth at the start of a season that was going to test the team's stamina and the roster's mettle.
The offense would be good, but would have bad Saturdays - and the worst would come when the defense couldn't help. That defense has only really been a surprise in that it reached such extreme depths so quickly. It's still a bunch of kids recruited to play a 3-3-5 playing for the first time in a 3-4 for a first-time defensive coordinator in an absolutely unforgiving offensive league.
Issues are arriving sooner than solutions and WVU is actually getting younger and thinner as the season progresses. These are more explanations than excuses, but it's far more truth than fiction - and it's a tough truth to take.
Yet what the Mountaineers have lacked, in their own words, is a certain toughness. The void has defined the losses and how the first defeat was allowed to create the second.
"We're not happy about it from a program standpoint," Holgorsen said. "The coaches and players all realize it. The message to the team after the (Kansas State) game was that we need to grow up. We need to become a mature football team. We got beat by a mature football team.
"We need to be mentally tough and physically tough and we need to improve ourselves each and every day. This isn't a deal where we're going to just wake up and fix things without hard work. We've got to get up and get back to work and we've got to understand we need to get our technique better and get our confidence back on all three sides of the ball."