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West Virginia still has goals ahead

The loss was tough, in the way all losses are tough.

But West Virginia did not suffer a season-ending loss to LSU. The season is not ruined. The Mountaineers lost to the No. 1 team in the nation, a team that proved to be superior.

Now it is time to put that game to rest and focus on the goal that still remains out there -- a Big East championship and BCS appearance. It starts Saturday at home against Bowling Green.

"We're going to get past this," West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith said. "Our goal to be undefeated, that's going down the drain but being BCS champs, Big East champs, winning every game from here on out is what we have to do. That's something I'm going to work extremely hard to do."

West Virginia and its fans showed up for a game that deserved all the advance hype. The atmosphere was raucous -- one that LSU coach Les Miles praised repeatedly after the game. West Virginia tried to make it a game but simply could not get past itself in the loss.

But there is plenty to build on. You start with Geno Smith, who threw for a school record 463 yards against one of the best defenses in the nation. He connected on some big plays -- a rarity against the Tigers.

"His completion percentage wasn't as high as it has been given the quality of the opponent, but he was able to make a bunch of plays," coach Dana Holgorsen said. "For the most part he went where we wanted him to go with the ball. It's a constant and never ending improvement situation. He has to continue to get on the same page with me. I'm happy with his progress, but there's always room for improvement."

Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey have proven to be reliable receivers. Both went over 100 yards for the second straight game. The offensive line had its best game yet in the pass game as well.

Now for what needs fixing. West Virginia's pass rush has been nonexistent for four games. Its ability to force turnovers has been nearly nonexistent for four games as well. Its run game has been spotty at best.

Special teams were a killer against LSU, and so were penalties. Eight of them were on the offense, including a few pre-snap mistakes for the first time all season.

“We've got to become a smarter football team,” Holgorsen said. “That's the stuff I've been talking to them about … when you play that good of an opponent that understands that facet of the game.”

Indeed, the margin for errors grows ever smaller when you play high-quality opponents. There is plenty to be gained from the loss, like learning what it takes to beat an opponent as good as the Tigers. Holgorsen needs to his players to learn those lessons, while putting the loss in the rear view and realize there still is a championship to be won.

“Obviously everybody across the country understands what the emotion was,” Holgorsen said. “I could have told you this six months ago due the fact of the opponent -- we need to do a good job of getting that game over with and getting back to a normal work routine. We expect our guys to come in here with a whole bunch of attitude to beat a good Bowling Green team.”