MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Dana Holgorsen spent his Tuesday news conference explaining how No. 25 West Virginia plans to turn things around after the team's stunning descent from national contender to the fringe of the rankings.
Less than 72 hours earlier, in the aftermath of the team's 55-14 loss to Kansas State, Geno Smith stood behind the very same podium, pointing the finger at himself for the dramatic fall.
"Yeah, me and him have talked. He doesn't need to say that," Holgorsen said Tuesday. "His is one of many positions that play football here. If he thinks that all this falls on his shoulders, he's sadly mistaken.
"He's one of our leaders. He's a tremendous football player. He cares more than anybody. He is responsible for a lot of points and a lot of wins. This doesn't fall on his shoulders. This falls on my shoulders. And it falls on all of our coaches and all of our players. He's only one piece to everything ... he needs to relax a little bit and not bear that burden."
The blame, said Holgorsen, falls on everyone -- himself, his staff and every player.
The Mountaineers (5-2, 2-2 Big 12), to put it lightly, were schooled by Texas Tech, then Kansas State, a wake-up call that has them dealing with the reality of how difficult it is to compete in the Big 12 Conference.
"Basically, it boils down to having to bounce back, and that doesn't happen overnight," said Holgorsen. "We bounced back last season. This is different because of who we are playing. We just played the No. 3 team in the country. They are a pretty good team. It is going to take a whole year of going through the Big 12 for everyone to understand the Big 12."
Holgorsen said the team, which does not play next weekend, will get back to basics this week, lighten the load and then his coaching staff will hit Kansas, Texas and Arizona, focusing on recruiting junior college players who might be able to help sooner -- next season -- than later.
He said he wants the players he already has to mature. But what does he mean?
"Aside from the fact that we would like our 20 freshmen to be seniors, we need to, from a mentality standpoint, grow up," Holgorsen said. "We can't use the excuse of not having enough snaps. We have to grow and play older than we are. We need the older guys to act older. 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."
Was West Virginia overrated coming into the season?
He doesn't care.
"I don't know. Everybody's got an opinion on preseason rankings," Holgorsen said. "It doesn't matter what happened last year. I sat up here before the Marshall game and said that. This is a different team. We're going to find out its makeup through games. It's going to take games to find out what we're made of.
"We tell our team don't worry about what the paper says, what the rankings say, what the Internet says, the TV.
"This week we're telling them don't pay attention to what everybody is saying. All the people saying you are so good are telling you you're so bad. So why pay attention to either one? Pay attention to what we say in here."
Is it the schemes?
No, he said, but a combination of problems.
In the next week, said Holgorsen, the team will get back to basics -- that means working on finishing blocks on offense and having proper technique on defense from breaking on the ball to getting off blocks.
"Nobody's pointing fingers anywhere. I'm not pointing fingers at any particular place," he said. "Ultimately, it comes down to getting them out there in practice and having them get better at what we want them to do. There are only a certain number of coverages or plays that we can run. If you try to make up for our deficiencies with more plays, it is going to confuse them."
Jenn Menendez: email@example.com, 412-263-1959 and Twitter @JennMenendez. First Published October 24, 2012 4:00 AM