Holgorsen Monday: Conversion, Run Game And Hand Signs
West Virginia’s running game was a hidden factor in the Mountaineers’ 42-41 win over Texas. Lost in the hoopla of the back-and-forth fourth quarter and the excitement of the winning two-point conversion, WVU’s offensive line play formed the foundation of the win.
“It was the best its been all year, the o-line play in general and I include tight end Trevon Wesco in that,” West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen said during Monday’s Big 12 teleconference call. “We did a great job in scheming up some thing and executing the basics of run blocking. Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway were running as hard as I’ve ever seen them. That’s why they were our players of the game, and it’s why we were able to score more points.”
WVU didn’t back down from its commitment to the running game even after losing tackle Yodny Cajuste to a questionable ejection in the first half.
“We didn’t blink on it. Coach (Joe) Wick (Wickline) believed in his kid and everyone involved,” said Holgorsen, joking just a bit about his offensive line coach and Cajuste’s replacement, Kelby who is Joe’s son. “Kelby been with us for two years time, and it was time for him to go in and earn his scholarship. We are going to try to run the ball every week. It was clearly an emphasis this week, and I was really pleased with how it turned out.”
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WVU’s two-point conversion continued to be a topic on the Big 12 teleconference. Holgorsen said that while he had already made the decision to go for two prior to his team’s final drive, he noted that is not a hard-and-fast rule for him.
“I just think it’s a gut feeling on how the game is going and what the situation is,” he noted. “You have momentum, you want to go and win the game. The players had confidence, and we had confidence. The QB we have has as a good a feel as anybody in the country, and we had a good idea of how they were going to defend it.”
Holgorsen did admit to toying with a mind-game aimed at Texas head coach Tom Herman, but ultimately decided against it.
“I knew he was going to call timeout,” WVU’s head man said of Herman’s stoppage, which came just ahead of WVU’s first attempt at the two. “I had thought about running a dummy play, but then I didn’t want to get caught if he didn’t call it.
“One of the hardest thing we do as coaches is coming up with two-point plays,” Holgorsen continued. “I go visit with the Steelers a lot; they go for two a lot. (Pittsburgh head coach Mike) Tomlin is good with it. We have taken some of that. We have two-point play competitions in our practices. It’s a combination of scheming things and how you are doing on the goal line and what they do on the goal line. I felt good about what we had.”
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Texas’ attempts to boost the atmosphere and environment for its home games have met with marked success. Included in that is the placement of speakers around the field that blast music at ear-splitting levels during timeouts. Those are supposed to be turned off once the center gets over the ball, but that didn’t happen consistently during the game. Mics that picked up the band and crowd noise were also piped back through on more than one occasion.
Holgorsen wasn’t asked about that directly, but many have been referring to it obliquely when answering another question.
“It was loud, the loudest I have heard Memorial Stadium for more than one reason,” said the WVU coach, who has led his Mountaineers to three victories in their four trips to Austin since joining the Big 12 in 2012.
WVU could include questions about that issue with other queries headed to the Big 12 Conference offices about penalties enforced for the “Horns Down” gestures that the Mountaineers were penalized for twice.
“They are incredibly tight on some of these things,” Holgorsen opined of the officials. “We have addressed it with our team, but we’re at a point now where I don’t know what to tell them. Emotion is going to kick in. We’re doing our best to coach these guys to behave the appropriate way, but I don’t know what to tell them. We are in communication with the Big 12 office, and we will relay that information to our players. I’m tired of kicking off from the 10-yard line.”
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Texas’ timeout after WVU’s final touchdown did prevent the Mountaineers’ first successful attempt at the winning points from becoming reality, but the one called at the end of the first half backfired. Texas called for the stoppage prior to Evan Staley’s 44-yard field goal attempt, which missed. UT planned to also call its two remaining timeouts, but spotted a flaw that it believed could be exploited.
“They snapped it, and we thought we had found a soft spot we were going to be able to block it. The plan was to take all three (timeouts), but after we saw the push Jeff McCullough got, we decided to go for the block,” head coach Tom Herman said.
That changed UT’s thinking, so it eschewed the final two timeouts. McCullough, according to Herman, got close, but Staley drilled the attempt to give the Mountaineers three critical points.
Herman was direct, and perhaps a bit testy, in a long and rambling question about problems with setting the edge against West Virginia’s rushes and pressuring quarterback Will Grier. After answering a dissertation as to whether or not he saw problems with the alignment of defensive ends with a short “No”, he expanded to another lengthy follow-up question.
“Every defense and every alignment has people assigned to gaps. It’s their job to fit them at times, to spill it at times or defeat blocks at times or make the ball bounce or cut back at times. The issues are all different, based on what the offense is doing. To say that there’s one issue, that’s non-existent. There are so many different offenses and things we could get into for the issues when big runs occur. At the end of the day we aren’t fitting our run gaps aggressively enough.”
Herman ripped off a lengthy, yet no doubt incomplete, list of some of the different protections and schemes that offenses can and do run, and the defensive responses to each that must be executed successfully. The overall point was that it wasn’t the scheme, or one single factor, that allowed the Mountaineers to rush for 232 yards on the day.
Texas was also unable to mount much pressure against Grier in the passing game. The Longhorns didn’t get a sack on the day.
“We always have a fourth rusher, but we have to do a better job of mixing and matching defensively. When you are in a run defense and they pass it, you probably aren’t going to get a lot of pressure,” Herman said.
Also contributing was West Virginia’s quick passing game, which emphasized getting the ball out early before any pressure could arrive.
AROUND THE BIG 12: Kansas head coach David Beaty was first class in handling questions about his announced firing following the Jayhawks’ loss to Iowa State. The Kansas administration, as usual, bungled the process, as it is allowing Beaty to finish the season. That will crush any lingering hopes of saving recruiting for this year, and puts Beaty in a lame-duck situation. That he agreed to do so speaks to his character.
“At the end of the day, it’s a production business based on wins and losses. I understand that,” said Beaty, who lists bowl eligibility as his and the team’s goal over the final three games of the regular season. “I am just going to enjoy each of the next three weeks. It has never been about me. It is about [the players] .”
Kansas is 3-6 with games left against Kansas State, Oklahoma and Texas.
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West Virginia’s two-pointer wasn’t the only such critical conversion on the day. Oklahoma turned the tables on Texas Tech, intercepting a trick pass play on a late two-point try and running it back for a defensive conversion. That score turned a potential 42-all tie into a 44-40 OU lead. The Sooners scored TD on their ensuing drive and held on for a 51-46 win.
Tech was on its third two-point attempt of the game with backup quarterback Jett Duffey in the contest. He again replaced starter Alan Bowman, who suffered a reoccurrence of collapsed lung he sustained earlier in the year against West Virginia.
“It was a unique situation with our backup quarterback, and I knew he felt good with (the two-point plays),” Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “We’ll have to restock there. We like to carry a couple that we have practiced a lot.”