The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

October 21, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN- Don’t be so quick to judge Holgorsen

MORGANTOWN — For the first time this season, West Virginia has lost two consecutive games and now, also for the first time, is a sub-.500 football team at 3-4.

Going back into last season the Mountaineers are 5-10 over their last 15 games.

It’s been a long time since wins have been that scarce in Morgantown.

In fact, you have to go back 26 years to find a worse stretch. At that time, West Virginia lost 10 of 13 games — beating only Rutgers, Louisville and Ohio U.

Surely, you say, they fired the coach.


His name, you see, was Don Nehlen and today he resides in the College Football Hall of Fame.

In fact, after his Mountaineers lost 6-3 to Pitt, of all teams, in 1987 for its 10th loss in 13 games, they went on to win 16 of the next 19 games, including stringing together an unbeaten 11-0 regular season the next year, 1988.

And if you want to find the previous worst streak you have to go back to 1978 and 1979 when WVU dropped 12 of 13 games. That coach was fired and replaced by Nehlen. His name is Frank Cignetti ... and he was honored in Morgantown on Saturday for his upcoming induction into the College Football Hall of Fame for the job he did at Indiana, Pa., after beating the cancer that he’d been battling while losing those football games at West Virginia.

So we offer a bit of advice right now, and that is to be careful before pulling the trigger.

That said, do not consider this an endorsement of Dana Holgorsen.


In fact, there is little he’s done to make any segment of WVU’s family support him, be it in building a program, building media backing, building fan backing and even building backing from many of the big-time donors who are becoming disenchanted.

Winning, of course, can change all that, and the time has come where Holgorsen has to begin winning or face the consequences.

He came into this season knowing it was a rebuilding year, although one might argue that the star players he lost had done no more than win 7 and lose 6 the previous year, the worst WVU record since 2001.

What’s more, he faced a killer schedule up front ... his first four Big 12 games being against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas Tech, considered the four best teams in the conference.

There now remain five league games and he needs to win three of them to be bowl eligible, which would only give him a 6-6 regular season, probably not enough to recommend him keeping his job, especially if he were to drop a decision in a minor bowl as he did last year in losing to Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Facing Kansas State, TCU, Texas, Kansas and Iowa State is hardly Murderer’s Row, and one would say he really should need four victories in those five games plus a bowl game to assure himself job security.

The truth is, you would have a hard time finding too many people who would risk very much money that WVU will win three of those games.

Certainly, Kansas State is not a gimme, even though the Wildcats are tied for last in the Big 12 at 0-3 and 2-4 overall.

See, the game is at Manhattan and WVU has lost six of its last seven games away from its home stadium, being outscored in the losses by 268-111. They face the wily veteran coach Bill Snyder, who is coming off a bye week, meaning the man many believe to be the best coach in the conference year in and year out has 14 days to prepare for WVU.

Should WVU lose at K-State, will Holgorsen be able to hold this team together and move it forward as it goes on the road again the following week to play at TCU before hosting a Texas team that is in the fight for a Big 12 title, looking for revenge for last year’s loss to WVU at home in Austin and playing for Coach Mack Brown’s job?

Remembering that last year’s team came apart down the stretch, losing its team concept as the NFL seemed to be beckoning most of its star players, this year could present even a more difficult coaching challenge should the losing streak stretch to three games at Kansas State.

As Nehlen proved, things can turn around and do so in a hurry, but he was a veteran coach at the time who had a strong fundamental foundation built under a pair of Hall of Fame coaches in Doyt Perry and Bo Schembechler.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • WVU #6 SHORTS -TS.jpg WVU opens practice with different feel: VIDEOS AND PHOTOS

    West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen was happy with his team’s first practice of the 2014 season.
    Of course, he would note, “Everybody in the country has a good first day.”
    But somehow, this was different.
    Very different.

    August 1, 2014 9 Photos

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Social media adds another thing to watch for coaches

    As someone who has gotten himself in enough hot water with a misplaced Tweet, when West Virginia University quarterback Clint Trickett hit the send button on July 17 sending out to the cyberworld what should have remained there with him on the couch on which he was sitting, I could feel his pain.

    August 1, 2014

  • WVU basketball non-conference schedule released

    After playing challenging schedules along with the tough Big 12 road, West Virginia University has backed off some this season on its non-conference schedule that was released Thursday.
    West Virginia is coming off a 17-16 season in which it failed to reach the NCAA Tournament and lost to Georgetown in the first round of the NIT.

    August 1, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Must WVU defense carry offense in ’14?

    The other day the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a story under the following headline:
    “In a year of change, must the Steelers’ offense carry the defense this year?”
    Reading that turned on a light.

    July 31, 2014

  • WVU takes first step today

    Perhaps the most used — and least factual — cliché in sports is as follows:
    “There’s no tomorrow.”
    Around these parts, however, tomorrow is what they are clinging to, while putting a new twist on the cliché, turning it to, “There’s no yesterday.”

    July 31, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides plenty of optimism

    This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.
    This is a time of year when no one has lost a game, not even Charlie Weis at Kansas, and it’s a time of year when opinions are more plentiful than tattoos in an NFL locker room.

    July 27, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU needs White to follow in former receivers’ footsteps

    A year ago Clint Trickett took a lot of grief as the once potent West Virginia offense came unraveled, but there is more that than meets the eye.
    The criticism was not unfounded, of course, although behind each incomplete pass there was the pain Trickett was suffering through to throw it, his rotator cuff in need of surgery.

    July 26, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: O’Toole joins long list of eccentric WVU kickers, punters

    The star of the Big 12’s annual football media day wasn’t a star at all.
    He intrigued the media far more than Bob Stoops, the coach of preseason favorite Oklahoma, and more than Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, the preseason player of the year.

    July 25, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.
    The Mountaineers are scheduled to play N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2018, and then play host to the Wolfpack on Sept. 14, 2019.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 24, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads