The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

September 28, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN: This week offers new challenge

MORGANTOWN — Dana Holgorsen is a rookie head coach and, no matter how deep his resume is as an offensive assistant, each week presents him with new challenges that he hasn’t had to deal with as he must as the man in charge.

This week the challenge is as tricky a one as you can have in coaching, for the West Virginia University coach must take his team’s pulse and temperature after losing a truly big game in a big-game atmosphere against a legendary opponent and figure out the best approach to an upcoming game against a non-BCS team, one that will come in playing this game as if it were their own LSU.

“This is a quality opponent,” Holgorsen stressed about the 3-1 Bowling Green Falcons from the Mid-America Conference. “This isn’t a fill-in game. This is a quality opponent.”

The trick now is to get that across to his team, but first he must assess the best way to approach them coming off that 47-21 loss to LSU.

Teams, you see, are different. They react differently when they win and they react differently when they lose. A loss can leave them feeling deflated. It can leave them feeling sorry for themselves. On the other hand, it can also motivate them.

Holgorsen was almost eager to see how his team came back to practice Tuesday.

“Probably every week is different. Probably it depends on how the loss was, what happened, who you are playing, what the mood is. You have to figure out what the beat of your team is and address it. That starts today,” he said.

There are any of a thousand options, really.

Some coaches believe in being consistent in their approach, be it a hard-driving approach or a softer, let’s-work-on-technique-rather-than-emotion approach.

Other coaches take the pulse and see if a team needs to be kicked in the rear end to let it know that it has to improve, not necessarily on its performance but on its approach. Other teams need to be coddled, to have their confidence bolstered so they can approach the next game as if the last one never took place.

Above anything else, they have to realize that just because this is a MAC opponent, it is a dangerous one ... not because of the situation of the game, coming between LSU and the Big East opener, but because it is a good team.

“There’s a lot of good quality MAC opponents that aren’t as quality as this one,” Holgorsen noted. “These guys have won a whole bunch of MAC championships and have won a whole bunch of games from automatically qualifying members.”

As proof of this, Holgorsen can tell his team that since 2003 Bowling Green has faced eight Top 25 teams and beaten three of them, which is a higher percentage than you would expect from a mid-major.

The last of those three was Pittsburgh in 2008, which should help get the attention of the players.

And since 2001 they have beaten Missouri twice, Kansas, Northwestern, Minnesota and, yes, Marshall last year.

All of this, of course, makes this a difficult situation for an experienced head coach, let alone for one who is doing it for the first time.

It isn’t like he’s flying blind. He’s coached as a top assistant and done so at some pretty good programs, so he’s seen others handle matters, but a coach has to do it his way and what works for one coach doesn’t necessarily work with the personality of another.

“The players are going to have to sit in here, learn their opponent, figure out who they are and what they like to do. It doesn’t matter what the atmosphere was like last week or earlier in the season. Our job as coaches is to make sure they are ready to play,” he said.

“We’ll make sure that they know who they’re facing, what their schemes are and what to do to attack them. I’m confident the guys will come in today and be ready to get to work.”

The theme of the week seems to be overcoming adversity together, as a team and as teammates.

“The one thing I’ve said to them going into this game is they will be overcoming adversity together. I feel like we’ve been doing that in the first three games,” Holgorsen said. “In this past game we went into halftime down 27-7 and there wasn’t any heads down. There wasn’t any give-up mentality. There was a bunch of motivated, eager kids to go out and play.

“We won the third quarter. We got out there and battled hard. Offensively we scored 14. Defensively we stopped them three times. We got back in the game. I anticipate they will come back and be ready to play today.”

If not, you get the feeling he’ll just be kicking their butts as hard as he can.

Email Bob Hertzel at Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

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