MORGANTOWN — It would be easy, perhaps, for West Virginia’s football team — not to mention its supporters — to get wrapped up in what can only be regarded as a positive performance in Saturday’s season opener against No. 2 Alabama.
Still trying to shake the effects of a disastrous prior season, the Mountaineers didn’t beat the most successful program in recent college football history, but a 33-23 loss in which they had the ball with a chance to tie in the fourth quarter was encouraging.
There must be a warning message broadcast, however, and Dana Holgorsen was the first to do so in the wake of Saturday’s loss at the Georgia Dome: WVU has been there, done that. And the last time it didn’t work out so well.
It was just last year.
“I told them this is a very similar situation to last year at Oklahoma,’’ Holgorsen said of his talk to his team following Saturday’s loss in Atlanta. “And from there we didn’t improve very much. We’ve got to motivate this team to be able to get back to work to improve from what we put out there [against Alabama].’’
Indeed, the parallels between 2013 and now are striking. Last year, West Virginia’s disastrous flop the season before was a 2-6 finish after a 5-0 start. This time it is the memory of a 4-8 season.
And early in the season things seemed to be looking up. The second game was at Oklahoma and the Mountaineers played the Sooners almost exactly as they would play Alabama. They had the ball with a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter. Last year, Kevin White’s fumble ended the chance. This time it was a three-and-out by the offense after a Daryl Worley penalty.
That 2013 team seemed headed straight in the right direction after playing the Sooners so well in Norman. But after a momentary struggle against outmanned Georgia State, two weeks later there was a whitewashing at the hands of Maryland in Baltimore and it was almost all downhill after that.
This time WVU faces outmanned Towson Saturday night at home (7:30 p.m., Root Sports) before heading to Maryland again.
Obviously Holgorsen wants to make certain history doesn’t repeat, so he’s not going to allow his team to celebrate an impressive performance that still resulted in a loss.
“I told these guys to hold their head up high. We’re not interested in moral victories. We played hard and we put ourselves in position to win, which was obviously our goal,’’ he said. “But we didn’t achieve our goal when it comes to finishing the game and getting a victory. That’s why you play the game. I felt like we had a chance to do that, but we didn’t.
“So how do we respond? We don’t want pats on the back. We want to be able to go to work [Sunday] night and look at the film and be able to get better from it.’’