“Considering the way they face-planted at the end of last season, the expectations weren't too high,” said Stephen Nesbitt, a WVU beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I think folks knew it was going to be another difficult season.”
They never imagined, however, that their Mountaineers wouldn't score.
But that can happen when you have the second-most turnovers (12) in the country, receivers who haven't consistently caught the ball and no quarterback clearly showing to direct the offense.
“I'm sick to my stomach with what happened offensively Saturday,” Holgorsen said.
Among fans, the feeling is contagious.
That's not to suggest that Holgorsen's job isn't secure. Only in his third season as head coach, he's led WVU to an Orange Bowl rout of Clemson and an overall record of 19-11. He's still in the process of recruiting his style of players on offense, while trying to add the needed speed on defense that the Big 12 demands.
“No, I don't think he's on the hot seat,” Culhane said. “I don't believe that at all. This is his third year. He went to a BCS Bowl game in Year 1. No. He's not on the hot seat.
“But I think people are surprised. I don't think anybody really expected to get shut out by Maryland or lose the way they did to Maryland Saturday. That was tough.
“But expectations for this year, if this group can rally and make a run through the Big 12 and find themselves in a bowl game, I think that would be a tremendous season, I really do.”
Holgorsen may have critical help on the way, with folks in Morgantown buzzing about the commitment of quarterback William Crest of Baltimore, whom Rivals.com ranks as the No. 7 dual-threat quarterback nationally and a four-star prospect. Scout.com gives Crest a three-star rating, but has wide receiver commit Ricky Rogers of Pennsylvania as a four-star, meaning Holgorsen could be gaining the pass-catch combo he craves.
Still, West Virginia's 13-man class so far ranks just 45th overall by Rivals.com and 50th by Scout.com.
More immediate, Holgorsen isn't giving up on this season.
Cowboys coaches know firsthand what he can do in an offensive planning room. And they expect something special, maybe even something drastically different this week.
“They're going to have some new wrinkles for us …” said Cowboys defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer. “I think they're going to respond great. I think they're going to come out and play the best game that they've played all year.
“That's the only way I can approach it. They're good coaches. They've been wounded a little bit, but they're going to come out fighting. It's going to be a dogfight, and that's what we're expecting.”
So, how's Holgorsen?
Stressed. And searching for answers.
“Until this offense comes along, which we're going to eventually,” Holgorsen said. “Obviously, the challenge is to make it happen quicker. And right now, my challenge is to make it happen this week.”