The Mountaineers (5-2, 2-2 Big 12) haven't been beaten solely on the scoreboard the past two games. They've had their minds and bodies beaten, too.
WVU came out flat against Texas Tech and assumed something the Red Raiders did not. The Mountaineers trailed early and never had it in them to follow the plan and get back in the game. They collapsed beneath the weight of the momentum. A game later, they ran into a team that trumped them in strength, experience and discipline and they bounced off, stumbled backward and never found their footing to fight back and get in the game.
These are the signs of an inexperienced team, but not necessarily a young team. The Mountaineers are playing 12 true freshmen and a bunch of other redshirt freshmen and sophomores, but they're playing as an entire team that's new to the Big 12. Texas Tech and Kansas State are not. Neither are Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Kansas.
TCU is, though, and a team that only last month led the FBS with 12 straight wins and 25 straight conference wins is struggling. The Horned Frogs (5-3, 2-3) have played 16 true freshmen and 12 redshirt freshmen and 70 percent of its roster is their freshman and sophomore classes.
But this isn't the Mountain West, much the same as the Big East isn't the Big 12. Holgorsen said his program will need a year to understand what he already grasps after nine seasons as a Big 12 assistant. In the meantime, his inexperienced veterans have a duty to the rest of the team.
"We need the older guys to act older," Holgorsen said. "We need the older guys to bring along the younger kids. We need them to be tough when adversity hits.
"We played a team (Kansas State) that has that mastered. They are the most mature team in college football. They are very old, and they have played a lot of football. They are mentally tough, and their technique is not lost during the heat of the battle. We can learn a lot from playing a team like that."
They better because the remainder of the 2012 schedule is not like the remainder of the 2011 schedule. WVU was 5-2 last year, but removed some bad things and remembered some good times and finished 9-3. These Mountaineers are in a similar spot, but they're preparing for an entirely different and altogether more challenging conclusion.
If they haven't learned from their missteps, or how the opponents have stepped all over them, they're in trouble. If they've picked up a few pointers, if practice during the open week and then in preparations for TCU, was as good as the Mountaineers have reported, they can win the second half of this season.
"When you have practice, don't go through the motions. Go out and get better," Holgorsen said.
"If they think about anything other than that, they are not thinking about the right stuff. It is good exposure if you are ranked highly coming into the season, but I knew all of these games were going to be pretty challenging."