Holgorsen On Chugs, Oklahoma and WVU’s “Oh Crap” Moment
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It’s the most wonderful time of the year, according to head coach Dana Holgorsen.
Of course, that sentiment doesn’t include facing No. 3 Oklahoma. Instead, it’s centered around the ideal that this football team is family, and without class in session – and with many players unable to travel home for Thanksgiving – there’s added time for both practice and play.
“This is personally my favorite week of the year,” Holgorsen said. “Not necessarily who we are playing. But as far as what the weekly routine is. It’s a football week. There’s less distractions. It has everything to do with just football and the football family. It’s getting to spend extra time together.”
West Virginia took Monday off, then began prep for the Big 12-leading Sooners on Tuesday. The two strenuous practice sessions will be Tuesday and Wednesday before a light session Thursday. The team will then be released at 1 p.m. to either travel home if they are close, or spend time with teammates, coaches or friends, with the requirement they are back in their own beds Thursday night.
“We got awesome weather to practice and we all know we need a lot of that,” Holgorsen said. “Thursday get them up here and practice a bit and then spend the rest of the day hanging out, whether that’s with the guys or coaches or whatever. Then Friday travel and Saturday play a great football team. Our guys are excited about that. They like each other and like playing. What more can you ask for? Looking back at your college days one of the favorite weeks was this one.”
The challenge, however, is stout. Oklahoma leads the Big 12 in nine offensive categories, including total offense, pass efficiency and yards per play at an incredible 8.3 – within a whisker of the NCAA all-time record. The hope is the mark isn’t set against the Mountaineers, who have struggled at times with tackling and giving up the big play. Even without quarterback Baker Mayfield starting, OU has a plethora of weapons available for an offense averaging 44 points per game.
“We are all well aware of who we are playing,” Holgorsen said. “We have competed hard against these guys for the past five years. It’s been competitive and we came up short. We have an opportunity to go win in Norman for the first time. it’s the only place in the Big 12 we ah en’t won. We got an opportunity to beat Oklahoma and that’s something we haven’t done around here a lot.
“They are really good. Offensively the most efficient I have seen in a long time. It starts with the quarterback who we all know is going to play. Good running backs. Best tight end in football. Same five O-line guys we played against last year and emerging young guys are receiver. Coached well, great scheme with a ton of experience.”
The Sooners have also continued to build on defense. They are allowing 25 points per game – four less than WVU’s 29 per outing average – and have added to early packages in terms of pressure. Defensive end/linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo leads the league with eight sacks and has forced three fumbles. He has 21 career sacks and will be a nightmare edge match-up for WVU’s tackles.
“Defensively a ton of improvement,” Holgorsen said. Been going against Coach (Mike) Stoops for a long time. Lot of young kids out there playing. It’s similar to what we saw last week with a front that’s big and a run stop defense who doesn’t take a lot of chances. They will dial up blitzes on critical downs and specific points. They would prefer to be base and beat you with their players.”
Which can be done. The teams that have pulled upsets on OU have done so with a ball control offense that limited possessions and a defense that managed to stay ahead of the sticks and create obvious passing situations where they could focus on just one aspect of the offense. That’s the initial game plan for West Virginia, who will be without starting quarterback Will Grier. Holgorsen said he remains confident in the offense’s ability to move the football and score to keep pace with a College Football Playoff contender.
“He got 20 percent of the reps last week, so getting him 80 percent of the reps (is important),” said Holgorsen, who noted WVU would travel now back-up quarterback David Isreal, who will be an emergency reserve. “I was happy with the way (Chugunov) competed. He has been here three years. He knew where to go with the ball. It’s just timing and reps. Though I was happy with Chugs did I think we need other players to step up.”
Check out the rest of the session below, including Dana’s take on how WVU responded after the Grier injury.