STILLWATER, Okla. -- Dana Holgorsen spent the 2010 season helping Oklahoma State reach the heights it has the past few years.
He's spent this week studying the Cowboys so that his West Virginia team doesn't reach a depth it's never sunk to before.
There's something he can't shake as the Mountaineers (5-3, 2-3 Big 12) prepare for Saturday's game against Oklahoma State (5-3, 2-3).
"It's like we're looking in a mirror because what we do offensively, what we do defensively and what we do from a special teams standpoint is so similar," Holgorsen said. "As you know, there's a lot of crossover and a lot of familiarity. We know a lot about their players and their schemes and they know a lot about our schemes.
"There aren't a lot of secrets that exist. It comes down to motivation and determination and what team gives greater effort."
The teams are close. The lines that separate one from the other and a win from a loss are thin. WVU, which hasn't won a game since Oct. 6, has plenty of incentive to be determined and motivated, though. The program hasn't lost four straight games since 2001 and four conference games since the same season, but has never lost four straight conference games.
That's all on the line in the 3:30 p.m. game (ABC) at Boone Pickens Stadium.
"Once you get into a game, it's not much different than any other game," Oklahoma State Coach Mike Gundy said. "They are much more familiar with us than we are with them. They've been here. We only know them. We don't know their players. Once the game gets going, in most cases you actually forget who's on the other side."
In addition to Holgorsen, who Gundy hired as his offensive coordinator in 2010 so Holgorsen could install the offense he popularized first with Mike Leach at Texas Tech and then with his own flair at Houston, WVU defensive coordinator Joe DeForest was a Cowboys assistant for 11 years.
Running backs coach Robert Gillespie had the same position in 2009-10 at Oklahoma State, quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital was Holgorsen's graduate assistant in 2010 and defensive graduate assistant Andrew McGee played cornerback for the Cowboys in 2009-10.
They are all familiar with a portion of the Oklahoma State roster and what those players can do. They also know how games go when one side is so familiar with and similar to the other.
"I think we're evenly matched, talent-wise, and I think we do the same things," DeForest said. "I think the bottom line is effort and turnovers. Who's going to give the most effort? Who's going to be the most physical team? Who's going to create turnovers?
"It's those three things. After that, scheme doesn't matter. It's all about effort and creating turnovers."