After the Mountaineers 17-16 come-from-behind victory over Kansas State last Saturday head coach Dana Holgorsen down played the significance of beating Bill Snyder for the first time in five tries.
However, he did make a statement that caught the attention of most in the media, “Shane probably has,” Holgorsen said referring to his first victory over the Wildcats.
Whether Holgorsen will admit it or not that victory was significant. Not only for WVU but for Holgorsen himself. This is the first time Holgorsen has insinuated that his performance this year may have a bearing on his future at WVU.
Whether or not this is a “contract year” for Holgorsen is unknown. WVU AD Shane Lyons has stayed the course with not addressing any coaching evaluations until after the season. Holgorsen’s current contract is through the 2018 season.
In the off-season Lyons told WV Metro News that contract negotiations had broken down between the University and Holgorsen. While the specifics of what WVU offered are unclear it is safe to speculate the offer was more in WVU’s favor than the current contract.
The Mountaineers win Saturday also propelled the program back into the top 25 in both polls, a place that remained elusive in recent history. The Mountaineers are the third highest ranked team in the Big 12 behind only Baylor at No. 13 and Oklahoma at No. 20.
It also helps that senior quarterback Skyler Howard has improved significantly over last season. Howard is currently completing just under 65% of his passes, an 11% increase over last season and a 15% increase over 2014.
Holgorsen has to be off the proverbial hot seat at this time. Wins over Kansas State, Missouri, and BYU complete an early trifecta of impressive performances. Holgorsen did say that every game is just as important at the last. He would be correct in that assessment. However, a win over Kansas State this season will go further than he is leading on.
With the Big 12 Conference struggling this season it could be the perfect time for Holgorsen to make his mark. The meat of the schedule still remains but is much more favorable than last season. There is no gauntlet like there was last October.
The Sooners are the only team remaining in the Big 12 that Holgorsen has yet to beat. It just so happens the Sooners travel to Morgantown this year.
If Lyons is simply looking for improvement over last season a win over Oklahoma would have to show just that, improvement.
WVU should be favored in the majority of their remaining contests. And if the Mountaineers can win the games in which they are favored this could be that season Holgorsen can use as leverage if his contract is readdressed this off-season.
Did Holgorsen take a gamble by declining the extension offered by Lyons in the off-season? That question will be answered at the end of the season. But for now Holgorsen and the Mountaineers are doing everything right.