WVU coach Holgorsen: It all starts with me

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University head football coach Dana Holgorsen has seen the ups and downs that accompany being the CEO of a Power 5 school.

“Twenty years of coaching kind of does it,” said Holgorsen.“I’m spending more time with it now than I did when all I worried about was drawing plays and getting first downs. Part of the CEO aspect of it is the overall mentality of the whole team. There are individuals that you need to spend a little bit more time with but this message moving forward is going to be important.”

Now, the veteran leader of the Old Gold and Blue must find a way to get his battered and beleaguered Mountaineers prepared to play host to a No. 14 Iowa State team which is making its third ever trip to Milan Puskar Stadium fresh off a 14-7 upset over then-No. 4 TCU.

“They’re well-coached,” continued the coach. “That group has been together for a while. I know it’s the second year at Iowa State, but the majority of them came over from Toledo. It’s just a bunch of Ohio guys that are really good football coaches. Matt (Campbell)’s pedigree, everybody knows. He’s grown up in it, he does a great job. He had a lot of his guys come with him to develop this; I mean they’re multiple offensively, they want to run the ball, they shift a lot, they motion a lot, they create matchups, they have big receivers that can make plays when they’re covered, they’re well-coached.

“Defensively, they get into a bunch of different things and get guys in the right position. They’re disciplined with what they do; Iowa State has always kind of been that team. They’ve always kind of been a hard-working, disciplined, over-achieving bunch. You add that with some top-end players, you add that with really good coaching, a lot of fifth-year seniors, you have the makings of a really good football team. That’s what they are a good football team.”

But, it’s still a Cyclone team which WVU (5-3, 3-2 Big 12) have had the upper hand upon for the past three seasons and four of the five times the two programs have met. But will come into Morgantown with a new found confidence while the Mountaineers are still trying to figure out what happened during a 50-39 loss to No. 11 Oklahoma State.

“I don’t have those answers, honestly. It’s not like we quit talking about it. I don’t think we’ve practiced a whole lot different. We have some inexperienced guys that need to grow up and do a little better. It’s an excuse that nobody wants to hear, but it hurts losing probably six fifth-year seniors that are (offensive) line guys, (defensive) line guys, especially over the course of the season. It probably showed last week for the first time.”

First and foremost Holgorsen wants to see his team play more physically and develop a mentality that it is going to be the toughest team on the turf when the game kicks off at 3:30 p.m.

“It’s us not being very physical or tough or whatever it is,” added the coach. “You can say, ‘Well, that’s because the (offensive) line doesn’t run block the way we want to”, but it does not stop there; my finger is not pointing at the five guys up front. It kind of starts there because you can really gauge it at the point of attack — and we can get to defense if you want, I can say the same thing about basically everybody on that side as well – the point of attack is important. But then there’s the aspect of running backs understanding things and hitting it the right way and running hard. It’s okay to break a tackle every now and then; the guy that we’re about to face breaks a whole lot of them. Get hit and move forward. Then, there are receivers that are involved that once the back gets out in the open, it’s okay to run fast and put their hands on people and block people. That’s how you spring people. It’s the same mentality. And, again, every bit of this is 100 percent on my shoulders. The way that we approach practice, the way we go through practice, it needs to be better moving forward. I don’t think that we’re far off, we’ve had that mentality a lot here over the last three, four years, and we did earlier in the year as well. We have to get it back now.”

If WVU can get running back Justin Crawford, who rushed for a hundred yards or more in WVU’s first five games, going then junior quarterback Will Grier will have the time he needs to hook up with standout receivers Gary Jennings Jr., David Sills V, Ka’Raun White and Marcus Simms.