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October 13, 2011

Despite gaudy offensive numbers, Holgorsen still not happy

MORGANTOWN — In a state that has suffered through a three-year long offensive drought, the flood of passing yards and points that have poured through the hollers and over the hills of West Virginia has been a most welcome relief.

There are, to be sure, a number of ways to demonstrate just how different this is, but consider that West Virginia University’s performance against LSU, the nation’s No. 1 team, produced 21 points and 533 yards, which is not far from the totals of 24 points and 561 yards put together by Mississippi State, Kentucky and Florida combined, all three SEC teams.

Consider, too, that three of the top five scoring performances since the start of the 2008 season have come in the last five games and that WVU already has had nine 100-yard receiving performances this season compared with just five from 2006 to 2010.

In the last three games, Geno Smith has broken the school record for passing yards twice and Dustin Garrison ran for the second most yards ever by a WVU back.

It is literally raining offense in Morgantown.

And do you know what, it isn’t even enough to get old “Noah” Holgorsen to think about building an arc.

In fact, in his most recent press conference, coming off a 43-point offensive outburst that included a school-record 469 passing yards and three 100-yard receivers, Holgorsen wasn’t satisfied at all.

 “I don’t think we’re very good right now, to be honest with you,” he said. “We did enough offensively last week, but we weren’t very good. You can take it for what it’s worth, but that’s where we are.”

If you are beginning to believe that the new WVU coach is something of a perfectionist, well, it would seem that you are right.

Winning, obviously, comes first for him, but it isn’t really a lot beyond his quest for a mistake-free offensive machine that would break every record known to man outside of most fumbles, most interceptions and most yards penalized.

He has been at the knee of some great offensive minds such as Hal Mummy and Mike Leach, creating his philosophies and molding them into his idea of the perfect offense. He has practiced putting such offenses to work at Texas Tech and most recently Houston and Oklahoma State, where they were breaking records and at or near the top of the NCAA offensive rankings.

Six games in at West Virginia with an offense so startling different from what Don Nehlen or Rich Rodriguez ran so successfully in their best years, he has rejuvenated a declining fan base and seems to be promising that much more is to come.

He won’t compare his offense after six games to where he was at Houston or Oklahoma State because he just isn’t using that as a basis to measure his success.

During an off-week press conference as he began preparations for his Friday night, Oct. 21 game in Syracuse, he was asked about the comparisons.

“I don’t think about it. I think about what we’re doing right now and what we need to do to get better for the next game,” he said.

“That’s how I’ve always been. After the season, there’s always time to reflect back and compare it to this year or that year.”

See, the problem is, that Holgorsen honestly believes his team has not yet carved out the offensive identity that it has to have.

If Don Nehlen’s best team was built off the skills of Major Harris and if Rich Rodriguez’s best team adopted the persona of Patrick White, this 2011 team is still in search of itself.

“We’re still trying to figure out who we are offensively and what we do best and what we need to do a little bit better,” Holgorsen said. “That’s a week-to-week thing, and that’s the way it’s going to remain.

“In the off-season you can reflect on the big picture and compare it to years past. Right now, we’re focused on what we’ve got to do to get a week better and to get a game better with Syracuse.”

This is not to say that Holgorsen is displeased. There are things that bother him, eight drops by his wide receivers last game being one of them, especially since he knows that they passed for 469 yards and could have shattered marks if they had made those receptions.

  The running game is nowhere near where he wants it to be or where it was at Oklahoma State last season with Kendall Hunter running for 1,500 yards and into the NFL, but that apparently is more intricate and takes more time to develop than the passing game.

“I’m happy with the whole team,” Holgorsen admitted. “Everybody talks about slow starts. Defensively, I think we have started pretty fast. Special teams-wise, I think we started pretty fast, too. We talked about it all week.

“The offense went out there and fumbled around a little bit, punted, got beat and, me included, started pressing a little bit. But that doesn’t mean the team started slow. It means one-third of the team started slow.”

So now Holgorsen will spend time trying to figure out why his Mountaineers have been outscored in the first quarter this year and why the offense doesn’t come out of gate like a sprinter rather than a marathon runner.

There is, you see, work still to be done.

Email Bob Hertzel at

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