By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
It may not reach the level the late West Virginia University coach Bill Stewart’s “Leave No Doubt” speech reached the last time the Mountaineers faced Oklahoma, as they do at 7 p.m. today at Milan Puskar Stadium, but present coach Dana Holgorsen is going to call on voices from the past to try to inspire his slumping team to victory.
Holgorsen has made phone calls to Bruce Irvin, Chris Neild, Julian Miller and, yes, Patrick White, who engineered that “Make No Doubt” upset in the Fiesta Bowl of 2008,and Jeff Hostetler, who engineered the other program-changing upset of the Sooners in 1982, and invited them to address the team.
“Coach Holgorsen sent me a text, and then called me,” White told the website WVU Pros, “asking if I were in Morgantown could I come and talk to the team. I said, I wasn’t at that time, but I will be there.”
White said that he and the others will address the team to “try to spark the flame,” just as Stewart did at the Fiesta Bowl when he went before a demoralized WVU team that had been upset by a four-touchdown underdog Pitt team when it stood on the doorstep of playing for the national championship.
“We can out-block them. We can out-tackle them, We can out-hit ’em and out-hustle ’em.
“Don’t leave your wingman. Never, ever, ever bail out on your brother.
“Let ’em know. Leave no doubt tonight! Leave no doubt tonight! No doubt!
“They shouldn’t have played the old gold and blue. Not this night! Not this night!”
And off they went to tear Oklahoma apart, 48-28, to save the program from what might have been total disaster after the Pitt loss and Rich Rodriguez’s exit, to earn Stewart the job he held until Holgorsen came long.
Now, Holgorsen has a team that looked like a national championship team, one that won its first five games and broke all kinds of offensive records in the process, a team that has crumbled as it faced its first Big 12 season.
Four losses in a row, a defense that already has given up more points than any other Mountaineer team with three regular-season games left, no bowl bid assured have put WVU at the edge of a cliff with as steep a fall as that Fiesta Bowl team faced.
And Oklahoma is probably the last team you would ask to face in such a situation.
Hungry for revenge, still in the hunt for the Big 12 title and a BCS bid, the Sooners are playing the best they have played this season.
“We are talking about a place that has won seven national championships and seven Big 12 championships, so they are used to winning,” Holgorsen said in discussing the challenge. “They have always been known for their defense. Coach Bob Stoops’ brother, Mike (Stoops), is back with them after being a head coach at Arizona for a while, but you can tell that it has made a difference.
“It has made a difference from a discipline, effort and scheme standpoint. They play with tremendous effort. They are very sound, and they are very physical. They are very talented. All those things exist with their defense.”
Mostly the defense is in one-on-one coverage, the Sooners hoping to take advantage of their great athleticism.
“It’s not complicated,” said offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. “I call it ‘cat coverage. I’ve got this cat, you’ve got that cat.’”
And WVU’s offense is not what it was early in the season, Geno Smith being off in his normal accuracy over the past four games and having no running game to fall back on, the offensive line having deteriorated and the ability to convert on third and fourth down having diminished badly.
“We’ve not done a very good job of making plays when we had to make them,’’ Smith said during the week. “It seems like we made a lot of them earlier.’’
The offense Oklahoma offers is diverse and explosive, driven by senior quarterback Landry Jones, who would figure to have a huge day against one the nation’s leakiest pass defenses.
“Everything starts with their quarterback, Landry Jones. It seems like he has been there for six years. I remember him in high school, and he came out of New Mexico. He came to our camp, and he is a very talented, big kid with a great arm and is a winner,” Holgorsen said.
WVU’s struggles have been taxing.
“It is not a lot of fun for anybody,” Holgorsen said.
“It’s been a tough four-game roll, but we’re going to try to dig out of it,” Smith said.
All of this, plus what Holgorsen has determined to be a lack of grit and determination from some of his players, is why he called in the heroes of the past to speak.
Perhaps he should have ordered uniforms for them, too.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.