A soaked and sullen Dana Holgorsen was contrite following Saturday’s 37-0 loss to Maryland.
Holgorsen, who is not known for his public relations acumen, made his best call of the day by loading full responsibility on his own shoulders.
“It’s all 100 percent on me,” said Holgorsen. “Obviously, offensively we are as inept as we can possibly be. I accept responsibility for that.”
In an age of excessive excuse-making, Holgorsen deserves credit for manning up. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that the Mountaineer football program has taken a precipitous slide.
One year ago, the Mountaineers were 5-0, ranked fifth in the country and led by a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback. However, since the Texas Tech game of 2012, West Virginia has lost eight of 10 games to FBS teams. (The two wins were against Iowa State and Kansas.)
Five of the eight losses have been blowout defeats, while the average margin of all the losses has been 21 points. The Mountaineers haven’t just been losing, they’ve been taking a beating.
This is arguably the worst stretch since 1978-79, when the Mountaineers lost nine of their final 10 games in ’78 and started 0-3 in ’79. West Virginia was a dismal 3-8 in 2001, Rich Rodriguez first season as head coach, but they were outscored by only 33 points.
The current slide reached a new low Saturday, as West Virginia was shutout for the first time since a 35-0 loss to Virginia Tech in 2001. One statistical anomaly epitomizes just how woeful the offense performed: six first downs and six turnovers.
West Virginia had only six more yards in total offense (65) than yards in penalties in the first half. The Mountaineers ran just 47 plays and quarterback Ford Childress completed just one pass to a wide receiver.
Holgorsen was hired specifically because of his success as an offensive coordinator. The university’s news release in December 2010 called Holgorsen the “architect of some of college football’s most explosive offenses.”
But the West Virginia offense these days is more implosion than explosion. The Mountaineers rank last in the Big 12 in scoring offense and 72nd in the country in total offense.
The expectation created by the Holgorsen hiring was that his system was the key to success. The solution to the vacancies created by the annual churn of players would be a simple matter of plugging in the next guy.
That hasn’t happened this year, though it may in time. Still, it’s more realistic to accept that, following the loss of three NFL-caliber players on offense, this is a rebuilding year.
The lingering question so far this season, particularly after the Maryland debacle, is whether any rebuilding is underway. And, as the coach plainly indicated Saturday, that’s on him.