Inside The Mind: Holgorsen On Turnovers, Touchdowns & Texas
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia has quite a bit on the proverbial plate this week.
The No. 24 Mountaineers, at 7-3 overal, 5-2 in the Big 12, remain in the race for the conference championship game. WVU is in a three-way tie with Oklahoma State and TCU for second place, though the Mountaineers lose the head-to-head tiebreaker against each, and as such need help. Still, with two weeks – and two major games versus Texas and Oklahoma remaining – West Virginia’s program has gained building momentum after consecutive wins.
It’s not something the team or staff is outright addressing, other than admitting a league title game notion sits in the back of the many minds. There are other, more pressing issues – ones that if not corrected, will erase any chances in the match-up with another talented Texas team on Saturday.
“We still haven’t really talked about it,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said of the Big 12 championship game. “There is danger in that. We have talked about understanding we are in that conversation and it’s everybody’s goal to be in that game on championship Saturday. We found a way to win and remain in that conversation. It’s in the back of everybody’s mind but there’s no reason for us to talk about it.”
Instead, the real focus is on continuing to build an improving defense and dealing with the issue of offensive consistency. The Mountaineers have scored zero points in the second half each of the last two weeks, and been plagued by a series of turnovers that – thanks to a stellar defensive effort – haven’t hurt WVU has much as they normally have in the past.
West Virginia managed just 152 yards of second half offense in the 28-23 win at Kansas State, and lost a pair of fumbles while quarterback Will Grier was picked off twice on passes that hit off the hands of receivers. Still, despite four first quarter possessions that stated in WVU territory after a fumble, two punts and an interception, K-State scored just two field goals off the advantage. The Wildcats put up just three points off the four turnovers while throwing a pick of their own that turned the ball back over.
The inability to capitalize actually allowed West Virginia to win what Holgorsen calls the “quick change” points category, or the scoring tally of what foes to with turnovers versus how many points the Mountaineers amass. The final here was 7-3 in WVU’s favor, and it was a major reason the program was able to pick up its second consecutive win over Kansas State.
“They come in spurts,” Holgorsen said of the turnovers. “I wasn’t happy with having four turnovers last week. Ball security was an issue for us. We put it on the ground twice and had two tipped picks which should have been caught. My stance on turnovers is kinda different than most. I think they are part of the game. It’s what you do with them. We lost the turnover battle by two but we won the sudden change battle. We have been very spotty offensively. We need to develop more consistency.”
That’ll be key against a Texas team that sits at 5-5, 4-3 in the conference with games remaining in Morgantown and at home against Texas Tech. UT has lost games to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State by a combined eight points, and has shown vast improvement defensively since a 51-41 loss to Maryland to open the season.
While Texas doesn’t rate atop the Big 12 in any major category, its rush and scoring defense is second at 115 yards and 21.9 points per game. If the Longhorns can avoid turnovers themselves, an opportunistic defense which has 13 interceptions this season (five returned for TDs) and holds foes well on third and fourth downs can anchor a road victory against West Virginia.
“They are a good football team,” Holgorsen said. “They have always had outstanding talent. They are getting better and better. The new coaching staff is getting those guys coached up. They are two deep, three deep. They have all kinds of players, man. They are good, they are deep and they are getting better. We definitely have our hands full in Morgantown.”
West Virginia is 4-2 all-time against Texas, including consecutive wins over the last two seasons. UT is 1-1 all-time at Mountaineer Field and Milan Puskar Stadium; The Mountaineers won 38-20 in 2015 and suffered a 47-40 overtime defeat in 2013.