Holgorsen Frustrated During Opener, Now Ready To Play Again
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Dana Holgorsen was both extremely bored and incredibly frustrated at times during the loss to Virginia Tech.
The boring part was simple: Holgorsen wasn’t calling plays for the first time in more than a decade, and with coordinators Jake Spavital and Tony Gibson entirely handling the offense and defense, respectfully, it got quite lonely on the headset.
“I didn’t know what to do for the first quarter,” Holgorsen said. “I was looking for people to talk to. The worst thing you can do is clock over to offense and start talking, because there’s communication that has to exist. I’ve told people to shut up numerous times, that I needed this guy to talk and nobody else. So I knew better than that.
“I yelled at (Director of Player Personnel Ryan) Dorchester to go to the open line so I had somebody to talk to. It was fine. I didn’t feel the urge to intervene whatsoever. I thought we had a really good handle on it.”
The frustration came in digesting West Virginia’s nine penalties for 81 yards. The Mountaineers were flagged a total of 13 times in the game – including one on Holgorsen for unsportsmanlike conduct – with Tech declining four of the fouls. The Hokies drew five flags for 34 yards by the Big Ten crew, which Holgorsen saw as less than objective.
“I really like to talk about officials,” he said. “That to me was the biggest deal in the game. We had how many? A lot. I don’t agree with a lot of what happened. I thought you had to argue to get a flag. Evidently not. I wasn’t even arguing the call, but I stepped out of the box. Three of them looked at me and didn’t do anything and one guy who was all the way down there came in and threw it at me.
The penalty knocked West Virginia out of field goal range, and WVU eventually punted the ball. Virginia Tech also had an assistant coach flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. One the last play of the game, West Virginia drew two penalties, which would have negated any score and ended the game with the same 31-24 margin. The loss was just the second in a season-opener in Holgorsen’s seven seasons.
“The mood in the locker room after the game had a lot of disappointment, especially geared toward our fan base more than anything,” Holgorsen said. “Being able to play in that game was special. Our players embraced it, the coaches embraced it. The fan base was great. I knew it meant a lot to them. We wanted to win it for them. There’s disappointment we let everybody down.
“I told our guys ‘Don’t put your heads down. We’re a good football team, Virginia Tech’s a good football team. It came down to the last play and they made the play and we didn’t.’ That’s unfortunate. But what are we going to do about it? We aren’t gonna hang our heads. We are going to go back home and get started. There are a lot of things we know we can improve on, and that’s our goal this week.”
When an 0-1 East Carolina team comes to Morgantown. The Pirates come off a 34-14 opening loss to FCS opponent James Madison. ECU threw three interceptions and managed just 70 yards on 30 carries while giving up 442 yards on the ground, including an average of 9.6 yards per carry. The program is in a rebuilding mode under second-year head coach Scottie Montgomery, a former Duke and Pittsburgh Steelers assistant.
“East Carolina has been known to take out power five schools left and right,” Holgorsen said. “It happened at West Virginia in ’08. They’ve done it consistently throughout their program. They’ve figured out what their identity is. They’ve started throwing the ball all over the place, almost 35 passing attempts in one half. That’s quite a bit. That’s what their receivers and O-line are used to.
“Everybody says ‘Gee, you have a team that lost to an FCS school, they must not be very good.’ I’m going to tell you, James Madison can play with anybody. The main thing, I can’t wait to get back out there and play. That’s the bottom line.”
West Virginia is 18-3 all-time against East Carolina, and have won eight of the last nine contests. The Mountaineers have never lost a series game at home (13-0).
- Wide receiver Marcus Simms is back from suspension and will be available to play this weekend against East Carolina.
- Left guard Grant Lingafelter, who left the Virginia Tech game with what appeared to be a knee injury, is “day-to-day,” according to Holgorsen. WVU does not release detailed injury information on players except when they are lost for the season.
- Both WVU and Va Tech suffered cramping during the game. Among the players was punter Billy Kinney. “I can’t explain how Billy Kinney is having full body cramps,” Holgorsen said. “He did and it affected his punting. Hopefully that doesn’t happen again.”
- WVU did an extensive film review on Monday, breaking down each aspect of the Virginia Tech contest. The Mountaineers have hired three analysts, and that additional manpower aided the effort. “When we came in (Monday) morning, there was a notebook that had everything written down,” Holgorsen said. “It definitely helps. They can coach coaches all they want. They can’t talk to players.”
- Holgorsen noted WVU played 55 players against Virginia Tech. “In a tight game, 55 is quite a bit,” he said. “We will take that and say ‘This guy needs to play a bit more, this guy needs to play less. Didn’t like what I saw out of this guy, let’s try that guy who had zero snaps.’ There are another 15 guys we could have played, but didn’t feel comfortable in a close game.’
- There were “some good things that happened everywhere, and bad tings that happened everywhere,” according to Holgorsen. “Individually in scheme and technique, everywhere. There weren’t any surprises to me, honestly. We played a good team. We knew their specialists were good, that we probably wouldn’t win the special teams battle, we just didn’t want to lose the game in that phase. We didn’t. Knew it was going to be hard to run the ball against them. It was. It kinda played out how I thought it would.”
- Quarterback Will Grier completed 31-of-53 passes for 371 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He also ran 11 times – the second-most for the Mountaineers behind 13 carries for Justin Crawford. That was too much for Holgorsen, who said the run “has to be wide open for him to do that. We are trying to control that as much as we can.”