The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

November 26, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN-WVU can’t overlook Kansas

MORGANTOWN — Let us understand one thing before moving forward.

While West Virginia University is bowl eligible, it has not yet saved its season.

Ask anyone about that. This was a team that many considered a contender for the Big 12 title, if not the national championship, and after a fast start that sent it screaming off in that direction, the season came undone like a ball of yarn in the paws of a kitten.

Unless the Mountaineers beat Kansas, no matter what happens it can’t be considered anything but a failure.

Read into that what you want, but this week is a tricky proposition for coach Dana Holgorsen, getting his team into the proper mindset to close out the regular season moving in the right direction.

Either they will be juiced up to make sure that they can get the best bowl bid they can get and avoid a .500 season, or they will take the approach that they have a 1-10 team to beat in the friendly confines of Milan Puskar Stadium while failing to realize that this is a dangerous opponent.

Naturally, when a team breaks a five-game losing streak and accomplishes the only real goal it had left in the year, being bowl qualified, there is that danger of coming out flat and unemotional. It is up to Holgorsen and his staff, along with the senior leadership who certainly would disdain losing their final home game, to instill emotion into the team.

Meanwhile, as they do that, Charlie Weis will be using all the mental tricks he has assimilated in years of both the NFL as a top assistant and in college football at a variety of schools, but certainly none with any more prestige than Notre Dame.

Convincing his team that it has performed better than its record and this is a chance to prove it surely is a challenge, but Weis has been doing just that all season. He lost early in the year by a point to Rice, by a touchdown to Northern Illinois, by four points to Texas and in double overtime to Texas Tech.

“Considering that you just lost a game in double overtime there’s major disappointment,” Weis said on the following week’s Big 12 call. He indicated that he was worried his team might completely collapse there, much as Holgorsen worried that the losing streak might weigh too heavily on WVU.

Learning to lose comes before you learn to win, in most cases, and that certainly is what Kansas is doing, and it may actually be what’s happening here in West Virginia, elevating the meaning of each victory in the future.

All Holgorsen and Weis are thinking about now is teaching their teams how to win, especially in the close games that have dragged both teams to depths they would prefer never to have reached.

“It’s been a learning experience,” Weis admitted. “I told my staff that everything we’ve done this year will make us better going forward. We had to come up with more inventive ways to run the ball because everyone knew we were running it.”

Now, when they integrate a passing game, they will have the balance that they seek, much the same as West Virginia had to be creative in turning Tavon Austin into a running threat as well as a receiving threat.

Asked how Iowa State had tried to defend him after he had that spectacular coming-out party as a running back against Oklahoma, Holgorsen answered:

“They probably had two or three people that were assigned to him more than anything. We’re going to come up with creative ways to get him the ball. They did a pretty good job of containing him and filling with the safeties, but we still got him the ball 20 times.”

And when they had to get him the ball, he took it 75 yards for the winning touchdown.

The point is, adversity forced Holgorsen’s hand there by creating desperation. So it is with Charlie Weis and a Kansas team that will come to town Saturday as a huge underdog, with its season about to end and going nowhere.

They have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.

And nothing to lose but another football game.

West Virginia is not exactly in that situation. The Mountaineers are playing for something.

The Holiday Bowl has just about guaranteed them that they will head to San Diego over Christmas, and I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t want to spend a December day at the San Diego Zoo rather than the Bronx Zoo, at Coronado Island rather than Long Island, at Mission Bay rather than Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn.

And, as a prize, instead of facing Syracuse or even Pitt in New York’s Pinstripe Bowl, they could possibly square off with USC in what some thought was going to be the national championship game this year.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • Saban, family happy at Alabama

    Alabama football coach Nick Saban, whose team opens the season against West Virginia in Atlanta on Aug. 30, denied receiving or turning down this offseason an offer of $100 million to coach Texas, indicating he planned to finish his career as coach of the Crimson Tide.

    July 18, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Quarterback child prodigy’ comes to WVU amidst very high expectations

    Has West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen finally put the arrow he needs in his quiver with the commitment received Wednesday from high school quarterback David Sills, who is a rather extraordinary story and may also just be a rather extraordinary quarterback?

    July 18, 2014

  • WVU kicker Molinari ‘All-American boy’

    West Virginia kicker Mike Molinari may not be an All-American but he is an All-American boy.
    He was honored for that on Wednesday when the Allstate Insurance Company and the American Football Coaches Association announced the West Virginia redshirt senior kicker/punter Michael Molinari is a nominee for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.

    July 16, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Smallwood puts future in jeopardy

    The last thing West Virginia’s struggling football program needed as twilight was setting on Bastille Day in Morgantown was to have one of its own whisked off to the North Central Regional Jail on a fugitive warrant from another state, especially a player who had figured to play a key role in the resurrection of a program gone bad.

    July 16, 2014

  • WVU player arrested in Delaware case

    West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood has been arrested by university police and is being held at North Central Regional Jail awaiting extradition on a felony warrant out of Delaware.

    July 15, 2014

  • WVU hoping to add two non-conference contests

    West Virginia is nearing the completion of deals to play football games against long-time rival Virginia Tech, now in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Tennessee of the Southeastern Conference, according to a source close to the negotiations.
    An announcement is expected shortly.

    July 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: MLB All-Star game biggest celebration of top athletes

    You will pardon me if I find something else to do when the Pro Bowl rolls around, or if I try to find a “Three Stooges” marathon when it’s time for the NHL All-Star game. As for the NBA All-Star game, I’d rather watch a replay of a four-year-old Uruguay-Ethiopia World Cup soccer match in which I knew the outcome.
     

    July 14, 2014

  • Howes learns to ‘never settle’ as WVU administrator

    You probably don’t know much about Terri Howes, even though she is a rather high-ranking executive in the West Virginia University athletic department.
    “I like it that way,” she said, sitting in a large office at the Coliseum, decorated with pictures and memorabilia, a jar of candy sitting by the door for visitors to dip into.

    July 13, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Rich Rod’s return not impossible

    As you may guess, in the wake of LeBron James’ decision to let bygones be millions and return to his rooters in Cleveland, more than once was I approached with someone wanting to know if this opened the door for a return to West Virginia University of their once-reviled coach Rich Rodriguez.

    July 13, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Trickett best option as a leader

    In the end, West Virginia University’s decision to place the mantle of starting quarterback upon veteran Clint Trickett was less about quarterback than it was about leadership.
    This is not to say that Trickett lacks the talent to succeed as quarterback in coach Dana Holgorsen’s system.

    July 6, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads