MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–After last Saturday’s disappointing loss to No. 10 Oklahoma, the West Virginia University football team is excited to get back on the field and prepare for No. 21 Oklahoma State.
“There should be a ton of excitement around Morgantown,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said at Tuesday’s press conference. “Homecoming, and we are welcoming everybody back to the game this weekend.”
Saturday’s game against the Cowboys is another sellout, which Holgorsen is excited about.
“It’s another sellout, and we are all excited about that,” he said. “The last time we played here, it was a sellout, and it was extremely festive. When that game was over, I made reference that it was huge to our football team. Our players thrive off that. I can’t say enough how much that affects the game. It affects how our players play.”
Night games in Morgantown bring a special atmosphere for fans, players and coaches.
“Night games in Morgantown are fun, and we look forward to hosting a Top 20 Big 12 opponent, Oklahoma State,” Holgorsen said. “It’s going to be tough.”
At the end of last season, Oklahoma State changed quarterbacks and have been successful since.
“They have been on a roll since they changed their (sophomore) quarterback (Mason Rudolph) in the 12th game of the year last season, Holgorsen added.“They lost a few in a row, and they haven’t lost since they made that switch.
“He finished 2-0 last year as a true freshman, and they won five this year. They are coming in on a roll, and they have won a bunch of games here in the last decade. Coach (Mike) Gundy has done a great job of building that program to where they continue to reload with coaches and players, and they continue to win games each and every year.”
Holgorsen is very impressed with the Cowboys’ quarterback Rudolph.
“Offensively, to stay on the subject with their quarterback, Mason Rudolph does a great job,” he said. “He’s a big kid. He has a live arm, and he has great size. He has great accuracy. They are averaging almost 300 passing yards a game, so they are throwing it a bit.”
But the Mountaineers’ defense needs to be aware of Oklahoma State’s running game.
“Coach Gundy is the type of guy to run the ball as much as they possibly can,” Holgorsen said. “They have three quality backs and a physical o-line to the point where they are going to try and establish the run.
“We are going to have something to say about that, just like we did last week. Oklahoma tried to establish the run, and we did a good job of shutting that down to the point where they had to rely on the pass game. Hopefully, the same thing happens this week. They are going to try to get the run game going, and hopefully, we shut that down. We have to do a little bit better job of defending the big play.”
The WVU offense has a lot of work to do this week after a dreadful game against Oklahoma. The Mountaineers struggled in the pass game and with tackles for loss in the run game.
Oklahoma State’s defense is just a strong, if not better than the Oklahoma’s. The Cowboys lead the country in sacks and tackles for loss, which could spell trouble for WVU if things go like last weekend.
Holgorsen knows this is an area the Mountaineers need to fix.
“That is something that we have to work on, so we are going to be working on it this week,” he said. “Six days later, I prefer a little bit more time to defend against that.”
Holgorsen is highly impressed with Oklahoma State’s junior defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah and redshirt senior defensive end Jimmy Bean.
“They do a great up front,” Holgorsen said. “They have two great d-ends. They have two big d-ends, Ogbah and Bean. They are 6-foot-5 and 250-pounds. They are two great looking defensive ends that get to the quarterback. They are stout. Their front seven is really good.”
It will be important for WVU to improve its pass protection Saturday because the Cowboy’s have two talented cornerbacks.
“They have two great corners in (senior cornerback Kevin) Peterson and (redshirt junior cornerback Ashton) Lampkin who can cover,” Holgorsen said. “They will get in our young kids face just like Oklahoma did, and they will challenge us, so we have to do a better job in winning downfield. “
The Mountaineers struggled mightily on the punt return last season, and some of those problems showed up last week against the Sooners.
“We are fielding the ball, which is fantastic,” Holgorsen said. “We have two inexperience guys back there. I will take the blame for that. We put them on the 15 and 20 (yard line), and that kid kicked it about 65-yards, so they had to run backwards to field the ball.”
WVU has been utilizing its run game a lot this year, and Holgorsen believes that is the identity of this year’s team.
“If I call plays, and they work, then I am going to keep calling them,” he said. “When they don’t work, then I am going to call something else. We have done a better job in the run game. That is no secret.
“The run/pass ratio is not any different now than what it’s been in the past three years. We have always tried to establish the run. I think it looks better than it has looked in the past, which means we are going to keep running the ball. We are also going to throw the ball.”
Holgorsen believes that the mechanical mistakes that junior quarterback Skyler Howard made against Oklahoma can be fixed, but the mental mistakes are on Howard and his teammates.
“The mentality aspect of it is no different than the other 10 guys that are out there playing,” Holgorsen said. “We win and produce as a unit, and we win and make mistakes as a unit. He’s not the one that needs to take the blame for a lot of the stuff that happened out there.
“There were some mistakes that have to be corrected. There were some mistakes that our o-line made that have to be corrected. There some mistakes that our receivers made that have to be corrected. There were some mistakes in our running backs and tight ends that have to be corrected. All of it has to do with our preparation. We have to learn from it, move on and go out there and play ball.”
Holgorsen believes Howard is very communicative and doesn’t get rattled easily.
Holgorsen has a lot of confidence in his cornerbacks, but the style of defense WVU plays is about creating pressure.
“We feel like we need to do a lot of different things to create pressure on the quarterback, and when that happens, that leaves less guys in coverage,” he said. “With less guys in coverage, the more likely you have to play man coverage. We feel pretty good about those guys. They got beat a couple of times. When you play against skilled opponents, I think we have to be pretty naïve to think that is not going to happen.”
Senior safety Karl Joseph came up with his fifth interception of the season against Oklahoma, and he continues to impress Holgorsen.
“Karl is playing well,” Holgorsen said. “Again, he is the inspirational leader for our team. He studies the game. He’s motivated. He’s elevated his play. He expects everybody around him to elevate their play as well. I can’t say enough about how he is playing, and what he brings to this football team.”