Holgorsen Talks Big 12, Sets Loose Timetable For Injuries
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Big 12 struck back with a pair of marquee road wins this past weekend, vaulting Oklahoma and TCU up three spots in the rankings.
The now third-ranked Sooners were the most impressive, dominating then-No. 3 Ohio State late in a 31-16 victory in Columbus. No. 20 TCU won 28-7 at Arkansas via a stifling defense and two touchdowns in the final three minutes. No. 9 Oklahoma State and No. 18 Kansas State also moved up in the Associated Press polls after blowing out lesser foes by 37 and 48 points, respectively.
It was a needed shot in the arm for a conference that has taken on criticism over recent years, with more piling on after the opening weekend saw West Virginia and Texas lose a pair of Power Five match-ups and Liberty beat Baylor in Waco. Though the Bears are now 0-2 and Kansas looks like the Jayhawks of old, the conference did partially reestablish itself with the two primary victories added to bounce back wins by WVU and UT.
“It certainly doesn’t hurt,” Holgorsen said of the Big 12’s appreciation nationally. “I don’t know how poor the perception is. We do have five teams in the Top 25. I think the Big 12 has good football. Unfortunately we didn’t win our first one, but that was against a top 15 team. It’s good to have these match-ups, and if you want to be in the competition for the College Football Playoff you have to win those. I was glad the Big 12 got a couple big wins last week.”
And while the Big 12 actually has just four teams in the Top 25, and West Virginia’s loss is to a Virginia Tech team currently ranked 16th on both major polls, the general point holds. The Big 12 needed the victories to remain well in the College Football Playoff hunt with more than one team. There are other chances this week as Texas plays at No. 4 USC, while Texas Tech hosts Arizona State. Oklahoma State also plays at Pitt.
West Virginia, meanwhile, faces its worst foe of the season in Delaware State. The Hornets are 3-33 over the last three-plus seasons, including 0-2 this year. DSU went 0-11 last season, and only a one-point win over Howard in the 2015 finale keeps them from entering Milan Puskar Stadium on a 29-game losing streak. This is not only the worst team WVU will play this season – and the worst in the Holgorsen era – it’s the worst to ever visit Mountaineer Field in its 37-year history. It’s been argued by some pundits that this is the worst team and program the Mountaineers have played in more than a half to three-quarters of a century.
So, if you’re Holgorsen, what’s the motivation? There’s not only the challenge of this week and next, when West Virginia plays Big 12 bottom-dweller Kansas, but also an open week prior to a match-up against TCU. How does one maintain the drive in among the biggest lulls in a season in recent memory?
“We respect every opponent we play,” Holgorsen said. “We approach it the same way, practice it the same way. Sometimes you have to use different motivational tactics than others. That’s part of our profession. There’s plenty of things we need to improve upon, and I’m looking forward to introducing the next opponent. You only get 12 of them a year regardless of who it is, so you have to have the same approach each week.”
The positive side of the lull is that it gives West Virginia time to progress on the injury front. Offensive linemen Jacob Buccigrossi (torn ACL in spring drills) and Grant Lingafelter (leg injury suffered in the second quarter against Virginia Tech) continue to rehab, and could return before the TCU contest. Linebacker David Long, recovering from a meniscus injury suffered during summer conditioning, hopes to be back by that point as well.
“They’re coming along,” Holgorsen said. “I don’t know if it’ll be this week, next week or the week after that.”