MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — By achieving bowl-eligibility, Dana Holgorsen has mitigated the hot-seat speculation that followed last season’s 4-8 disaster.

Now his mission is steering West Virginia out of a two-game losing skid and into a strong finish.

The Mountaineers (6-4, 4-3 Big 12) close the regular season with games against No. 13 Kansas State and Iowa State, providing a chance to play their way up or down the bowl food chain.

While the 33-16 loss to Texas was still fresh Tuesday—and still unacceptable from standpoints of effort and execution—West Virginia already has surpassed its admittedly dire preseason projections. (Included among those was the now-infamous Oliver Luck assertion that a 4-8 repeat could represent improvement based on WVU facing a tough schedule.)

Holgorsen said he wasn’t surprised to see West Virginia, which spent three weeks in the AP top 25, become relevant again.

“News flash for you: We expected improvement as well,” he said.

“I see improvement. I think we’re going to continue to improve, and I think a year from now you’re going to be looking at a team that’s even better than what we’ve got right now.”

Will 2015 be better? Holgorsen referenced that the 2015 senior class will be twice as large as this year’s, and the recruiting rankings appear favorable for next February’s intake. Those are encouraging factors, but what about the sense that West Virginia’s offense—which stands to lose six impact seniors—is headed for a regression?

“What we dealt with last year,” Holgorsen said, “I don’t anticipate ever having to deal with that (again), with so many new players put in position where they have to play as first-year players.”

You can’t fault any coach for pumping up his program’s future, yet this is what we know about next season’s offense:

• It won’t feature Kevin White and Mario Alford, who own 144 of the receivers’ 207 catches (69 percent).

• It won’t have Quinton Spain or Mark Glowinski, the team’s top offensive linemen (for whom no reliable backups exist).

• It will feature a first-year starter at quarterback (or Paul Millard).

That actually looks strikingly similar to what West Virginia’s offense encountered in 2013.

Bye week benefits: The off week will be most beneficial to a collection of West Virginia starters who have rarely left the field all season.

“We’ve got five offensive linemen that have played about 900 snaps. We’ve got a linebacker and three safeties—in Kwit and K.J. and Karl and Dravon—that have all played about 800 snaps, so the snaps are starting to pile up,” Holgorsen said. “Those guys will be practicing, but they won’t be hitting, so it will give those guys a chance to rest up.”

The running backs can use some downtime, too. While a committee approach relieves some of the fatigue, West Virginia averages 85.6 plays per game, second-most to Baylor (89.2) in the Big 12. Wendell Smallwood’s 153 offensive touches are fifth in the league behind Baylor’s Shock Linwood (180), Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine, (165) Texas Tech’s DeAndre Washington (163) and Texas’ running back Malcolm Brown (161).

“Wendell’s wearing down—it’s pretty visible,” Holgorsen said. “And Rushel (Shell) can’t get healthy right now. Thank ankle’s been a nuisance for him for about a month.”

Reflections on WVU’s letdown: What Holgorsen noticed in realtime Saturday was validated by reviewing the loss to Texas on video.

“It was pretty evident that they were ready to play more than we were ready to play. The mindset that this team has done a good job with—with effort, energy, excitement, flying around, having fun, playing the game—existed in the first nine games. It didn’t exist in this one.”

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  • Big Larry

    Oh Please....

    • Big Larry

      I'm an idiot.

      • the flying dutchman

        self acknowledgement of ones limitations is the first step to redemption.

        • Big Larry

          Thanks for being there for me....

  • Ron from Morgantown

    Srry V8 but this story has some holes . First - you assume White and Alford are superstars when in fact they just benefited from a good system . Next years new receivers , albeit Freshman, will be twice as good as the receivers mentioned above . Also we have better , more experienced coaches than we had in 2013 - Dana included . To continue- our schedule is far more favorable in 2015 than in 2013 . Also - as mentioned - Our D will be a beast next year with tons of experience and depth ; something 2013 didn't have . DH rolled the rolled the dice with that "jacked up arm " thing and it kinda backfired on him but day 1 in 2015 Crest will be better than any QB we had in 2013 . We are poised to make a serious run at the B12 title in 15 with or without Mr V8.

    • JJ

      I buy that. Next years team will have more guys that have played B12 ball. The D should be tremendous. Having guys in the system from day one is a plus. RB will be stacked once again.

  • Ralphie

    Dana and Gibson lack the experience to perform under pressure. Leaders step up in the face of adversity and take the blame when things don't work out. Dana continues to chuck his players under the bus. Im surprised he hasn't lost the players respect, maybe he earns it back by getting drunk on the flight home from Texas. He looked so cool drunk on the plane.

    • Tom

      Were you on the plane? If not, how do you know this? I'm not saying it isn't so, just wondering your source(s).

      • the flying dutchman

        raphie was high enough to see the airplane.....but no he wasnt on it....they had hired a mens room attendant previous to taking off.

