West Virginia's struggles mount with loss

WEST VIRGINIA

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Dana Holgorsen has never been one to mince words or cloak his emotions. The West Virginia coach wore a road-weary, haggard and frustrated scowl after his Mountaineers were mauled, 35-12, Saturday afternoon in Manhattan, Kan.

West Virginia had found a familiar way to lose. A week after allowing 21 consecutive points to squander a second-half lead against Texas Tech, the Mountaineers did one better, allowing 28 consecutive Kansas State points in the final 18 minutes.

West Virginia (3-5, 1-4 Big 12) held a third-quarter lead in three of the past four games but won just once, precipitating the current three-game losing streak and the mounting impatience on the sideline.

"It's a huge concern -- it's a four-quarter game," Holgorsen said. "This doesn't happen to good teams."

He called the offensive output "disturbing." The Mountaineers' six second-half drives Saturday ended with two fumbles, a field goal, a punt, a loss of downs and, finally, an interception.

"It's complete non-execution of routine plays," offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said.

Redshirt junior quarterback Clint Trickett made his fourth consecutive start, passing for 227 yards on 15 of 28 passing and rushing for 21 yards and the only touchdown of the game, but he fumbled twice and was replaced by junior backup Paul Millard in the fourth.

"The frustration level is high," Trickett said. "I'm frustrated with myself -- it's obvious. We've got to play better."

Still, why take the keys away from the starter?

"You've got to be able to throw to open people and complete it," Holgorsen said. "Clint was not doing a good job of that."

Millard fared even worse -- 4 of 14 passing for 37 yards and a game-ending interception.

The guessing game continues for the West Virginia coaching staff, a group racking its collective brain to find solutions, however temporary, to jolt the offense into motion -- even calling a fake field goal that was stopped and turned over on downs 5 yards short of the goal line.

Only to further the recurring motif of non-execution, Holgorsen said the fake field-goal attempt was neither the proper call nor look the coaches had signaled in from the sideline.

"It's the same old deal," Holgorsen said. "We're not doing a very good job offensively. We're not scoring. We're not finishing drives. We're not finishing blocks. We're not making people miss in the open field. We're not catching the ball downfield."

He paused, shrugged and crossed his arms again.

"You guys see it," he continued. "It keeps me up at night. We're not playing winning offensive football. Are we improving [and] is it looking better at times? Yes. Is it good enough to win a Big 12 football game? Absolutely not."

Holgorsen looks and sounds very much like a coach resigned to his team's perilous fate. The Mountaineers must win three of their final four games to earn bowl eligibility -- otherwise, they'll miss out for the first time since 2001.

Holgorsen knew it would be a trying season. He just didn't think it would be this tough.

"I probably gave ourselves a little too much credit," he said. "I thought we could coach them up a little bit better. I thought our continuity would take care of itself just by playing together."

Stephen J. Nesbitt: snesbitt@post-gazette.com and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.


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