Will looser attitude help WVU?
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Dana Holgorsen was asked Tuesday if, in light of his West Virginia football team's monumental struggles on offense to date this season, he had considered changes.
Of course, he's already been asked about changing quarterbacks and that seems to be a non-starter. Changing his offensive style, too, seems to be off the table. And he makes pretty good points in regard to both - specifically saying that he's settled on a quarterback and needs to give Ford Childress time to grow into the position, and that he will grow in an offense that, despite its recent struggles, has proven pretty resilient over the years.
Well, OK, so if a quarterback switch is out of the question, the offense will remain basically the same and the players manning most of the positions are the best available, how about switching things up in practice a bit, perhaps changing that routine?
"It's worked for 15 years,'' Holgorsen said. "We're not going to change it.''
Well, what then figures to change as the Mountaineers, fresh off a 37-0 shellacking at Maryland, prepare to face an even more difficult assignment this week when No. 11 Oklahoma State comes to Mountaineer Field?
"Oh, we're going to change something,'' Holgorsen said. "I changed how I woke up and got dressed this morning, for what that's worth. I'm going to change what I had for lunch. I got rid of our lunch bar today, so I changed that. We're going to change some different things.
"But one thing we're not going to change is how we practice. How we practice works. It's worked for 15 years.''
On the surface, of course, that sounds pretty arrogant. Holgorsen has settled on an offensive style, a practice regimen and a quarterback to run things, and no matter the results he's sticking with them. Even if in the only two games WVU has played this season against BCS-level competition - Oklahoma and Maryland - have produced a grand total of seven points.
But the truth is, before Holgorsen goes off making drastic changes to a system that has always worked, he'd rather change something else and see how that works.
It's attitude. Specifically, it's a group of offensive players and coaches playing last week at Maryland as if they were wound tighter than a clock.
"What I saw was when a couple of things happened early in that football game, our guys kind of got a little wide eyed and said, 'Oh, crap,' '' Holgorsen said. "And that can't happen. We can't play like that.
"It's a hundred percent coaching is what it is. I can't allow that to happen. I can't have guys that are scared to make a mistake. That's not existing on defense, but offensively I think that's happening a little bit.''
Indeed, last week against Maryland, the offense actually started out playing fairly well with a couple of first downs. The Mountaineers had field position and momentum. Things were loose.
But then Ronald Carswell fumbled a punt and Maryland scored. Very quickly, the Terps intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown. All of a sudden an offense that has trouble scoring under any circumstances was looking at a 14-0 deficit that continued to snowball.
Any looseness was long gone. That included the coaches on the sideline, including Holgorsen, who has never been one to take bad breaks or misfortune lightly.
That, he said, has to change.
"I need to change my mentality if I want them to change their mentality,'' Holgorsen said. "So I'm going to expect good things to happen. I'm going to get excited about going to practice. I'm going to get excited about going out there and not worrying about calling the perfect play. If you sit there and you worry about calling the 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 get out there and we need to expect good things to happen.''
Of course, it would help if good things did happen. Relaxed or not, West Virginia's offense has continually shown flaws almost universally. The line has had trouble protecting and run blocking, two different quarterbacks have failed to add a spark and skill-position players have been responsible for 12 turnovers, half of them last week against Maryland.
But Holgorsen maintains it's not as bad as it seems.
"I've watched that film probably eight times since I got back Saturday night,'' Holgorsen said. "There's some things that resemble football.
"Our guys are trying. We have quality running backs. We have experience on the O-line. We have receivers that can run and catch. We have guys that can do it. They're trying. If we get just a little bit better and we can gain some confidence, then maybe it'll steamroll and we can start scoring some points and win some games. You've got to believe it's going to happen. If you don't believe it's going to happen, it's not going to happen.''
Perhaps the most encouraging thing, though, was that despite all that happened, Holgorsen said his team didn't give up, which would have been easy to do.
"If I'm sitting here in front of you saying they quit, we're not getting the effort that we want, that we have attitude problems, none of that's existing,'' Holgorsen said. "So I'm comfortable sitting here saying that whatever we're missing, I think we're about that close to being a damn good football team. But right now we're missing it. And I've got to find it.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.