West Virginia notebook: Holgorsen relies on running game
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Dana Holgorsen has made his reputation by having prolific passing offenses, but this year's West Virginia team is taking on a running personality — and he has no problem with that.
“Whatever we're good at is what we're going to do,” the West Virginia coach said after his team ran 44 times for 204 yards Saturday in a 24-17 victory over William & Mary. “It doesn't matter if we win by one or win by 40 or if we throw 50 passes and win or run 50 times and win.”
WVU is different than it was a year ago with Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
“We have to figure out what we do well,” Holgorsen said.
With depth at running back, Holgorsen has turned there.
Newcomer Charles Sims from Houston made a difference, rushing for 120 yards on 23 carries while scoring the first touchdown of the season on a nifty 5-yard run that included a stutter step and a cut into the open.
Holgorsen was disappointed only that his offense didn't break anything longer than 19 yards on the ground.
“We ran the ball probably more than at any time during the history of my coaching career, but I felt like it was the right thing to do,” he said. “They were dropping a lot of people (in coverage), and you couldn't really get a read on if they were going to drop them or blitz them.”
The running game helped the passing game, which saw new starter Paul Millard complete 19 of 25 for 237 yards and a touchdown of 69 yards to receiver Ronnie Carswell.
“We started running the ball effectively, and they started creeping up,” Millard said. “We were getting 4-, 5-, 6-, 7-, 8-yard gains, and when those safeties start creeping up, that's when you can go over the top. You have to know when you can do that, and Ronnie made a great play.”
Atmosphere wows Sims
This was a new experience for Sims, who had been an all-Conference USA player. He graduated this year, which allowed him to transfer to WVU and be eligible immediately.
Asked what was strangest about the new experience, he answered: “Playing in front of 60,000. That was the crazy thing to me.”
Wait until next Saturday, when he's out there in front of 80,000 spectators at Oklahoma.
Holgorsen favors Millard
Millard was given the starting nod over Clint Trickett, but Holgorsen had no idea how it would play out.
He had planned to give both the same number of snaps, but Millard started hot, hitting his first eight passes.
Holgorsen let Millard play the first quarter, then brought in Trickett for the second quarter. But Trickett missed on his first two passes, and the coach felt he had to get Millard back into the game.
Freshman Daikiel Shorts had a solid WVU debut with seven receptions for 63 yards.
Dreamius Smith's debut at running back saw him gain 40 yards on 12 carries, while freshman Wendell Smallwood scored the winning touchdown on a 2-yard burst.
Odds and ends
WVU had eight first-time starters in the game. … WVU is 16-0-1 against William & Mary. … Bethel Park graduate Nick Kwiatkoski was WVU's leading tackler with a career-high seven.