Holgs on road wins, complacency & a Showdown with the No. 11 Cowboys
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia was – finally – in position to coast to an easier conference victory.
Those are rare moments in the Big 12, ones to be cherished, but also respected. The insertion of back-up quarterback Charlie Brewer changed that, however, as the true freshman sparked an offense that nearly completed a vaunted comeback.
“We had such a good third quarter I think we got complacent and forgot to finish,” WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We played three good quarters, then let them get back in it. Can’t do that because anybody in the Big 12 can come back real quick.”
As proven by now 0-7 Baylor, which outscored the Mountaineers 23-0 in the fourth quarter, chipping a 38-13 lead to just two points before Xavier Preston’s sack of Brewer thwarted the try. West Virginia (5-2, 3-1) then recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock for its first win in Waco. The victory was key in sustaining confidence and picking up a victory in a venue where BU rarely lost before the rebuild under Matt Rhule.
Consider that No. 10 Oklahoma struggled at Kansas State and No. 11 OSU went into overtime at Texas, and the conference is filled with potential potholes.
“It is when half your teams are ranked in the Top 25,” Holgorsen said of the difficulties in winning on the road. “You play on the road, your goal is to win. I think people talked negatively about us because of being up so much in the third quarter. But I was proud of how our guys hung in there. At the end that’s all that matters.”
No. 22 West Virginia has another challenge this week in an Oklahoma State team that has scored 40-plus points in five games. OSU ranks first nationally in passing offense (392.7 ypg) and is third in scoring at 43.7 points per contest, one place ahead of WVU’s 43.3 point-per-game average. Quarterback Mason Rudolph, running back Justice Hill and receiver James Washington lead the league in passing, rushing and receiving yards, respectively. Rudolph’s 2,650 yards are the best in the country; West Virginia’s Will Grier is seventh nationally at 2,467.
“Masons’ really matured. He’s a big, tall, good-looking dude,” Holgorsen said. “He throws the ball extremely well. He has vast knowledge of the offense. He has a great relationship with arguably the best receiving corps in college football. It’s still new for Will. He is still trying to establish the timing with more than just a couple guys. We know it exists with Gary and David, but we are still trying to get a couple other guys. That’s what Oklahoma State has that we are lacking.”
The Cowboys and Mountaineers make up half of a four-team field tied at 3-1 in the conference behind undefeated TCU (7-0, 4-0). The other two? Oklahoma and Iowa State, which are also ranked in the Top 25, giving the 10-team Big 12 half of its members among the nation’s best. The OSU contest begins an elimination stretch of sorts for West Virginia, which plays the Cowboys and Cyclones in Morgantown over the next two weeks.
“They are as good as they have ever been,” Holgorsen said of Oklahoma State. “They have had numerous good offenses there and this one is as good. They run it half the time, pass it half the time. They have people they can throw it to and the back leads the conference in rushing. They can get you. For two weeks they have set a school record for amount of yards. Then they didn’t have as much success against a heck of a defense in Texas. This goes way back. We’ve been following them and competing hard against them.
“(OSU’s ranking) makes my job easier. I don’t have to pull out motivational topics. It’s another chance to play a ranked team at home.”