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Statistics show Dana Holgorsen has better chance to win with run game

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Skyler Howard back to pass against Liberty

By now Mountaineer fans have taken a hard stance either for or against Dana Holgorsen. His continued support of quarterback Skyler Howard has been met with criticism from every angle. But was Holgorsen on to something that no one else noticed?

Holgorsen has now coached in 141 games in which he was the offensive coordinator or head coach. Of those 141 games Holgorsen has won 90, giving him a winning percentage of almost 64% as an offensive coordinator (Holgorsen is both offensive coordinator and head coach at WVU).

Holgorsen said midway through this past season that he would like Howard to see his completion percentage around 63%. While that number seems random there is actually a reason behind it. During Holgorsen’s coaching career his quarterback has had a completion percentage of 63% or better in 92 games, he has won 73 of those. Simply put, Holgorsen has a win percentage of almost 80% when his quarterback completes at least 63% of their passes.

So why does this matter? Holgorsen has only won 17 or 49 games when his quarterback has not reached the 63% threshold. This is where Skyler Howard fits in. Only twice this season did Howard throw for better than 63%, he had an 84.4% completion percentage against Liberty and 83.3% against Texas. No these statistics do not take into account how many attempts were made, but that is not the point of this breakdown.

This means that Holgorsen won five games this season with a completion percentage below 63%. Data for this analysis dates back to when Holgorsen took over as offensive coordinator at Texas Tech in 2005. This means that over 11 seasons Holgorsen has won only 17 games when his quarterback did not meet the threshold, five of those games were this year. Skyler Howard is responsible for 30% of Holgorsen’s total wins under the 63% threshold.

This is where it gets even more interesting. Of the 20 best rushing performances in Holgorsen’s career 15 took place while he was the head coach at WVU, including the top six all as a Mountaineer. What is even more interesting; even though Holgorsen is known for his air raid offensive schemes, he has a winning percentage of 90% over those 20 games.

When Holgorsen announced after the close of the October schedule that West Virginia had become a “ground and pound” offense many immediately thought of Don Nehlen’s run-run-pass offense.

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Wendell Smallwood breaks free against Oklahoma

Holgorsen has a winning percentage of 83% when his teams run for 200 yards or more in a game. Holgorsen was 5-1 this season when the Mountaineers ran for more than 200 yards, the only loss being in overtime to Oklahoma State; a game many felt WVU should have won. As the head coach at WVU Holgorsen is 16-4 when the Mountaineers rush for 200 yards or more.

What does this all mean? Well you could look at it several different ways. Technically WVU is more successful on the ground than in the air under Holgorsen. While many have pointed to Howard’s deficiencies at quarterback it could also be said that continuing with Howard and the ground and pound offense has a very good chance of being successful.

Statistically speaking Holgorsen has a better chance of winning on the ground than he does through the air, especially at West Virginia.

The most successful teams in Mountaineer history have been predominantly running teams. It may be time for Holgorsen and WVU fans alike to again embrace Mountaineer history. Running the ball wins games in Morgantown.

Jeremy Simon
Founder and publisher of, Jeremy is also a contributor to USA Today as well as covers the Mountaineers for Athlon Sports. Follow on Twitter @JSi07
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