Optimists will cite the management proverb, “Every change is an opportunity to improve.”
That was what WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck had in mind when he hired Dana Holgorsen as the football team’s offensive coordinator and head-coach-in-waiting almost three years ago. (Holgorsen took over a season earlier than expected after Bill Stewart was fired.)
“Coach Holgorsen is one of the top coaches in college football,” Luck said in a statement Dec. 16, 2010. “We know that Coach Holgorsen will bring a high-powered offense that will be incredibly entertaining to watch at Milan Puskar Stadium.”
Certainly in Holgorsen’s first season, the young coach delivered. WVU finished 10 and 3, including a record-shattering 70-33 win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
The meltdown in the second half of last season, including an embarrassing 38-14 loss to Syracuse in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, tempered those expectations, especially since it was understood that 2013 would be a rebuilding year.
But is WVU rebuilding?
It did not appear that way Saturday as the Mountaineers were trampled by a subpar Kansas State team. West Virginia clung to a 9-7 lead after two quarters, but following halftime adjustments, the Wildcats outscored the Mountaineers 28-3 in the final two quarters.
“We’re not playing winning offensive football,” Holgorsen said after the game. “Are we improving and does it look better at times? Yes. Is it good enough to win a Big 12 football game? Absolutely not.”
On that, Holgorsen and an increasingly irate Mountaineer fan base can agree.
Here were some of the offensive statistics before Saturday’s game:
–WVU ranked 78th in total offense with 395 yards a game. The Mountaineers fell short of that average Saturday with 367.
–WVU ranked 94th in scoring offense with 23 points a game, and managed only half that average against K-State.
–WVU ranked 111th on 3rd down conversion at 30 percent, but was only 4 of 16 Saturday for 25 percent. The Mountaineers were also 0 for 2 on fourth down.
–WVU was +1 in turnover margin before the game, but turned the ball over three times to two for the Wildcats, who were a miserable -9 prior to Saturday.
This is not a team that’s improving.
The disappointment runs deeper than the outcomes of individual games. There’s always a risk that when a new coach’s acumen is oversold that the dissatisfaction will be even more acute.