Texas Tech coach Kingsbury prepares to face mentor Holgorsen
MORGANTOWN — If West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen loses to Texas Tech in Saturday's noon homecoming game at Milan Puskar Stadium, he'll have no one to blame but himself.
And that has nothing to do with the way he coaches or prepares his players for this fourth game against an undefeated team this season.
Instead, Holgorsen created a monster out of Texas Tech's first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury around the turn of the century when he was the inside receivers coach under Mike Leach at Texas Tech and Kingsbury was the quarterback. And even more so when he was when he was offensive coordinator on the same staff with Kingsbury at Houston in 2009.
“I wouldn't have gotten into coaching if it weren't for Dana. He played a big role in that,” Kingsbury said. “When I got out of playing, he's the one who got me a job at the University of Houston, and I actually lived with him when I worked there, so we're very close.”
As a quarterback, he wasn't overly influenced by Holgorsen. Leach handled that position while Holgorsen was still learning the trade. But when they wound up on the same staff, Holgorsen's methods got to Kingsbury.
“Watching him, the way he game planned, the way he installed the offense ... I learned a ton under him when I first got into coaching,” Kingsbury said.
And if there was one lesson he took out of the relationship?
“The biggest thing I learned from him — and I think he is a master at it — is adapting to his personnel,” Kingsbury said. “He never tried to force a round peg into a square hole. If you don't have certain players to run your offense, adapt your offense.
“That stuck with me. You need to adapt to the type of players you have and not vice versa.”
It seemed interesting he would bring that up. That is what is giving Holgorsen the most difficulty in turning his team into a winner.
When he took over from Bill Stewart, he inherited an offense that fit perfectly into his air raid attack. It hadn't necessarily been recruited for that by Rich Rodriguez or Stewart before him, but that was the kind of players he had.
Geno Smith was an accurate thrower who was nimble on his feet, and he had receivers in Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey also on course to be high NFL draft picks. It was the perfect fit, round peg into round hole.
But now, Holgorsen finds himself without that kind of talent, and he's had to adjust his offense to try and fit the personnel. But every other week it's been a different quarterback — in part because of injury — and nothing really has worked.
The result is three wins and three losses, and Kingsbury, in his first season as a coach, is engrossed in a run similar to Holgorsen's in his first season when he went 10-3 and scored a mammoth 70-33 victory over Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
Holgorsen was the toast of Morgantown at that time, as Kingsbury has become the toast of Lubbock with a 6-0 record and a No. 15 national ranking.
Kingsbury has won over a fan base that turned on predecessor Tommy Tuberville. The Red Raiders' student section is selling out at 109 percent of capacity, going against current trends.
“They have had success, which is not surprising. Kliff is a bright young coach who was extremely competitive player and is an extremely competitive football coach in the short time he's been there,” Holgorsen said. “They are fortunate to be able to have a lot of guys on their staff who understand how Texas Tech works and what the Red Raider nation is all about.”
Bob Hertzel is a freelance writer.