WVU football coach refuses to look past Kansas State
MORGANTOWN — With the toughest part of the schedule behind him and firm in his belief he is seeing improvement in his 3-4 football team, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen has a singular goal — Saturday's game at Kansas State.
The third-year coach left no doubt about that when asked if beating Kansas State or getting to a bowl was more important.
“It's Kansas State right now,” he said. “A bowl game is important, but a fourth win is more important right now.”
West Virginia has five games remaining, and while none — not even the meeting at lowly Kansas — can be called a sure win, WVU has to find two other victories to become bowl eligible.
With Texas, TCU and Iowa State the other three games on the schedule, some would say beating Kansas State (2-4, 0-3) would become a high priority if WVU is to gain respectability as well as a bowl game.
However, Kansas State presents a three-fold problem.
First, the game is at the Wildcats home field in Manhattan, Kan.
“That is a heck of a place to play,” Holgorsen said. “I've been there many times and the students are right behind our bench and are loud and rowdy. It will be a tremendous challenge.”
Then there is the matter of facing the most veteran of Big 12 coaches in 74-year-old Bill Snyder.
One of football's most highly respected coaches, Snyder has had a bye week to prepare for the Mountaineers.
“It starts with Bill Snyder, who has built the program over 22 years. He is a tremendous football coach who does a lot of things for our profession and for his kids building character, using discipline and getting them to play hard.”
And third, Holgorsen said, “They are better than their record … and I think we're better than our record.”
Holgorsen did see improvement in a number of areas last Saturday while building a 27-16 lead in the third quarter, only to fall apart down the stretch, being outgained 164 yards to 29 in the fourth quarter of what wound up a 37-27 defeat.
The running game improved greatly, as did the pass protection, but most important quarterback Clint Trickett's throwing arm healed to the point he could complete 27 of 43 passes for 254 yards.
“I do think he played his best game,” Holgorsen said of Trickett's performance. “It was not a winning performance, but he's healthy. He'll be able to rep Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, which is the first time he's been able to do that in long time. We'll give him the majority of the reps and try to get him better.”
Trickett came off an awful performance while injured against Baylor, completing just nine passes, leaving him with a 41.2 completion percentage entering the Texas Tech game. Against the Red Raiders, though, he completed 27 of 43 passes for 254 yards and a touchdown.
At the same time WVU's defense shook off the beating it took at Baylor to perform credibly until the fourth quarter against Texas Tech.
Bob Hertzel is a freelance writer.