WVU players respond to Holgorsen challenge
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen didn't spend a lot of time talking X's and O's after last week's loss to Louisville. Instead, he talked about playing energy and effort and doing what it takes to win.
The players got the message.
Despite not playing their best game of the year, the Mountaineers came away with a win over Big East-leading Cincinnati to remain in the conference title hunt.
"We've had a tendency at times when things went wrong that we had specific people or units quit," Holgorsen said. "The fact that's finally sinking in with them to keep playing, keep playing, keep playing to be able to win at the end is a sign of a good team."
Earlier this week, Holgorsen threatened to take only 55 players if that's the amount that were going to play with effort. West Virginia took 64 to Cincinnati, and those players responded to the task.
When Cincinnati took the lead early in the fourth quarter, West Virginia responded with a 12-play, 74-yard drive to regain the lead, 24-21.
The defense then responded holding Cincinnati to a pair of three-and-outs, followed by West Virginia's first blocked field goal since 2004 to seal the win.
"It's not as much about what we did or didn't do offensively," Holgorsen said. "It's not as much about what we did or didn't do defensively — same thing on special teams. It's not about that. It's about how much energy we played with."
West Virginia was flagged for a season-high 14 penalties, accounting for 95 yards. It could have been more, but Cincinnati declined a few.
While Holgorsen has been stressing energy and effort, there's a fine line when making make sure flags stay off the field.
"We cut loose, we played on the edge a little bit to increase our energy and excitement level, but you've got to be able to control that," Holgorsen said. "A few of the times that we got flagged was a result of that."
Senior defensive end Julian Miller recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, West Virginia's first TD recovery since 2007. Miller has now recovered three fumbles in the past three games after coming up with two against Rutgers.
"He's responded," Holgorsen said. "We're not very deep on the D-line, but those guys have responded and played well."
West Virginia's going to use this bye week to get healthy before its game against Pitt.
It comes at a good time, because players are usually banged up for different reasons as the season wears on. Holgorsen also added the teams had four concussions over the past few weeks but wouldn't go into the specifics of who and how severe.
"They can be bad or not so bad, but who knows what the difference is. I certainly don't know," Holgorsen said.
Holgorsen also added the team expects to be at full strength entering the Backyard Brawl.