Holgorsen changes give Mountaineers a lift
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It's no secret that West Virginia's offensive line has been struggling the past few weeks, and after rushing for negative-two yards in the first half of the Backyard Brawl, the Mountaineers made some changes.
Redshirt freshman Quinton Spain and redshirt sophomore Curtis Feigt replaced starters Tyler Rader and Pat Eger and played the entire second half at right guard and tackle, respectively.
"If you're not performing, we're going to put somebody else in there," head coach Dana Holgorsen said, "and a lot of the time, you don't know how the guy's going to respond until you put him in a game situation."
The changes on the offensive line, coupled with Holgorsen calling more screens and running plays, helped West Virginia move the ball more effectively in the second half. The Mountaineers carried 20 times for 115 yards in the second half as opposed to just 10 rushes in the first half and rallied for a 21-20 win over Pitt.
Spain, who lost the starting right tackle job to Eger in training camp, had been getting consistent playing time throughout the season. Feigt saw his first action at offensive line since moving over from defensive line in the spring.
"We tell everybody they're going to be accountable for what they do," Holgorsen said, "and if they're not playing very well, we're going to replace you."
Offensive line wasn't the only area where changes were made.
After a few lackluster punts from redshirt freshman Mike Molinari, redshirt junior Corey Smith unleashed a number of monster kicks over the final three quarters. Smith averaged 57.2 yards on his four punts, and his first kick that went 57 yards drew a roar of approval from the crowd.
Smith started the season as the punter, but his inconsistency got him benched in favor of Molinari after five games.
"I just have to make sure I'm consistent next week. That's the key," Smith said. "If I don't do anything next week, then it's kind of irrelevant."
Redshirt senior defensive tackle Julian Miller couldn't have asked for a better second half. Miller made a career-high four sacks and tied the West Virginia single-game sack record.
It wasn't just a great senior night, but also a perfect birthday present.
"I would never even expect or imagine (this performance)" said Miller, who's birthday is Nov. 25th. "I mean senior night, my last game, against Pitt, my birthday night. You'd never imagine something like that."
Holgorsen became the first West Virginia first-year coach to beat Pitt since H.E. Trout led the Mountaineers to a 24-6 win in the 1903 Backyard Brawl.
Though it may be the last installment of this rivalry for at least a few years, Holgorsen has said he wants to continue the series and enjoyed his first experience against Pitt.
"It was great atmosphere," Holgorsen said. "Gosh dang, I mean that was fun. Our sideline was unbelievable. We were feeding off the crowd, and the crowd got going in the second half."
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