MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - There are many things that bother Dana Holgorsen these days. It's not the items on the list that rankle the West Virginia coach as much as the reality the list has grown during a three-game losing streak.
There is a frustration that hovers above it all. Holgorsen, and all the coaches and many of the players, believe the Mountaineers could cross problems off the list if they realize they're in control of so many of the things that have gone wrong.
The quarterback hasn't been as decisive as Holgorsen would like. Running backs haven't hit holes. Offensive linemen don't finish blocks. Defensive linemen struggle to get off blocks. Linebackers can't tackle consistently. Defensive backs often forget to make a play on the ball in the air.
"You have to be in position and be in the proper mentality to pull the trigger," Holgorsen said.
Now unranked entering Saturday's game (3:30 p.m., ABC) at Oklahoma State (5-3, 3-2 Big 12), the Mountaineers (5-3, 3-2) loaded up during the two weeks between the 55-14 loss to Kansas State and the 39-38 double overtime loss to TCU. The coaches studied players who worked hard and wanted it badly and could be trusted to act when the moment required it.
There were changes in the starting lineup and in reserve on offense and defense and special teams and some of it worked, right to the end, when a new safety and a new cornerback didn't communicate a coverage properly and left a receiver open for a 94-yard touchdown as the Horned Frogs forced overtime.
The story could, and should, have been different and because of a man named Austin.
Not Tavon Austin, whose punt return touchdown put the Mountaineers ahead 31-24 with 3:19 remaining, and who said the Mountaineers were once free of fear, but are now scared to make mistakes.
It was Austin Copeland a walk-on, true freshman linebacker for WVU who in his first college game and at an absolutely critical moment sprinted along the line between a permissible play and a penalty and pulled the trigger.
"It was close," he said. "It was real close."
Austin had never returned a punt for a touchdown in his career and his first two attempts against TCU combined to lose eight yards. When he does field punts, he's prone to zigzags rather than straight lines, even though the straight lines make him a wickedly dangerous kickoff returner.
So TCU punted to Austin between the hashes in the middle of the field. It looked like nothing would come of it. TCU's outside bullets had gotten past the outside WVU defenders and then angled inside to aim at Austin.
Suddenly, Copeland appeared in the middle of the play.