MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- This is one of those times when it's probably not much fun being an offensive line coach.
Never mind that Ron Crook, just now in the middle of his first season at West Virginia University, oversees a group that's not only not advancing rapidly enough, but last game was literally stuck in reverse against a dominant Baylor defensive line. No, the Parkersburg native was asked this week how he rallies a group of players after they were physically whipped like they were by the Bears. That's hardly the best choice of words to offer the leader of a line of players who are supposed to whip opponents and who are supposed to push back defensive lines, but it was nevertheless appropriate.
And it led to the sort of answer that makes you realize that Crook is due better times.
"Much like we did earlier in the year," he said.
Again, probably not the best time for Crook, who has already been down this path and answered these questions in six games. The first time was after a 37-0 loss to Maryland when the offensive line was, according to Coach Dana Holgorsen, "just bad," and allowed the defensive line to shut down the running game and constantly pressure the quarterback, oftentimes without having to blitz.
The Oct. 5 loss to Baylor was about the sum of the flawed parts on offense and defense in a 73-42 defeat, but the line again didn't do its job and was again and again pushed into the backfield, once more without frequent blitzing that might have been considered unsportsmanlike given the way the Bears controlled the game.
Whatever Crook tried after the loss to the Terrapins must be summoned again. WVU recovered from that defeat to beat then-No. 11 Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) play host to No. 16 Texas Tech (6-0, 3-0) at noon Saturday at Mountaineer Field. WVU's Homecoming game will be televised by Fox Sports 1.
"You come back and say, 'Hey, you've got to look in the mirror each day and say, "What am I going to do today?" Crook said. "There's something each of us can do every day to make ourselves better and to make the team better.
"You try to focus on that. 'I'm going to get better at this today. Today I'm going to be better in the double team than I was in the game Saturday.' You hope you make enough small improvements over the two-week period to make a lot of improvements as a team."
WVU is allowing two sacks and 6.17 tackles for a loss per game. The Mountaineers average just 1.56 yards per carry on third down and have only four red zone rushing touchdowns in 15 possessions.
The running game hasn't been terrible, though averages are swollen by a handful of long gains, but Holgorsen has been critical of how WVU runs the ball. More often than not, he zeroes in on the blocking and the timing and how it hasn't synched up to let the running backs get through holes that don't stay open for as long as the running backs need.
Crook was asked to bring with him the physical style he witnessed and taught when he was the tight ends/offensive tackles coach at Stanford the last two years. There's a transition involved in moving from the zone blocking WVU used to employ, and just last week Holgorsen said the players weren't good enough yet to do what they want when they want.