Coach Holgorsen’s weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon took the overall tone of preparation, as the head coach looks to get his team ready for their road trip to Austin, Texas this weekend. During the weekly presser, the head coach stressed the importance of how competitive the Longhorns are as a team. Needless to say, Saturday’s visit to Austin will be a challenge, and in the words of the wise coach; the biggest challenge the team has faced yet this season.
Coach Holgorsen has talked numerous times about how competitive Charlie Strong’s team has been this season. “. . . they’re looking at a seven-point loss, a two touchdown loss to Oklahoma State, which is no different than us at Oklahoma State, three point loss against Kansas State, pretty similar to us, a five point loss against Oklahoma, we haven’t played them. It’s competitive. It’s incredibly competitive, so if the ball bounces a little bit different you’re sitting here looking at an 8-1 football team, and that’s how we have to approach it.” The Mountaineers face a team that is one win away from bowl eligibility, and continuing to have success in the conference just helps Coach Charlie Strong with his job security as the season goes on.
Holgorsen pointed out how defensive-minded Coach Strong is, and how this will automatically put pressure on the Mountaineers offense, especially when there has been signs of struggle for the offense in the red zone. “I think they are very well coached, and their kids are playing very hard and are continuously getting better and better and better. So it will be as big a challenge as we’ve seen all year with their athleticism, their size, their physicality, their different looks that they give us . . .” Holgorsen will need to prepare his offense for the sheer physicality that the Longhorns bring to the field, as this is the team that took down undefeated Baylor two weeks ago.
Holgorsen’s defense will be going against a very uptempo offense Saturday, with running back D’Onta Foreman likely making big, fast plays as he has in their past two games. Coach Holgorsen sounds as though he is literally preparing the Mountaineers to go into battle in Austin. “Overall, a very, very deep-talented football team. They have been playing physical football, they are constantly getting better, and they’re going to have as much energy as they have had all year this Saturday. They’re playing for bowl eligibility, they’re playing for a lot of stuff that we can’t control, and we’re not going to worry about, so we’re going to worry about us but this is a quality opponent that we’re playing, obviously a quality program when it comes to Big 12 Championships and national championships at a place where they recruit as good as anybody in the country, so it will be a fun challenge. I know our guys are looking forward to it.” There are many post-season implications for both teams come Saturday afternoon, and Coach Holgorsen sounds as though he is preparing for a very tough “fun challenge.”
Coach Holgorsen also commented on Rushel Shell III’s injury, stating he would be a game-time decision as to playing or not. Holgorsen also pointed out how great Dakiel Shorts has been playing this season; “He’s an older guy who can handle me saying this, too, but he’s just the most consistent receiver, the most consistent leader, the hardest working guy that we have on offense, so very proud of him. He’s the guy who they all look to in that room, he’s the older guy, he’s the mature guy, he’s the one with the most experience, he practices his tail off, he’s physical as physical gets, he’s always in the right spot, he’s sure handed and he’s staying on his feet this year too which gives him more yards, so I can’t be happier with him right now. He’s doing a good job.” As the Mountaineers go into their ninth game of the season, it is clear that Coach Holgorsen’s confidence in his team has maintained steady.
As the team prepares, both mentally and on the field this week, Coach Holgorsen hopes to maintain momentum through all four quarters in Austin on Saturday, and not have the momentum loss suffered in the 2014 game in Austin. “Let’s try to have the second quarter we had last Saturday. The second quarter we had last Saturday was pretty good. I mean you can’t go back two years ago that’s a different team, different situation, different mindset, different opponent, so we won’t address anything that happened two years ago, we won’t address anything that happened four years ago. This is a different team that we have and our job is to get ready to practice, get ready to prepare, get ready to go play.”
If the Mountaineers overcome Coach Strong and the Longhorns, the team will be in one of the best positions they have been in since joining the Big 12. Coach Holgorsen has the faith in the Mountaineers going against Texas and lasting through all four quarters, fans should have the faith too. Now, it’s just time to wait until noon Saturday (11:00 am if you’re in central time) and get ready for what will be one of the most physical games of the season. Coach Holgrosen sounds excited, so we should be too.