    • JJ

      Coaching is one thing. Gibson in his first year with this scheme and personnel, I don't think it's been bad. Holgs has grown as a coach. The other aspect is leadership on the field, the players are the ones taking the snaps and hits. Maybe Crest will be that guy.

  • Bill

    Next years D is senior heavy with a lot of experience with the younger players. I would like to see WVU in a position like Baylor where they constantly have a player in waiting. One QB graduates and it's next guy up. I think Crest will bring a different aspect to the game with his scrambling ability. WR could be interesting but there seems to be a lot of talent.

    • JimJim

      The Dude doesn't coach scrambling QBs. He coaches dropback QB. If he could coach scramblers Crest would be playing now.

  • WVUinDE

    Has Dana spoke about the terrible defensive scheme that allowed Texas to run all over WVU? That is on coaching, not the players.

  • cutty77

    Dana and this Team has made alot progress. But lets see how it finishes up The season. The Big 12 is twice as tuff as The Big East was.

  • Mister Man

    I think Trickett will pick it up against K State.

    • Bill

      Needed a solid third receiver all year. I thought Shorts would be that guy but he regressed. Time off and playing at home will benefit this team. But I agree, I think they come out on fire.

  • william

    Great Improvement?
    They ONLY beat one good team -BAYLOR.
    Wow, what a improvement

    • Big Larry

      "Love your Work"

      • Big Larry

        Wish I could quit posting crap...

        • the flying dutchman

          take a long walk off a short pier...that should cure the posting thing once and for all.

          • nashville cat

            that's really cute, you're such a whiz kid

        • Big Larry

          Am I William?

          No one will ever know!!!!

          ( Ma doesn't allow friends in the basement )

    • earl2

      Lol what good team has Marshall beat?

    • troll hunter

      Found one...

    • Low Rider

      William…go back to your Marshall lillypad.

  • Aaron

    The hardest replacement on offense will be Spain and Glowinski. While I am certainly making no predictions, I think it would be remiss to count out a 5th year senior that knows the offense as well as anyone.

    If he can get a line that gives him time to get rid of the ball coupled with a running game, there is no reason Millard cannot have the success.

    With a vastly improved defense that loses 2 starters and 5 of the top 25 it would be idiocy to presume next years team will regress.

    • The flying dutchman

      No offensive line equals no offense in this league. The games where trickett struggled was where the o line underperformed. I'm not as sold on Spain as you are but glowinski is the rock.

      • nashville cat

        you're brain is liquid

    • Harpers Ferry

      Spain and Glowinski will be the hardest to replace? Not Kevin White? Really? Have you been watching any of the games?

      • Aaron

        Yes I have. In addition to Shorts, Thompson and Myers returning, they have at least 2 receivers red shirting now as well as quality receivers that will join the team next year. White and Alford were both in junior college during the tenure of the last group of irreplaceable receivers.

        If Stedman Bailey or Tavon Austin's production can be replaced, why can't Alford and Whites?

        • Mountain Man

          Why can't you get a job?

          • nashville cat

            he has a job, flipping burgers, haven't you figured that out.

          • Aaron

            I'll note that you added absolutely nothing to the conversation other than to cry because I posted.

            Where I come from that makes you a b....

      • Aaron

        Yes I have.

  • Mister Man

    The defenses have figured out that Clint has trouble passing over the middle.

    • Mister Man

      That's why they stay back and give that to him.

  • Neil

    Help!!! We need a change of guard at the Head Position. He has had 4 years to continue making the same mistakes. Another, melt down!

    • Mister Man

      Six wins, bowl eligible.

      • Charles

        Big deal. Half the teams in the FBS will be bowl eligible. DH job is to be better than bowl eligible. He is being paid almost $3 million.

  • Jim slade

    WVU v. UT in Liberty Bowl

    • Ron from Morgantown

      You are focused in the right area with the opponent more of a mystery than the site , but this is still a very fluid situation. How we finish , how Texas finishes , politics ( Does Texas want to play TAM in a bowl if they become eligible ? ) .Does TCU or Baylor get in the playoffs? ; that will also determine our post season location . One thing for sure , we are in a bowl somewhere .

  • Saddlebags

    I hope WVU can close out an 8-4 regular season, they have played tough all season, and lost only by a few point(s) in some games. So Go Mountaineers!!!! You can have a super close-out; bend but don't break.

  • Ole Sasquatch

    I want to see 10 to 15 yd. passes over the middle, along with the quick slant passes. Some of these passes should be done with the QB under center with a 3 step drop back.
    Hopefully the line could give Trickett that amount of time. Right now we're only getting one or two short passes over the middle per game. That's just crazy when this is the kind of pass Trickett is made for.

  • Mister Man

    It's time for a well-deserved break.

    • Protechcpa

      I don't know about the players, but I sure could use a break.

      • In da stickes

        It's almost buck season.

        • Shawn H

          Now you're talkin'!