WVU football: Loss still stings for Mountaineers
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- There had been 343 days between losses for the West Virginia University football program. A team that had the second-longest winning streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision left Lubbock, Texas, a little salty after being on the wrong end of a 49-14 loss to Texas Tech, the Mountaineers' first Big 12 defeat.
That unfamiliar feeling lingered in the days after last Saturday's road loss and the WVU coaching staff offered few words to soothe the pain. They let it sting.
"We came back on Sunday, watched a whole lot of tape," second-year Mountaineers Coach Dana Holgorsen said Tuesday. "Wasn't a whole lot of positive things being said. We need to change the mindset of our football team right now. I think we're a good football team.
"We haven't had to deal with this in a long time."
West Virginia (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) enters this Saturday's Big 12 showdown against the league's lone remaining unbeaten team, Kansas State (6-0, 3-0), off a loss for the first time since last November. WVU won nine consecutive games bridging the 2011 and '12 seasons after losing to Louisville, 38-35, last Nov. 5.
That loss pushed the Mountaineers out of the Associated Press Top 25 poll two weeks after the program tumbled precipitously from No. 11 to 25.
Not even a porous defense could derail WVU since that last loss, and Holgorsen repeatedly referenced his team's mindset prior to the Texas Tech game, including that team "had a whole bunch of people on that airplane who wanted it to be easy."
Holgorsen and his staff do not have much time to right the wrongs before Saturday's nationally televised game (Fox, 7 p.m.) against the No. 4 Wildcats.
"Guys were embarrassed; they were hurt; they were disappointed," said Holgorsen, who is 15-4 in two seasons at West Virginia. "It's no fun. It's no fun for anybody.
"We got in here and I didn't sugarcoat it. It wasn't a positive session. Our job is to coach them and tell them what reality is."
Part of that reality is that West Virginia scored its fewest points in a game since Holgorsen took over the program, and the defense has allowed an average of 52.3 points in conference play.
"It's a challenging game," Holgorsen said. "We're all spoiled with as much as we've won around here and we don't like the loss and we're not going to get used to it.
"That said there are a whole bunch of people out there doing the same things that we are. There are nine other teams in the Big 12 that are all used to winning."
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KANSAS STATE'S re-emergence on the national scene came last season when Coach Bill Snyder's program won 10 games and held the Big 12's banner for most disciplined team (fewest penalties and turnovers in the league).
This season has been more of the same for one of the remaining dozen undefeated FBS teams.
The Wildcats, No. 4 in the AP poll and No. 3 in the Coaches' poll, lead the nation in fewest penalty yards per game (22.2) and is tops in the Big 12 in turnover margin (plus-10).
Kansas State had nine penalties for 62 yards in last Saturday's 27-21 win at Iowa State. The number of penalties equals the total times the team had been flagged in the first five games combined.
Only Central Michigan (17) has been penalized fewer times than the Wildcats.
Kansas State has forced at least one turnover in every game.
"Probably the most disciplined team I've seen in a long time," Holgorsen said. "They don't make mistakes. They don't make mistakes on any side of the ball."
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THE CAREFUL approach starts with Kansas State's Heisman Trophy contender at quarterback: Collin Klein.
The 6-foot-5, 228-pound senior is second to WVU QB Geno Smith in fewest interceptions thrown in the Big 12. Klein has two, while Smith has yet to toss a pick in 259 attempts this season.
Klein doesn't throw quite that often with 118 attempts (on 79 completions for 1,074 yards).
He also doesn't force throws, preferring to tuck it and run when receivers are blanketed or a play breaks down. He is the Big 12's fourth-leading rusher (510 yards) and is tied for seventh nationally with 10 touchdowns on the ground.
It's a contrasting style for which the WVU defense has to prepare, and Holgorsen said finding a body who can impersonate Klein in practice is daunting.
"The one we wanted was Will Johnson because he's 6-foot-5 and long," Holgorsen said, referring his 248-pound freshman receiver who is battling a back injury.
"He's not going to be able to do it."
Others will step in and try to replicate Klein's style.
"They'll go in the right direction, but they won't look like him," Holgorsen said. "That's the problem."
Contact sports editor Chuck McGill at email@example.com or 304-348-7949.