The road for West Virginia (5-4, 2-4) will not get any easier this weekend, as the Mountaineers prepare to welcome No. 12/13 Oklahoma (7-2, 5-1) to town, but in the meantime it's back to work according to head coach Dana Holgorsen.
"It's a challenge that we're looking forward to, we encourage everyone to come and support the team. The kids are playing hard, guys are motivated and we're ready to get back to work," he said.
The Mountaineers are looking to end a four-game losing streak after starting the season 5-0, and there's no easy way out of it, Holgorsen said.
"Not a lot of fun for anybody, but the only way to get out of it is to work hard," he said.
The approach will be the same as last week in preparation for the challenges that lie ahead against a storied Oklahoma program that has won seven national championships and seven Big 12 titles in its history and has been very successful under head coach Bob Stoops.
"Bob's been there 14 years and won many championships," he said. "They have great players and develop them well, recruit well," Holgorsen said. "…They're used to winning."
The Oklahoma defense will present the Mountaineers with a different look than what they've became accustomed to seeing with many defense playing zone coverage, Mike Stoops' defense will play the Mountaineers straight up and force the offense to win one-on-one matchups across the field. Often putting five or six in the box and allowing their safeties to fill the gaps, or help in pass coverage.
"They're very sound, very physical, very talented," Holgorsen said. "There's going to be one-on-one matchups everywhere."
Offensively, senior quarterback Landry Jones heads the attack and he has more than capable playmakers around him including a trio of very talented wide receivers led by Kenny Stills.
"They're a talented group of receivers as we've faced all year, maybe in the country," he said.
Sunday night West Virginia worked on correcting the "junior high mistakes" that led to the Mountaineers loss in Stillwater including fielding punts, calling off on punt team, kickoff returns and downing punts to avoid a repeat of last week.
"It's coaching you've got to coach it. What's sad about the special teams situation was obviously it was embarrassing, it was embarrassing last week," he said.
The Mountaineers inability to run the football in recent weeks has become a "huge issue," and Holgorsen said that West Virginia will spend a lot of time on that aspect this week in practice as well as establishing the line of scrimmage.
Senior Tavon Austin was used in the backfield and on reverses for a couple plays last Saturday, and while it's something that the coaching staff would like to do more, Austin is counted on to make plays at inside wide receiver.
"Wish we could clone him and put three of him out there," Holgorsen said.
After reviewing the film, Holgorsen believes the defense was good against the run with the exception of the reverse that went for a touchdown, but failed to generate any pass rush up front which led to some big plays in the backend. The head coach also was disappointed with the number of mental mistakes by the group.
The head man doesn't expect any of the remaining redshirt players to have those pulled in the upcoming weeks, although he admits those options are limited due to the number of freshmen playing.
When asked about the status of senior cornerback Pat Miller, Holgorsen said that he remained with the team and "hope he gets out there and practices hard and gets better."
Holgorsen once again praised the effort of some of the wide receivers that were pressed into duty last week such as Ryan Nehlen, Connor Arilia and Cody Clay.
"Shear effort, grit, it means a lot to them. Those are three of the most disappointed kids in our locker room after the game and we need more of that to exist," he said.
Finally, when asked about Paul Millard and his future Holgorsen said he needs to see more consistency from the backup quarterback and it should be a good battle between Millard, Ford Childress and whoever else is brought in to compete to replace starting quarterback Geno Smith.