Dana Holgorsen never met Knute Rockne, or for that matter, Ronald Reagan.
If he had, he might not have said what he said the other day in his Monday press briefing for Friday’s 3:30 p.m. game against Iowa State, a crucial game to WVU’s postseason status.
See, his Mountaineers were coming off an inspired performance against No. 12 Oklahoma, a game in which they went down to the final seconds, a game in which they tore apart a proud pass defense and turned Tavon Austin loose to run around it and through it.
That it ended up the fifth straight loss could almost be excused and, if one were to look where all the inspiration came from, it might have been the fact that Holgorsen had brought back a number of former star players, from quarterback Jeff Hostetler to quarterback Pat White, from nose guard Chris Neild to defensive end Bruce Irvin.
The word was that pregame they were going to address the team and so it was that someone asked Holgorsen during that press briefing if indeed they had and what effect that might have had.
He never really answered the question, instead offering a Grinch That Stole Christmas answer that threw cold water all over the lore of college football.
“People have asked me about that,” he began. “If motivational speaking was the way to coach a football team, there would be a whole lot of motivational speaking football coaches.
“Their presence is appreciated, but if you think a few of their words are going to change the outlook of a football team, you are off your rocker. We appreciated their support, and those guys are important to the program. Motivational speaking is not the answer when it comes to a well prepared football team.”
Somewhere, Bill Stewart rolled over in his grave.
See, the last time West Virginia met Oklahoma, his pregame speech was credited with changing the history of the school’s football program, of bringing a beaten team up to the point that it would stun the same Oklahoma that Holgorsen did not beat.
“Never give up!” Stewart shouted to his troops, and they never did.
In that game they did not “leave their wingman,” as he asked them not to, and they went out and ran circles around Oklahoma.
Changed history? Had Stewart not made that speech, had he not gotten the job and kept the program afloat at a time when it could have crashed and burned in the absence of Rich Rodriguez, Dana Holgorsen probably never would have thought about taking the West Virginia job when it came along.
Go back to 1928, to the Notre Dame locker room at halftime of the Army game. Go back to Knute Rockne, trying to salvage his worst season as coach at Notre Dame and to the story he told that team of George Gipp, “The Gipper.”
Ronald Reagan would come to be “The Gipper” in the 1940 movie, “Knute Rockne: All-American,” with Pat O’Brien playing the title role.
The movie version as reported on the Notre Dame website has Rockne wheeled into the locker room with a seemingly beaten Notre Dame team sitting dejectedly, blankets over their shoulders:
ROCKNE: Well, boys ... I haven’t a thing to say. Played a great game ... all of you. Great game. (He tries to smile.) I guess we just can’t expect to win ’em all. (Rockne pauses and says quietly) I’m going to tell you something I’ve kept to myself for years — none of you ever knew George Gipp. It was long before your time. But you know what a tradition he is at Notre Dame ...
(There is a gentle, faraway look in his eyes as he recalls the boy’s words). And the last thing he said to me — “Rock,” he said — “sometime, when the team is up against it — and the breaks are beating the boys — tell them to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Gipper ...
(Knute’s eyes become misty and his voice is unsteady as he finishes). “I don’t know where I’ll be then, Rock”, he said “but I’ll know about it and I’ll be happy.”
There is a hushed stillness as Rockne and the crowd of boys look at each other. In the midst of this tense silence, Rockne quietly says, “All right,” to the men beside him, and his chair is wheeled slowly out of the dressing room.
PLAYER No. 12: Well, what are we waiting for?
With a single roar, the players throw off their blankets and rush through the doorway.
You know they won the game.
Can talk win games? Ask Bobby Knight. Ask Vince Lombardi.
See, it isn’t just stuff movies are made from. It’s stuff championships are made from.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.
Dana Holgorsen never met Knute Rockne, or for that matter, Ronald Reagan.
- WVU Sports
WVU hoping for home-court advantage against Gonzaga
On the surface, you may wonder what chance West Virginia has at victory at 9 p.m. today when Gonzaga comes into the Coliseum to face the Mountaineers.
HERTZEL COLUMN- Gonzaga brings excitement to WVU Coliseum
Gonzaga comes to the Coliseum today to face West Virginia in a 9 p.m. game televised nationally on ESPN2 and, like it or not, it is Gonzaga and not the Mountaineers that has the star power to make this an attractive national game.
FURFARI COLUMN- IMG could still be seen as controversial
West Virginia University is in its first year of partnership with IMG College for at least partial media rights.
HERTZEL COLUMN- WVU game attendance questioned
You might remember Rick Harshbarger. We introduced him to you almost a year ago as the guy driving the car parked in the Coliseum parking lot with the license plate: NO1WVFAN.
HERTZEL COLUMN: There are no sick days for athletes
So you wake up on a Monday morning and it’s cold outside; a couple of inches of snow have fallen. That’s bad enough, but then as you roll out of bed and put your feet on the cold floor, you realize you head is aching and your back hurts and you’ve got the sniffles and then …
Huggins implores Mountaineers to play to their strengths
Bob Huggins’ message to his West Virginia University team coming out of its disappointing 80-71 loss at Missouri that never really was as close as the final score indicates was a simple one – do what you do.
“We come out and we have too many guys playing out of character and doing things they can’t do instead of doing things they can do,” he said immediately after addressing his team on Thursday night in Columbia, Mo.
WVU women win seventh straight
Unlike the West Virginia University women’s basketball team she plays for, Asya Bussie draws a crowd every time she steps onto the Coliseum court.
The crowd, unfortunately, isn’t fellow WVU students or paying customers.
FURFARI COLUMN: Jerry West merits credit for Warriors’ jump in NBA
If you follow the National Basketball Association action, you’ll note that the Golden State Warriors are faring very well.
And for such significant improvement, you’ve got to give much of the credit, I’m told, to the legendary Jerry West — the greatest basketball player in West Virginia University’s history.
Dreadful shooting costs WVU in 70-61 loss to Missouri
West Virginia University couldn’t get out of Columbia, Mo., fast enough Thursday night, but the predicted snow/ice/cold storm had far less to do with it than the storm the Missouri Tigers brewed up for them.
Mountaineers square off with similar Missouri team
If Bob Huggins took a mirror and held it up to the Missouri team that West Virginia University plays tonight in Columbia, Mo., he would get back a reflection of his own team.
- More WVU Sports Headlines
- WVU hoping for home-court advantage against Gonzaga