MANHATTAN, Kan. — They were a team that wilted during late-game situations all season. Starved for confidence, doused in doubt, plagued by quarterback questions. Even at halftime of a two-point game Saturday, they worried another frail finish might be forthcoming.

We’re referring, of course, to Kansas State.

“It definitely felt like ‘Here we go again,'” said defensive end Ryan Mueller, waxing candidly about the mindset of a Wildcats team that appeared ripe for another loss. “We had been in this situation before, so how did we want to respond? Do we want the same outcome?”

Fortunately for Mueller and the Wildcats, they were opposite a team even more brittle than themselves. Once K-State caught momentum in the second half, West Virginia folded like a tailgate tent, and the resulting 35-12 final score made it hard to recall how competitive this game was entering the final quarter.

“Credit to Kansas State, especially in the second half, for coming out and taking it to us,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. After watching his team surrender the game’s final 28 points—just as it had surrendered the final 21 to Texas Tech the previous week—he accurately assessed that such a repetitive storyline “does not happen to good teams.”

West Virginia had seen its fill of good teams during the first seven games, yet players and coaches emitted an undertone this week that the back end of the schedule—with four of five games against sub-.500 teams—was primed for a strong finish. But finishing isn’t in this team’s skill set. Even when paired against a mirror-image Kansas State squad, WVU’s timidity won out.

The 12 points West Virginia posted were 14 below what K-State had been allowing on average this season and only half of what North Dakota State scored in the same stadium on Aug. 30. WVU converted just 4-of-16 third downs against a defense that ranked next-to-last in the Big 12 in stopping opponents on third down. WVU lost three turnovers to a defense that had created only six all season.

Holgorsen has never fielded an offense so ill-equipped for pivotal moments, so unresponsive to pressure, and that realization is eating at him more and more with each fruitless series. This following an offseason in which the assumption—both on the staff and among outsiders—was that WVU would simply plug in the next 4,000-yard passer for the purpose of manufacturing touchdowns. But for the first time in Holgorsen’s career, offensive history isn’t repeating itself.

“We probably gave ourselves too much credit, thought we could coach them up a little bit better,” he admitted. “We thought our continuity would take care of itself by playing together and practicing.”

Defensively, the Mountaineers are an equally vexing mess. K-State managed seven points on Saturday’s first nine possessions, then scored touchdowns on four straight drives of 78, 78, 54 and 64 yards.

Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson sounded next-level flummoxed: “I’ve never seen or been around (a situation) where things can be going so good, and then all of a sudden it’s ‘How in the world did that happen?’ We’ve got these (K-State) guys held to seven points for 70 percent of the game and then we’re losing 35-12?”

At least the defensive lapses seemed explainable against Top-25 teams like Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas Tech; but when WVU came unzipped against one of its languishing neighbors in the bottom half of the Big 12, well, that’s flummoxing to us all.

And it suggests that rock bottom may be further down yet.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett beat West Virginia cornerback Icky Banks on a 35-yard touchdown pass—one of three scores for Lockett in the 35-12 victory.
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  • WV Bud

    I was one of the people who thought Bill Stewart should have not been the head coach.But disagree with the way he was fired.He was too decent to hae did what they said he did. hat said , I think we just have to give Dana some time.I like his Black shirt. Reminds me of The Original Man In Black. Earnhardt. If he dont work out in a couple moe years, I would sure like to see Rodrequiz back.

  • Adam

    Nothing better than wasting 3 and a half hours a day to watch the pride of your state get embarrased on a consistent basis....

  • pghmountaineer

    Jock. Wish I could share your optimism. I just don't see how it's going to happen. It's obviuos the team is not improving, we don't havce a QB, and or defense is nonexistent.
    I truly believe it's a coaching issue. I don't think our players are this bad. I think Dana and his staff do not have the players buying into the system.
    Hope you're right though.

  • College Ave

    The most successful coaches are the ones who are more mature than the players they're coaching. They have a calming influence on their players. (That goes for leaders in general. Ever work for a hothead? How effective of a manager was he or she?)

    The way this guy rants and swears and carries on along the sideline when his team is struggling isn't about some passion for excellence -- it's about him airing his frustration. If he's spending his time and energy letting the air out when he's mad then he isn't focused on figuring out how to fix what's wrong.

  • beechurst

    Sad. So sad.

  • pghmountaineer

    Jock, I think you missed your meds today. You're halucinating! :)

    • Jock Strap

      Maybe blinded by the hype, I don't know May be completely wrong but for some reason as bad as things are now I just have a feeling Holgorsen can and will get the job done. Ok folks bash away.

  • Jock Strap

    Don't fret coach, there's still plenty of support for you from those like me that can see the true direction. So we have taken some lumps big deal these same disrespectful posters that without knowing you or players disrespect you by calling you names and have the audacity to complain about these young men that come here to play will once again sing your praises when we start dishing out the lumps just like they all loved you after Clemson and the first five games last year. Ride it out, keep on course and one day we will see you at the pinnacle. In support of you, this staff and these young men I stand proud.

  • Toadman

    Take a hike out of here Holgs and take your lousy coaching staff back wherever you came from. Oh, by the way, take those terrible chicken s--- yellow helments with you. Don't let the door hit you in the a-- on the way out. It's time to cut bait Mountaineer fans!

  • richard


  • Rock Solid

    I can't believe the way our guys are now being taught to NOT tackle, but go for the strip. It's embarrassing to watch our guys running down the field for an extra 10 yards or more because everybody is trying to stip the ball and nobody is TACKLING the ball carrier. We have three linebackers, plus n o.8, and no.25 that will hit like Mountaineers, the other defensive backs and subs all want to dance with the runners, and are just sad.

  • Dustin

    Once again Holgerson's team fell apart in the second half. This guy is not a head coach, he might have been a good coordinator but not a head coach. Recruiting is going down the toilet. The fans are tired of his excuses. I never thought I would say this but I think they need to start looking at a new coach and AD. WVU has slowly declined ever since Luck took over.

  • big tom

    okok just the facts mame,,

    wvu tot off. 78th
    passing off. 56th
    TOTAL DEFENSE 102TH MAN what improvement over last yr.

  • rich

    The reality is we're stuck with each other. Holgorsen is certainly no hot commodity to bolt to another school. And we can't afford the buy out to get rid of him. Our hope might be Luck goes to Texas and still has so much faith in Dana he takes him with him. Doubt it.
    I agree with prior posts we were ill-equipped to take over for the offensive juggernaut we were in previous years. That's Dana's responsibility (and for God's sake get rid of DeForest!)
    For now it seems we are both stuck with each other, and we have to make the best of it. Hopefully, Dana can learn to coach and recruit in the off season and become what was expected of him.
    In the meantime, hey, tickets to the remaining home games are gonna be REAL cheap!!

    • Keith J

      Two bad responses to two great games.

      1. Victory over Oklahoma brings hiring of Stewart. There was a reason he was assistant for 23 years.
      2. Orange Bowl victory over Clemson leads to extending Holgorson 3 years making it too expensive ($11 million) to fire him.

      I think Holgorsen will be back next year because of the money. Maybe WV should hire a bench coach like baseball has. So, for eample, Dodger management not having warm fuzzy feelings about some strategies during playoffs fire their bench coach and hire someone that management likes. WVU could hire someone who would be in charge of decisions like timeouts, going for it on fourth down, or faking on an almost automatic FG.

  • wvtd

    why keep turning down field goals for long shot plays?

    • Jason

      Because of poor coaching decisions.

  • FL Truk

    As Bill King says, you must be able to shop for the groceries and then be able to cook the meal. This coaching staff can't do either one.