Holgorsen Gives Credit to New Punter O’Toole


Staff Writer

MORGANTOWN – Of all of his players in Saturday’s game, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen decided to bring up his punter before anyone else.

”I’d like to give a shout out to Nick O’Toole,” he said. ”Talk about flipping the field. Our defense had great field position all game.”

It’s true.

William & Mary had only one drive start in Mountaineers territory, but that was because of a fumble recovery.

Other than that, O’Toole pinned the Tribe inside their own 40 every time.

”I was just trying to focus on what I was doing,” O’Toole, the California native, mustache-wearing sophomore said. ”I’ve done the same kick every day for the last couple of years, so I just keep doing that. When I get on the field, it’s all muscle memory.”

O’Toole also pointed out that his time with first-year special teams coach Joe DeForest has benefited his game greatly, too.

”Coach ‘DeFo’ has been awesome,” O’Toole said. ”He’s helped me get more mentally tough. Stay strong in my technique. We’ve been working on flexibility, getting more consistent. It’s a great, great honor to be with coach DeFo out here.”

O’Toole’s best punt of the day came early in the fourth quarter with West Virginia facing fourth and three from its own 13.

”When we’re backed up,” he said, ”I know we have to come up with a big kick. When I saw the returner, he was lined up at about the 50, so I figured I better get it over his head.

He did.

The ball bounced clear to William & Mary’s 25 for a net gain of 60 yards.

”The wind was behind me and it was a great snap by John (DePalma). Coverage got down there quick,” O’Toole said.

Though he averaged 50 yards a punt on five attempts, O’Toole thought the highlight of his day came right before the Mountaineers took the field.

”Just being with the guys before (kickoff),” he said. ‘We’re all in the weight room and all the fog is coming in, you can’t really see anything. You just hear the countdown. That was the best part.”

Bevy of Runners

Four West Virginia running backs received action during the course of the game, led by Charles Sims, who rushed for 126 yards and the game’s first touchdown.

Also in the mix was Dreamius Smith, Wendell Smallwood and Mario Alford, all of whom combined for an additional 75 yards and a score, which forces the question to be asked if the Mountaineers may move away from their Air Raid offense that lit up scoreboards a season ago.

”It doesn’t matter to me,” Holgorsen said. ”Whatever we’re good at is what we’re going to do. It doesn’t matter if we throw 50 passes and win or if we run the ball 50 times and win. We’ve got to figure out what we do well.”

Defensive Nerves

It’s fair to say the West Virginia defense feels the most pressure entering a new season.

The nerves were evident early on as William & Mary jumped out to a 17-7 lead in the middle of the second quarter.

”The first half, obviously, we were hesitant,” defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. ”We busted some assignments. Once we got our feet on the ground in the second half, you could tell the kids were much more comfortable.”

During the first two quarters of play, William & Mary ran a total of 36 plays (18 pass, 18 rush) and scored 17 points, while in the final two quarters, the Tribe ran 22 plays (13 rush, 9 pass) and were held scoreless with an interception by Darwin Cook that put the exclamation point on the defense’s turnaround.

”We came in at halftime and there was no panic,” Patterson said. ”The bottom line is do what you’re coached to. They did and you see the results.”