The Times West Virginian

December 8, 2012

FURFARI COLUMN: Is WVU stronger for bowl game?

By Mickey Furfari
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University’s bowl-bound football team was spotty at times and lacking consistently, especially during the five-game losing streak, while posting a 7-5 record.

But head coach Dana Holgorsen believes the Mountaineers were a “pretty good football team in the last four or five games.”

That is his opinion, and he admits that some people might differ with that. He cited steady improvement after the second bye week of the season.

That peaked obviously in the 59-10 blowout against Kansas in last week’s regular-season finale. But the Jayhawks wound up with a pitiful 1-11 record.

“Our guys didn’t quit,” Holgorsen said. “They finished strong. These kids played very well. We wanted to finish strong and did.”

West Virginia expects to get even better against Syracuse (7-5) on Dec. 29 in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at New York City’s Yankee Stadium.

That postseason contest is scheduled for 3 p.m.

While most of the WVU coaches are beating the bushes for new talent to recruit this week, the players are preparing for final examinations in the classrooms coming up next week.

After that, they will start preparing for the bowl game. Tickets on sale at WVU cost $90.

Holgorsen said, “When we have all the pieces of the puzzle (together), I think we’re pretty good on offense and rushing with Shawne Alston and Tavon Austin.

“I think Geno Smith is as good a quarterback and on passing out there as I’ve ever seen. Absolutely!”

And the coach thinks Austin and Stedman Bailey are two of the best receivers he has ever seen.

“But when you’re 7-5, you’re not going to get (considered for the Heisman Trophy). But (Smith) will be remembered here for a long time.”

When WVU gets the running game going, Holgorsen thinks it alleviates a lot of pressure from Smith.

He recalled that Austin’s amazing performance against Oklahoma was one of the greatest he’s ever seen. The Baltimore native rushed for 344 yards and finished with 572 all-purpose yards.

Both are all-time records for WVU and the Big 12 Conference. The total yardage also was within six yards of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision record.

“But we lost the game (50-49), so he doesn’t get the notoriety that he deserves,” Holgorsen said.

“It’s a team game. Those three guys are tremendous players, though, and they have had great careers here.”