CHARLESTON - Dana Holgorsen is taking a laid-back yet serious approach toward his first game as a college head coach.
Holgorsen shrugged and shook his head Tuesday when asked about the subject, declining to talk about his own emotions. Instead, he wanted to make sure No. 24 West Virginia's practice schedule and game plan were in place for Sunday's season opener at home against Marshall.
"I get asked that quite a bit and I don't have any answer for you," Holgorsen said. "I wish I had some good material for you that you could print. But it's really more about just routine and staying on task and getting to the game and focusing at the task at hand."
Since taking over when Bill Stewart was forced out in June, Holgorsen has handled himself in the same manner, appearing relaxed and focused.
The offensive coordinator, who helped Oklahoma State and Houston thrive, was hired to build the Mountaineers into a national power.
Holgorsen is starting out cautiously, and his biggest task for now is figuring out which of his seven available running backs, including three freshmen, deserve to get the ball.
To Holgorsen, playing Marshall is just one game on the schedule. It's certainly not Oklahoma State-Oklahoma.
It won't be his first time facing the Thundering Herd. Holgorsen was with Houston when the Cougars played in Huntington in 2008.
Before this week he had barely paid attention to Marshall, trying to work out the challenges of fitting players into his system as he's always done.
That all changed Tuesday.
"Obviously we all understand that we're in game week, which is exciting both for all of our coaches and all of our players," Holgorsen said. "I feel like we've had a good almost four weeks of work. Hopefully we will throughout the week get better at attacking those specific things."
Freshmen Andrew Buie, Dustin Garrison and Vernard Roberts are in the mix at running back, along with veterans Trey Johnson, Ryan Clarke and Matt Lindamood. Shawne Alston has missed three weeks of practice with a neck injury.
"We've got four good days of practice this week to rep them and again see what each of them does best and how they fit into the game plan and make decisions on when they go into the game," Holgorsen said. "Then throughout the course of the game, it's figuring out how they do, who we keep in there and who we pull off."
Playing a cross-state foe on national television won't do any more to get his player's attention than if West Virginia was playing a Championship Subdivision opponent.
"It doesn't matter who the team is, we're going to prepare the same way," Holgorsen said. "You take a few I-AA teams and watch them play against 'big-time' schools and watch them win. If you don't think those games are important, you're not focusing on the right things."
Last year, West Virginia trailed Marshall 21-6 in the fourth quarter in Huntington and needed two late drives to tie the score before winning it in overtime, 24-21. Holgorsen said that was just one of many games the coaching staff watched on tape.
"The one thing that was very glaring in the (Marshall)-West Virginia game last year was who was more excited to play and who was playing with more effort and who was playing with more excitement and enthusiasm," Holgorsen said. "That was very, very obvious."
Holgorsen's offensive mantra is getting the most out of the clock, sending his players to the line of scrimmage fast and being ready when that play is over to call the next one. His biggest concerns currently are pre-snap penalties, getting the right players onto the field following change of possessions and adjusting to the speed of the game.
"It will be faster out there this Sunday than it has in any practice," he said.