MORGANTOWN - Coming off of its first loss of the season to LSU, West Virginia University's football team and first-year head coach Dana Holgorsen find themselves in untested waters as they prepare to take on Mid-American Conference member Bowling Green.
The test doesn't exactly revolve around the Falcons, who are 3-1 after a 37-23 victory over Miami of Ohio on Saturday, as much as it does around the Mountaineers (3-1).
"Yea, you always do," Holgorsen said when asked about fearing a possible letdown. "We would have had the same feelings if we had won. There's a natural little hangover when you play a game like that. It's our job as coaches to make sure that does not happen."
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith drops back to pass against LSU Saturday in Morgantown.
Turnovers, penalties and poor tackling again proved to be the Mountaineers' albatross as LSU's defense came up with four turnovers and turned them into 24 points while poor tackling resulted in the Tigers' final two scores.
"We were pretty much right on," Holgorsen said during Sunday's teleconference. "The offense and defense, down in and down out, played pretty good. It wasn't great, but it was good enough to win if we didn't have the four turnovers or if we had gotten a couple ourselves.
"The field position thing hurt us, both from what we did on special teams and what their punter did. That was as good a punting performance as I've seen in 12 years."
Six times, LSU's punter Brad Wing pinned the Mountaineers inside their 20 yard line while 73 yards on 10 penalties still had WVU's head coach frustrated less than 24 hours later.
"I thought our effort and energy was as good as it's been. It's just the whole smart thing bothers me."
Playing smart, or the lack thereof, was evident on the Mountaineers' opening drive when junior center Joe Madsen was flagged for a 15-yard personal foul which nullified a first down deep inside LSU territory and forced West Virginia into a third-and-22 from its own 37.
Geno Smith's pass was complete to Tavon Austin for seven yards, but the Mountaineers were forced to punt and when Corey Smith's first punt traveled only 14 yards before going out of bounds, the momentum that had been on the side of the old gold and blue transferred to the Tigers, who marched the ball 58 yards in eight plays to take the lead for good on a Jarrett Lee 11-yard touchdown pass to Rueben Randle.
The remainder of the first half seemed to follow the same script with WVU finally getting on the scoreboard with 13:20 left on the clock only to have the Tigers regain their two touchdown advantage on a 52-yard touchdown pass from Lee to Odell Beckham.
Driving the final nail in the Mountaineers' coffin was the LSU defense when senior cornerback picked off a Smith pass at the WVU 17 and returning it to the one. Three plays later the score went to 27-7 as Lee connected with Chase Clement for his third touchdown of the half.
"Absolutely (the turnovers)," said Holgorsen. "Along the same line, I give those guys (LSU) credit too. They had something to do with the turnovers we made. We've got to have that kind of effort."
Especially with a Bowling Green team coming to Morgantown looking to take advantage of the Mountaineers' low spirits.
"We were a disappointed football team last night and today (Sunday). We'll focus on the things that we think we need to improve on,'' Holgorsen concluded.