The West Virginia Mountaineers are in full bowl preparedness mode in Orlando on the eve of the Russell Athletic Bowl. Tuesday afternoon was Coach Holgorsen’s final press conference before the Mountaineers hope to overcome the Miami Hurricanes.
During the press conference luncheon, Coach Holgorsen spoke with confidence on how his team has prepared and spent their time in Orlando since arriving prior to Christmas. The Mountaineers have the chance to make school history as only five teams in the program have reached 11 wins. ““One thing that has been talked about a lot is, there has only been five teams in the last 125 years of West Virginia football to win 11 [games]. That is rare. We have our eyes set on that and that would be special.” Not only is a bowl game an extra game for the outgoing seniors, but it is a chance to show the younger players what they have to look forward to over the next several years.
Over the course of the season, it has become obvious that Coach Holgorsen has developed quite a relationship with his quarterback Skyler Howard, and Holgorsen was not afraid to say how well the senior has played and prepared for Wednesday’s bowl. “He has probably had his best practices leading into his game, because it means so much to him. He is going to go out there, and leave everything out there on the field. That makes it a joy to coach a kid like that. There’s no question.” Skyler Howard has slowly slipped into the Mountaineers record books as an extremely winning quarterback, with his record sitting at 19-8 prior to his last bowl game.
The Mountaineer football teams with 11 wins stems back to the great Don Nehlen era, when in 1988 the team had their first 11-win season. The 1988 team was just a one-loss team, losing to Notre Dame. The next 11-win team came in 1993, where the Mountaineers lost to Florida in the Sugar Bowl. The 1993 team did pocket a victory over Wednesday’s bowl opponents, winning 17-14 that year. The next three 11-win seasons came during the Rich Rodriguez era, stemming from 2005-2007. The 2005 team defeated the now-Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt, when he was the longtime coach of the Georgia Bulldogs, in the Sugar Bowl 38-35.
There has been some talk about playing an institution such as “The U” and that does not seem to have phased the Mountaineers head coach. “You have to worry about your own brand, and Miami is a great team. They have great tradition, unbelievable talent and are well coached. It is going to be a challenge for us to be able to win this football game, but I’m a little bit more concerned about us winning, then them.” Coach Holgorsen has shown throughout the season that he is never too concerned or overwhelmed by his opponents, even when playing a team such as “The U.”
As kickoff nears for the final game of the 2016, Coach Holgorsen was asked what his message would be to the team for tomorrow’s game. Coach Holgorsen’s words of wisdom to his team; ““I will remind them that nobody thought they were any good. We had a good group of seniors last year. A lot of them went on to the NFL and they are doing well. This is their team. This is their legacy. They have a chance to win 11 [games], that is huge. Again, I can’t emphasize it enough. It has only happened five times in the history of 125 years of football at West Virginia University and they have a chance to do the same thing. That is pretty special. Winning 10 [games] is tough. Winning 11 [games], that’s pretty rare. So, I think that will take care of itself.”
Wednesday’s game will be a final chance for twenty-something seniors to wear the old gold and blue one last time. It will also be a chance for the most under the radar 10-2 team in the country to prove once again that they are a team worth respecting.
Let’s Go Mountaineers!