MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia fans had never heard of Dana Holgorsen the last time Kansas won a Big 12 game. They probably didn't want to hear what the Mountaineers coach said following the 31-19 defeat Saturday.
"This program is not equipped right now to handle the wear and tear of the Big 12," he said after the Jayhawks ended a 27-game league losing streak and won for the first time in Big 12 play since November 2010.
What hurts most is it's probably true, even in Holgorsen's third season. The Mountaineers (4-7, 2-6 Big 12) have myriad issues with game plans, execution, effort and the coaching responsible for each, but nothing is quite as problematic as the roster.
It merely begins with the dilapidated defense, where two players were lost for the season before it started and six more have yielded to season-ending injuries since. Another eight regular contributors have missed at least a game. The starting lineup for the Jayhawks was the 10th different one in 11 games this season and it only got worse by the end.
When the Mountaineers started the second half down 17-7, they were without safety Darwin Cook, who was replaced by redshirt freshman Jarrod Harper. WVU had five players on the field who weren't starters when WVU lost to Texas Tech, which was when the defense's problems started to show.
In addition to Harper, the Mountaineers saw true freshmen Darrien Howard, Marvin Gross and Jeremy Tyler play stretches to address other injuries on the defensive line, at linebacker and in the secondary.
"If you're replacing your starters with true freshmen, you're not where you want to be," Holgorsen said. "We've got guys out there who are not ready to play at this level yet."
Holgorsen said Monday on the Big 12 coaches' teleconference that he wanted to have Howard, Gross and Tyler redshirt this season, but that the Mountaineers were left with no other options. They're emblematic of the roster-wide depth trouble WVU has in its second Big 12 season.
"I'm not blaming anything on anyone because that's part of the game, but you've got to be able to have depth in the Big 12," Holgorsen said. "You've got to be able to handle a lot of snaps and you've got to be able to handle injuries. Right now, we're not where we need to be."
Howard, Gross and Tyler could have joined 10 other true freshmen and one junior college transfer who joined the team on scholarship as part of the 2013 recruiting class and are redshirting this season. Additionally, running back Andrew Buie led the team in rushing in 2012, but enrolled this semester. He remains on the roster and apparently in the team's plans. Linebacker Shaq Petteway and cornerback Nana Kyeremeh, who were injured in the preseason, and nose guard Christian Brown and running back Dustin Garrison are candidates for medical redshirts, but were barely available this season.
Additionally, freshman quarterback Chavas Rawlins left the team after spring practice, junior college linebacker d'Vante Henry was dismissed from the team in September after he was arrested for second-degree sexual assault and receiver Ronald Carswell was suspended the day before the loss at TCU.
That's 18 bodies WVU couldn't use for most or all of this season, plus Carswell. He'd been a starter averaging a team-best 20.6 yards per catch, but might not be a part of the future if Holgorsen dismisses him when the coach revisits the situation after the season.