STILLWATER — Dana Holgorsen stood there, arms crossed, swaying back and forth, hardly looking at ease behind the podium during his weekly press conference.
Then came a question from a reporter probing his stress level, playing off Holgorsen's repeated statements that his West Virginia team needed to learn to relax and not play so uptight.
So, is Holgorsen himself relaxed?
“Well, do I look uptight right now?” Holgorsen responded.
The reporter: “Yeah, a little bit.”
Well, these are stressful times in Morgantown, where the Mountaineers are 2-2 and coming off a 37-0 loss to Maryland, the program's first shutout in 12 years and the worst shutout loss in 38 seasons — all just in time for a visit from Big 12 favorite Oklahoma State on Saturday.
The ugly numbers continue: seven points combined in the two losses; six turnovers and six first downs against Maryland; two games without a passing touchdown; one pass to a wide receiver in the last game; and two wins against teams either still at the FCS level, or having just moved up.
And this is the Air Raid attack of a coach widely recognized as an offensive guru.
So, how's Holgorsen?
“It's a challenge. It is,” said the third-year head coach who rode his offensive accomplishments at Oklahoma State and previous stops to the top job at West Virginia. “But we sit there and I've watched that (Maryland) film probably eight times since we got back Saturday night and there's some things that resemble football. Trust me, I know it's hard to believe, but there's things that resemble football. Our guys are trying …
“You've got to believe it's going to happen. If you don't believe it's going to happen, it's not going to happen.”
Outside the program, belief — at least in this season — has been either suspended or called off altogether.
A sampling of topics from a popular WVU fan message board site:
“I think this OSU game will be pivotal in Holgorsen's … coaching career at WVU.”
“There is no excuse for not having an offense ready this year.”
“If you don't believe our program has turned in a downward …”
Someone also posted a poll: “How bad does Oklahoma State beat us Saturday?” The tone of the question bothered some who were upset with the give-up mentality. Still, the results were telling, with 21-30 points the leading poll punch among the multiple-choice options, followed by 31-40 points, then 11-20 points. The option of 0-10 points finished last, trailing 41-50 and 50-plus points.
“There's a lot of people, a lot of fans, that are frustrated,” said Jeff Culhane, who leads the pregame, halftime and postgame shows for Mountaineer Sports Network, “especially after what happened last week in the Maryland game.”
The frustration consists of some carry-over, after West Virginia crashed at the end of last season, losing six of their last eight games to finish 7-6.
Even then, a falloff was expected, after the Mountaineers lost offensive stars Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey to the NFL.