WVU notebook: Holgorsen expects similar effort
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — OK, we get it. No moral victories. But West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen was more than a little positive talking about Saturday's 33-23 loss to No. 2 Alabama that left Mountaineers fans feeling encouraged that last season's misery won't repeat and 'Bama fans ready to tear down Nick Saban's statue.
“The biggest things from last week that we were happy with on all three sides of the ball are the excitement level to play the game was off the charts,” Holgorsen said Tuesday. “Our energy through the course of the game was at an all-time high. The effort was exactly what we wanted.
“I told them Sunday, they set the standard, they set the bar for how they need to play all year. If we can get those guys to play with that kind of effort, with that kind of energy and that kind of excitement, then we're gonna have a good year.”
Holgorsen added: There's a lot of things we need to correct, as everybody does in Game 1. There's a lot of assignment stuff, there's a lot of technique stuff, but the thing that stood out which is a positive, is how we played. Not necessarily what the result was, there's lots of things we need to work on, but how we played, and if we can play like that all year, then we'll win a bunch of games.”
WVU was 5 of 14 (1 of 7 in the second half) on third-down conversions, Alabama nine of 16. Timing also hurt the Mountaineers. Their only three-plays-and-outs came on successive fourth quarter possessions when they still had a chance to win.
On both drives, WVU tried (and failed) running on second-and-7 even though the ground game had been grounded in the second half. Jordan Thompson's dropped pass killed one of the third-down tries.
“We had some dropped balls on third downs. Those are critical situations,” Holgorsen said. “There were two or three times I should have called better plays. Two or three third downs that (defensive coordinator Tony) Gibson would have liked to have called something different. We're not pointing one finger or another, but those things kind of stand out.”
Nowhere to run
WVU running backs gained 53 yards in the first half, 37 by Rushel Shell. That was astronomical compared to the second half, when the backs rushed for all of 5 yards.
“We came out and played nasty,” Holgorsen said of his offensive line. “We had, like, seven knockdowns, and we were taking some of those guys and driving them into the ground. Second half, they got challenged a little. We didn't have that production in the second half. ... Some of it has to do with (Alabama) getting off blocks, making plays. They did a better job than in the first half.”
Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.