MORGANTOWN- Several past Mountaineer football greats - ranging from quarterbacks Jeff Hostetler, Major Harris and Pat White to defensive stalwarts Chris Neild and Bruce Irvin - roamed the West Virginia sidelines Saturday, and each offered words of encouragement in efforts to fire up their alma mater.
It nearly worked, as the Mountaineers fell by a mere point in the final seconds of the contest to the No. 13 Oklahoma Sooners. WVU coach Dana Holgorsen, however, isn't big on "Win one of the Gipper" speeches.
"People have asked me about that," he said. "If motivational speaking was the way to coach a football team, there would be a whole lot of motivational speaking football coaches. Their presence is appreciated.
But if you think a few of their words are going to change the outlook of a football team, you are off your rocker.
We appreciated their support, and those guys are important to the program. But motivational speaking is not the answer when it comes to a well-prepared football team."
Holgorsen, however, could use some of that talent, as his team in mired in a five-game losing skid after starting the season with five straight wins. The Mountaineers hope to end that streak Friday when they travel to Iowa State for a 3:30 p.m. game. He thinks the chance of going to a post-season bowl game should be motivation enough for WVU.
"There is a worry to (of players losing motivation), but we are still playing for a lot," Holgorsen said.
"We have 22 guys that have 12 days left of their college careers -- unless we win one of the two and extend it to a bowl game. Bowl games are a reward, but you get to a level where a bowl game is much more than a reward. We are not at that stage right now. We are at the stage where we are playing for the betterment of the program."
A win over Iowa State on Friday will also go a long way to bettering the program, and Holgorsen said he is thankful for the shorter preparation time frame following the tough loss to the Sooners.
"All losses are pretty tough," he said.
"There is not time to sit and ponder what-ifs. It's a matter of getting out there and getting back to work, and we are forced to do that this week."
Holgorsen said he believes his team is playing well, but still has to learn the challenges of playing in the powerful Big 12 Conference.
"There is a difference in playing well and losing and just flat out being embarrassed," he said. "We would have a lot to worry about right now if we weren't playing with effort, if our kids weren't excited to play. I would be able to sense that, and it would be a serious problem.
"I view a team that is in some uncharted territory and not liking it, but learning to deal with it a little bit," he added. "I think we all understand the challenges that we have encountered. It's pretty difficult, and this is the eighth team in a row that has either been ranked or is close to ranked. Every Big 12 team that we have played is going to go to a bowl game. That probably tells you something right there."