MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The worst thing to happen to West Virginia last week was not that the 37-0 loss to Maryland was nationally televised or that it was the first shutout in 12 years and the worst shutout loss in 38 seasons.
What trumped that was the way the Mountaineers were defeated long before the Terrapins took a final knee to put the opponent out if its misery.
"What I saw was when a couple things happened early in the football game, we kind of got wide-eyed and said, 'Oh, crap,'" third-year WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen said.
Holgorsen has now lost 11 times in his 30 games as head coach. Seven of those losses have been by at least 21 points. The average halftime deficit in those seven three-touchdown losses was 19 points. Not once in those seven games was the final margin smaller than the halftime margin.
"That can't happen," Holgorsen said. "You can't play like that, and it's 100 percent coaching. I can't allow that to happen. I can't have guys who are scared to make mistakes. That's not existing on defense. Offensively, I think's happening a little bit."
Before WVU can calibrate its passing attack, refine its offensive line and liberate its running backs, Holgorsen had one order in preparation for Saturday's game (noon kickoff, ESPN telecast) against No. 11 Oklahoma State (3-0) at Mountaineer Field.
"You tell them to relax," he said.
Holgorsen vowed to do his part, and that goes beyond dressing himself differently and mixing up the lunch buffet at the start of the week.
"I have to change my mentality if they are going to change their mentality," he said. "I'm going to expect good things to happen. I'm going to be excited about going to practice. I'm going to go out and not be worried about calling the perfect play.
"If you sit there and worry about calling a perfect play, then you're going to call a bad one. That mentality needs to go away. We need to relax, and we need to expect good things to happen, because right now offensively that isn't happening."
The Mountaineers (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) can line up practice periods to work on whatever ails the receivers, the linemen and the quarterback. There are drills that focus on ball security. There isn't a time when five minutes are devoted to a sunny disposition. There isn't a drill that rehearses cheers and fist bumps.