It’s A Smattering Of Inquiries For Dana Holgorsen
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Part of the fun of the weekly Big 12 teleconferences is the wild variation of questions and topics posed to head coaches.
There have been queries about coming games and injuries, sure, but also the best BBQ locations in the conference, preferred uniform choices and more. It covers a smorgasbord each week, and West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen was hit with a multitude of subjects this week. The first? Whether the Big 12 should schedule its final nonconference opponents a week before the conference championship game to avoid a potential immediate rematch.
“There’s been a lot of talk about that,” Holgorsen said. “That’s kind of an interesting suggestion there. I never thought of that. I think it’s very positive the Big 12 is having a championship game. I feel like we have needed one since we have been in a league. That championship Saturday needs to have a championship game. It’s going to be good to have the guaranteed best two teams in the league playing each other.
“The only concern is if the rematch happens. But it’s reality. It’s happened in other conferences as well. The question is what if you knew you were going to play the same team again and the first game didn’t matter?”
Which is a really unique and highly unlikely situation, but those are points to ponder. The league could mandate that last nonconference game date, but the pool of available teams would be minute at that point in the season. The SEC has a similar set-up, but all teams have different dates selected. It’s food for thought, anyway.
Holgorsen was also asked to compare his quarterback and skill position players to those he has had in the past, such as Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, Kendall Hunter and Justin Blackmon, Houston’s Case Keenum and more.
“I like where they are now,” Holgorsen said. “We have to continue to get better. Those guys didn’t make as many plays as I would have liked last week. (David) Sills and (Gary) Jennings were not at the top of their game. Marcus Simms and Ka’Raun (White) played fast. I was happy with them. Collectively they have a chance to be good. They aren’t anywhere close to where I think they will be at the end of the season. By no means am I ready to anoint them and compare them to guys I have had in the past. None of them have done anything yet to compare them.”
The subject then flipped to defense, and how overrated yardage has become since the advent of the uptempo spread offenses. There seems little way to hold any team to 250 yards per game; Even Delaware State was over 300 against WVU. Much of that is the pace of play and snap counts, which is why, as it frankly should have been, points per game is the mark to watch. West Virginia is currently 53rd in the nation, at 22.3 points per game.
An example of how warped even stat will become for conference teams? The Mountaineers average 46.3 points per game offensively. That ranks 15th nationally, but just fifth in the 10-team Big 12 – meaning at least 40 percent, an in some cases at least half of league play will be against one of the top 15 statistical offenses in the nation.
“Scoring defense is the most important stat out there,” Holgorsen said. “People used to spend way too much time focusing on yards per game. Points per game is where it’s at. Holding them to field goals in the red zone. Creating turnovers. Field position is incredibly important.”
Kansas, this week’s opponent as conference play opens, is ninth in the league in scoring offense at 31.7 points per game and last in scoring defense, giving up an average of 34.3 points. The Jayhawks enter 1-2 and come off losses to Central Michigan (45-27) and Ohio (42-30) after an opening 38-16 victory over Southeast Missouri State. The loss at Ohio was KU’s 42nd straight on the road, though the offense has shown the ability to pass with quarterback Peyton Bender, who is ninth nationally in passing yardage with 1,030 yards – three yards ahead of WVU’s Will Grier.
“They look better. I knew they are disappointed in the outcome of the last two games, but they were competitive games,” Holgorsen said. “Couple breaks here of there and they could be sitting at 3-0. They have done a good job of recruiting, The big thing is that have a plan in all phases and they’re sound in all phases. They know what they want to do. It’s a matter of getting their new guys caught up. They brought in a bunch of transfers. We need to be prepared for their best game of the season.”