Holgorsen acknowledges challenges Mountaineers are facing

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Coach Dana Holgorsen found a silver lining, albeit nearly imperceptible to the naked eye, in film study of West Virginia's 37-0 loss Saturday against Maryland.

"I've watched that film about eight times, and, believe it or not, there are some things on that tape that resemble football," Holgorsen said with a smirk.

Few of those football-like things came on offense, where West Virginia (2-2, 0-1 Big 12)amassed 175 yards, five turnovers and was shut out for the first time in the past 12 years.

"I'm sick to my stomach with what happened offensively Saturday," Holgorsen said.

Practice Tuesday afternoon marked the dawn of a new week for the Mountaineers, a week headlined by a theme of change. Acknowledging that wholesale adjustments must be made to spin a 2-2 team into contention in the Big 12, Holgorsen was the first to take a step forward.

"I changed how I woke up and got dressed this morning. I changed what I had for lunch," he said, gesturing toward the lobby of the football center at Milan Puskar Stadium.

"We got rid of our lunch bar today, so we changed that."

Holgorsen doesn't intend to approach practices any different: "It's worked for 15 years, so we're not going to change how we practice."

The crucial change, he said, is a rewiring of the team's mentality -- from coaches down to players -- and finding a way to relax.

Getting a coaching staff and 120 players to relax just days before a matchup with unbeaten No. 11 Oklahoma State? Doesn't sound like an easy chore.

Holgorsen, arms crossed, raised his eyes and asked, "Well, do I look uptight right now?"

He gave a half-hearted smile. "It's a challenge."

The turnaround starts with a look in a mirror.

"I have to change my mentality," Holgorsen 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. ... I need to get us better prepared and more excited about playing."

Turnover troubles

An obvious issue is that West Virginia has registered the second-most turnovers (12) and second-most fumbles (eight) in Division I-A.

The case of the dropsies hasn't centered around one person or position -- there have been two muffed punts, three fumbles by quarterbacks, two by running backs and one by a receiver -- so Holgorsen thinks "it can be fixed pretty easily."

Less obvious is that, while West Virginia defense has forced eight turnovers, the offense has turned them into just seven points -- that touchdown coming against Division I-A doormat Georgia State.

The full, painful tally shows that ensuing drives after defensive takeaways have resulted in three punts, three fumbles, an interception, a touchdown and a drive cut short by the final buzzer.

"Yeah, it's bad," Holgorsen said.

"We'll work on that today. I'll blow a whistle and say, 'We just got a turnover, run out there and go score.' We're having an issue scoring, period.

"We are getting turnovers, but we are not setting up scores, and, for two reasons: one, because the offense can't score, and two, because we are getting them in the wrong spots at the wrong times."

Injury report

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, the team's leading tackler, and junior running back Dustin Garrison both injured hamstrings Saturday.

Garrison was injured just before the game, and Kwiatkoski left midgame. Both are listed as day to day.


Stephen J. Nesbitt: snesbitt@post-gazette.com, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.


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