DALLAS– Having already coached in the Big 12 Conference for nine seasons, Dana Holgorsen couldn’t have had any illusions about the challenge facingWest Virginiawhen the Mountaineers left the Big East for the Big 12.
Knowing what he and his program were getting into hasn’t made the last two years any easier. The former Texas Tech offensive coordinator made his head-coaching debut in 2011, leadingWest Virginiato a 10-3 record and an Orange Bowl victory. But his teams are 7-6 and 4-8 the last two years, and now Holgorsen’s name shows up No. 2 in the rankings by coacheshotseat.com.
With the trend and the ranking, it’s fair to ask Dana if he’s coaching for his job these days.
“No, no. Not at all,” Holgorsen said emphatically when we asked him Tuesday at Big 12 media days. “I think we’re going into a good situation right now. I’ve got 55 guys coming back. The majority of the games we were in last year were very competitive. Hopefully, a lot of the guys in the locker room right now that were a part of some of those close losses – and some close wins as well – can use that to our advantage, understand what to expect and try to win a few more of those games next year.”
West Virginiablew second-half leads last year againstKansasStateand Texas Tech and lost overtime games toTexasandIowaState. The Mountaineers were within 13-7 going to the fourth quarter atOklahoma. All losses.
Close games were a sore spot inMorgantown.
Maybe you saw pictures of Holgorsen’s blond hair all mussed.
Otherwise, we might not be having this conversation.
“The days of rolling through the Big East and being able to play in a BCS game are long gone,” Holgorsen said. “We’re not thinking about that anymore. Although that was fun and that was a huge moment inWest Virginiahistory, it’s a whole different ballgame now.”
It didn’t help that, in a league known for top-notch quarterbacks,West Virginiacame up short in that department last year. The Mountaineers hope Clint Trickett, after a year in the program, will elevate. He split time last year with Paul Millard and Ford Childress, the latter since transferred.
West Virginiareturns its top four wide receivers.
“Those guys possess a lot of the same skill set of some of the players I’ve had in the past,” Holgorsen said. “The one thing that’s got to happen for those guys to be successful is they’ve got to develop a rapport with the quarterback. Never happened last year.
“We played three different quarterbacks. Guys get hurt. Guys go down. You’re playing musical chairs at quarterback. The rapport’s not going to exist the way it needs to in order to have that high-profile, high-statistic production. Hopefully, right now, that rapport’s taking place, these guys will get on the same page and the production will improve accordingly.”
The Mountaineers need something good to happen soon. They’re picked eighth in a 10-team league and start the season againstAlabama.
Holgorsen shrugged off the question when asked how much pressure he felt personally.
“Probably as much as everybody else in college football,” he said before adding that he was just looking for improvement, from himself and every other aspect of the program.
Oddly enough, this slide all started in the place Holgorsen coached the longest. Holgorsen had won 15 of his first 18 as Mountaineers head coach before he came back toLubbockin mid-October 2013 and watched his undefeated fifth-ranked team get blistered by Tech in Jones Stadium. Starting with that game, the Mountaineers have lost 14 of 20.
It’d be a shame if Holgorsen and the first program he got to call his own never recovered.