Bye Week, Thursday Game Sets Up Well For WVU

Bye Week, Thursday Game Sets Up Well For WVU


Thursday night games were once a staple for West Virginia football in the Big East Conference, as that league looked for exposure while in the shadows of some more established conferences. Now, however, those weeknight games are becoming a bit more frequent in the Big 12. TCU and Texas Tech squared off on Oct. 11, while the Mountaineers host Baylor on Oct. 25. WVU is also set to return the Thursday visit to Baylor in 2019. Additionally, a handful of Friday games around the Thanksgiving holiday are also on the schedule.

As with any change, there are both pluses and minuses, but West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen sounded mostly pleased with the way the conference is handling the scheduling of those non-Saturday games.

West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen wants an explanation

“The downside (to Thursday games) are short weeks after a Saturday game. We dealt with that a lot in the Big East. Those are tough if you only have five days to get ready,” Holgorsen said. “I like the way the Big 12 does it. It almost always follows a bye week. Sometimes those bye weeks can be too long. If you are coming off a loss, you want to get back out there, and you don’t want to lose momentum [if you are playing well] .

“I like the way this one is set up. We had to get out there and fix some things. I think playing on Thursday after a bye week is the best way to do it.”

The two-days-early game also limited the extra time normally associated with a bye week, but again, Holgorsen seemed happy with the way the schedule played out following the Iowa State game. WVU’s coaches had scheduled a number of recruiting trips over the open weekend, and along with a good bit of cleanup work there wasn’t a lot of sitting around at the Puskar Center. West Virginia practiced for a few days, then had a couple of non-practice days for the players while the coaches were on the road. That balance seemed to sit well with everyone in the program.

“This time of the year it’s always good to get away from it a little bit, but we had to work,” Holgorsen explained. “Now we’re on a short week, so when you calculate in the time to recruit, there wasn’t really a lot of extra time. I think we are determined to play on Thursday and excited to play on Thursday.”

* * * * * *

Holgorsen was short and succinct, repeating his thoughts from post-Iowa State interviews as to the keys for improvement for his team.

“Block and tackle,” he said, offering no further details on the subject.

* * * * * *

WVU was nearly nipped by a hard-charging Baylor squad in 2017, when the Bears rallied from a 38-13 fourth quarter deficit to pull within two points.

“Baylor plays hard. I had respect for how they played last week,” WVU’s eighth-year head coach said. “They gave Texas all they wanted, and beat Kansas State. They gave Oklahoma all they wanted for about three quarters. They are improving. They are playing with a lot of effort and a lot of physicality.”

* * * * * *

Around The Big 12: Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury, like a number of his league counterparts, is still getting used to the early signing period for recruiting classes. Like most, he sees mostly positives in the changed calendar

“The biggest change was the amount of time it allows you to get ahead to your next year’s recruiting class,” said Kingbury. “In the past you are trying to get to every household. Now you are going to high schools and getting to know the next year’s recruiting class.”

Holgorsen, while noting that there are still some things to get used to with the revised schedule, is in agreement with the advancement of work to next year’s class. WVU has 17 verbal commitments in the Class of 2019 so far, and most of those are expected to sign in December.

* * * * * *

Several of the league coaches were asked about the biggest change on the field that they have seen in recent seasons. Unsurprisingly, the answers centered on the offensive side of the ball.

Kansas head coach David Beaty: “Spread sets and the passing game where you widen the field. When I started out, everyone played in a phone booth. Now it’s all spread out.”

Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley added, “Probably tempo and RPOs (run-pass option plays). That has changed the game a lot and changed things defensively too. It’s part of the constant back-and-forth of football.”

* * * * * *

Kansas became the second Big 12 school to dismiss a coordinator during the season when it fired offensive boss Doug Meacham during its off week. Beaty took over many of the offensive coordinating duties, and said the new process worked well against Texas Tech on Saturday.

“We shored up some of our procedural issues,” he said, noting that the process of getting plays called and relayed was better. “I think our kids were comfortable with how things worked. We just have to execute better.”

Despite that comfort level, the Jayhawks averaged only 4.4 yards per play and scored just 16 points in a blowout loss to the Red Raiders, 48-16. KU converted none of its first eight third downs and managed just three points on its first 10 possessions.

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Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder is very low on the flashiness scale, and his primary running back this year is the same. Alex Barnes doesn’t get a great deal of attention, but goes about his tasks in a workman-like manner.

“I think Alex Barnes has gotten better at everything. He’s always been a physical runner,” Snyder said. “He’s picking lanes better, and he is playing well in all categories. That’s not a surprise to anyone, it’s what we have seen in previous years.”

Barnes leads the Big 12 in rushing, averaging 112.6 yards per game and 5.7 yards per carry. He’s also the top scorer among non-kickers, with nine TDs through seven games.

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In last week’s abbreviated action, which featured just two games, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week, while Texas Tech’s Dakota Allen took home Defensive Player of the Week. Red Raider kicker Clayton Hatfield was tabbed the Special Teams Player of the Week, as Sooner tailback Kennedy Brooks was named Newcomer of the Week.

 

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