Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 27, 2013

WVU ‘bowl game’ comes against Cyclones

By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

MORGANTOWN — Dana Holgorsen is impressed with Iowa State, and  no wonder.

One week after Kansas thrashed West Virginia, 31-19, the Jayhawks were equally inept in a 34-0 loss to ... Iowa State.

“Iowa State is the best 2-9 team in the country. They’re an extremely competitive football team,” said Holgorsen, who is completing his third season at West Virginia. “They are what they usually are, which is incredibly coached. They have a tough outfit.

“They’re extremely sound with their schemes. It will be a tremendous challenge for us as it is every week in the Big 12.”

West Virginia (2-6, 4-7) will host Iowa State (2-9, 1-7) in the season finale for both teams on Saturday at Milan-Puskar Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m., and will be televised on FS1.

“They are coming off some tough losses this year and will probably have a lot more confidence coming into this game. They’re going to come in here and try to take us,” Holgorsen said. “I’ve been telling the guys since the Kansas game that this time of the year, it doesn’t matter who you play. You have to play tough, strong and be in the game.”

Iowa State, whose only other win was at Tulsa on Sept. 26, snapped a seven-game skid against the Jayhawks.

“They’re very well coached, and they don’t try to trick you,” Holgorsen said. “It’s one of the more simple schemes in the country, but it’s hard. They’re tough. They have some linebackers that are tremendous football players.”

West Virginia, which started the season at 2-1, upset Oklahoma State on Sept. 28, and later stopped a three-game skid with against Texas Christian. They have lost the last two, in overtime to Texas and the surprisingly lopsided loss to Kansas, which had lost its previous 27 Big 12 games in a row.

Holgorsen said the Mountaineers didn’t spent time dwelling on that loss, which effectively ended West Virginia’s 11-year run of postseason games.

 “We will find out if they refocused. We got over Kansas the next day,” Holgorson said. “In this game you can’t dwell on losses, you can’t sit there and wallow in it. You can’t celebrate victories longer than 12 hours.

“Last week was a big developmental week. We focused on academics, and this week we don’t have any of that or anything socially.”

Holgorsen, whose Mountaineers were off last week, isn’t sure if Clint Trickett or Paul Millard will start for West Virginia at quarterback. He did rule out Ford Childress.

“I’m the first to say that we haven’t had a winning offensive performance this season. That’s all on me,” said Holgorsen, who is 21-16 at West Virginia. “All the dynamics combined haven’t completed a winning effort. That’s something that will get addressed in the offseason. Just point the fingers at me. We know the guys are trying hard.

“Continuity is the biggest thing. I don’t anticipate ever being in this situation again. New guys, new coaches, etc., I don’t anticipate this happening ever again.”

It will be the final game for 14 West Virginia seniors, which includes such standouts as Doug Rigg, Shaq Rowell, Darwin Cook and Charles Sims, who played one season for the Mountaineers after transferring from Houston.

“I appreciate them. They’re a collection of guys that have been through a lot of adversity,” Holgorsen said. “They’ve been through coaching changes and conference changes, and I appreciate everything they’ve gone through.

“I’m proud of how they’re doing academically. They’ve all gotten their degree or are getting close to it.”

When asked what Holgorsen is thankful for during the Thanksgiving season, those were the blessings on his mind. That, and playing in the Big 12, despite the difficulties the Mountaineers have faced in two seasons since leaving the Big East.

“I’m thankful for the seniors. I’m thankful for the Big 12,” said Holgorsen, whose Mountaineers are 6-11 in two seasons of Big 12 games. “It’s challenging, but we’re relevant and we’re learning a lot about ourselves as far as being in a power conference.

“We’re going to be extremely competitive. We are a better team than we were last year, minus one or two guys. I’m thankful to be where we’re at, and I’m looking forward to moving forward.”

With West Virginia home for the holidays for the first time since 2001, Holgorsen said the Mountaineers plan to go all out in what amounts to a bowl game for both teams.

“Our job as coaches and players is to go out Saturday and put our best foot forward,” Holgorsen said. “This year is different because there’s not a bowl game so this is the last week we will spend together. We have to make it count.”

—Contact Brian Woodson

bwoodson@bdtonline.com