Holgorsen, WVU Seek First Victory in Waco
MORGANTOWN — It’s goes without saying that Dana Holgorsen and West Virginia have accomplished a lot during their six years in the Big 12. It’s also easy to see that the veteran coach of the No. 23-ranked team in the Associated Press still has some firsts that have yet to take place.
The former Texas Tech offensive coordinator can cross one of those off of his bucket list Saturday night when he leads WVU (4-2 overall, 2-1 Big 12) onto the artificial surface at McLain Stadium to face a Baylor (0-6, 0-3 Big 12) team still in search of its first win under new coach Matt Rhule.
“Well, we’d better find a way to do it or we’ll get beat,” Holgorsen said. “The last three games Baylor has played they about beat Oklahoma, they about beat Kansas State, and then they ran into a buzzsaw against Oklahoma State.
“When I turn on the video, I don’t see an 0-6 team. What I see is a team that is improving every week. They are playing hard. They are competitive. And, they play a whole lot better when they are playing at home.”
And, if being 0-2 during their short tenure in the Big 12 wasn’t enough, West Virginia will be the Bears’ Homecoming contest for the 8 p.m. kickoff on Fox Sports 2.
“These guys I have, most of them have been to Waco,” Holgorsen said. “And, the last two times we’ve been down there, they’ve got after us pretty good.”
Pretty good might be an understatement.
The Mountaineers’ last trip to Waco witnessed a then-No. 2 ranked Bears team led by then-head coach Art Briles pile up nearly 700 yards of total offense and 62 points en route to sending WVU packing on the heels of a 62-38 thumping.
Two years before that Mountaineer fans suffered through a 73-42 whipping.
“Every game we’ve had with them (Baylor) since we’ve been in the Big 12 has been a war. We’ve won at home, but we’ve yet to win on the road. So, if anything, I guess you can say ‘let’s go do something we haven’t done yet,’ “ Holgorsen said.
Making that task a little more difficult will be one big unknown – Rhule.
“This is the first time in six years that this is a little bit more challenging week with Baylor. A lot more unknowns,” Holgorsen said. ”We are going to have to do a good job this week in the film room. We don’t have a lot of stuff from Temple, but we do have a pretty good sample with the six games they have played this year.
“We don’t have a lot of knowledge about their schemes or their philosophy. One thing we do understand is some of their players. We are familiar with their quarterback (Zach Smith). He’s a tough kid. We hit him a lot last year, but he kept getting up.
“No. 22, (Terence) Williams, we know a lot about him. At receiver they still have guys that look like the ones they’ve had in past years. (Denzel) Mims has all of the numbers.”
Williams rushed for 90 yards in Baylor’s 24-21 loss in Morgantown last season while sophomore JaMycal Hasty chipped in 76 yards on 15 carries. Smith, who was a true freshman when these two teams met a year ago, completed 15 of 31 attempts for 244 yards and a touchdown, but was picked off by Tony Gibson’s defense twice.
Williams and Hasty are back, but true freshman John Lovett has elevated himself to the top of the Bears depth chart at running back. The 195-pounder has carried the mail 72 times for 383 yards and three touchdowns. Williams, who missed the first three games this season, has added 148 yards on 32 carries.
“They like to run the football,” Gibson said. “And, they’ve got the kids back there that can run the ball. We didn’t do a very good job early against Tech at stopping the run, but we improved as the game went on. We are just going to have to start the game like we played that fourth quarter against Tech.”
If Gibson’s unit can take away the Bears running game, it will not only make their hosts one-dimensional on offense, but also give the Mountaineers a chance to do something they have yet to do in Waco – WIN.