WVU Head Coach Acknowledges Issues, Lists Positives After Defeat
NORMAN, Okla. – Dana Holgorsen was more realistic than upset about West Virginia’s 59-31 loss to No. 4 Oklahoma here Saturday.
The head coach was adamant that it wasn’t entirely on a defense which was shredded at times, but also faced a talent differential, and praised the WVU offense for its execution with Kennedy McKoy in the wildcat set.
“Well, we won time of possession,” Holgorsen said partially tongue-in-cheek. “When they have somewhere around 15 yards per play, it doesn’t matter what any of the other stats were. I knew they were good going in, and I don’t want to beat up our defense. We have played really good defense around here in the last three to four years. I like what we are doing. That’s an offense that’s tough to stop.”
Holgorsen had a front row seat for Oklahoma’s show. The Sooners (11-1) racked up 646 yards and scored touchdowns on their first six possessions. OU running back Rodney Anderson repeatedly gashed the Mountaineers on the ground, while Heisman Trophy candidate Baker Mayfield completed 14 of 17 passes for 281 yards and three scores after entering on the second series as part of a minute punishment for his language and actions last week versus Kansas.
Oklahoma was never controlled and rarely slowed in forging a 45-10 advantage by the half that would eventually lead to the school’s second-most points scored this season. For West Virginia, it was the fourth-most ever allowed in Big 12 play behind 70, 63 and 62 points scored by Baylor in series games.
“(Mayfield) is the best player in the college football,” Holgorsen said. “He has a lot of really good players around him. Up front they play nasty. They are experienced and huge. The running backs are really good. The receivers are growing up. The tight end is one of the best in college football. They obviously had their way with us.”
Oklahoma amassed 333 passing yards and 313 on the ground with as balanced an effort as possible. WVU rarely got the Sooners behind the chains, as OU faced just seven third downs all game. The performance was a bit better on the offensive side for the Mountaineers, who went to a Wildcat set and ran Kennedy McKoy for a career-best 137 yards an three touchdowns.
“Disappointed we didn’t capitalize on our first two drives in the score zone,” Holgorsen said. “Again this team we have to punch those in. Couple of missed opportunities early, but I thought our coaching staff did a really nice job. We controlled it and kept them off the field as much as we could. Kennedy ran hard and our O-line did good. We happy to an extent. Still obviously not close to what the other side looked like.”
There was a clear distinction between the talent levels on both sides of the ball. Part of it was because West Virginia was beat up, and without quarterback Will Grier and Kyle Bosch along the line and was still patching a defense together that shuffled the secondary the entire season and, much like the offense, took until at least half of the way through the year to solidify a line.
In all, it was a solid – but not close to spectacular – season. Whether Holgorsen will measure it as a success remains to be seen, as West Virginia (7-5, 5-4 Big 12), which finished fourth in the league, has a bowl game left to play.
“At the end of the day that’s what a championship team looks like,” Holgorsen said of Oklahoma, who is likely to lock a College Football Playoff spot with a win over TCU in the league title game in one week. “They are playing in the Big 12 championship and we are not. Still proud of our guys, proud of our team. We weren’t picked very high. We didn’t beat Oklahoma, didn’t bat Oklahoma State and didn’t beat TCU and those guys are ahead of us.
“The most competitive league in college football and the most competitive since I have seen it. We will figure out where we are going. We got one more game left to play.”