MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Let us understand one thing, West Virginia’s football team has begun its bye week but it is not in any way, shape or form an off week … other than the fact that there is no game.
Quite to the contrary.
Both coaches involved in the game coming off the bye week — Dana Holgorsen and TCU’s Gary Patterson — were in Sunday and early Monday going over film of the other’s game.
TCU, of course, became the hot team in college football this week as it went into Stillwater, Oklahoma, and convincingly knocked off the Oklahoma State Cowboys, the team most expected to challenge Oklahoma for the Big 12 title.
Most convincingly? Certainly to Holgorsen.
“They look like a Top-10 team to me,” Holgorsen said. “It will be fun to prepare for them for a couple of weeks.”
Patterson is bringing this team back off a down season last year.
“They look the same defensively as they always do,” Holgorsen said. “They’re extremely good defensively. The offense looks to be clicking. The run game is good. Getting (Kyle) Hicks back is going to be problematic for us.
“They’ve got a bunch of backs, a bunch of receivers. The offensive line is experienced. The quarterback is playing as good as anybody in the country. They’re extremely solid on special teams. We’re going to need every day we’ve got.”
Patterson has to worry more about his own team this week than WVU for fear that they let their upset of Oklahoma State go to their heads.
“We talked about that in the locker room as soon as I walked in,” Patterson admitted.
One win does not a season make, just as one loss does not ruin a season.
But you can’t let either fester and create problems.
Patterson understands what his team is facing in the 3-1 Mountaineers who have scored 56 or more points each of the last three weeks.
“You have to compete and compete every down,” he said. “We have our work cut out for us.”
While the coaches are busy game planning, working in practice with the players, especially those who don’t play much, the busiest people in the Puskar Center will be the team trainers and doctors.
This is and has been a beat up team, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Holgorsen, on the Big 12 coaches conference call Monday, confirmed that backup linebacker Brendan Ferns is undergoing shoulder surgery for the second year in a row, a loss that hurts especially on special teams.
“He was probably one of our more valuable special teams guys, playing as much or more snaps than anybody,” Holgorsen said. “We’re going to have to try to find somebody to step in there and do special teams like he did.”
But it also creates another problem in that he is Al-Rasheed Benton’s backup at middle linebacker and Benton has become the key player out there.
Holgorsen noted that he lost 7 starters from last year and three players — Kyzir White, Mike Daniels and Marvin Gross — were injured during the Kansas game.
But he has to rest some, too.
So they’ll be patching that linebacking crew up, especially with David Long hopeful to return for the TCU game. Long, of course, is one of the Mountaineers’ top defenders and Holgorsen and defensive coordinator Tony Gibson will welcome him gladly.
“You want your best players out there playing,” he stressed. “I don’t think you’ll ever talk to a coach current or way back past who doesn’t want his best players out there. You are playing against some good teams and you kind of need your best players to have a chance to win.
“You can’t use it as an excuse not to be successful,” Holgorsen continued. “We were in that position four years ago and we were 4-8 in the Big 12 and nobody cared. You can’t use it as an excuse.
“ I was proud of how some inexperienced, young guys went in there and played their tails off to the point where we won by 22. That’s the thing that counts. Now we’ve got eight games left, and they’re all going to be hard in the Big 12. We’ve got to get a bunch of guys healthy.”
Another player who will be working hard this week, not just studying that tough TCU defense, is quarterback Will Grier.
“I identified something we need to work on with him this week,” Holgorsen said. “He does a good job in the pocket of feeling the rush and not getting sacked but he needs to scramble more sideline to sideline and do things with his arm.
“He’s not a very good slider,” Holgorsen continued. “He goes vertical a lot. I think he thinks he’s got a lot of moves, too. He tries to juke some guys and he’s not a good slider. That means he’s going to end up getting hit more than I want him to and his ball security is not very good.
“Other than that, if that’s the only thing I’m nitpicking about, I think we have a good quarterback.”