As we are getting closer to kickoff, we got together with Country Roads from the Smoking Musket to do a Q and A.
1. Like Maryland, West Virginia used the Head Coach in Waiting, when it wasn’t all that obvious the head coach was ready to move on. At Maryland neither the former head coach (Friedgen) or the Head coach in waiting (James Franklin) are currently the coach (Randy Edsall). AT WVU Dana Holgerson was the Head Coach in Waiting, and got the job, albeit a year earlier than expected. What was the reaction around Morgantown over the entire fiasco and the outcome?
I think most fans were fed up with Bill Stewart and were ready for a change. He was 9-4 all three years, but he lost some games that really made you scratch your head and, while he was a nice guy, he played into a lot of stereotypes that many people have about West Virginia. Dana Holgorsen brings an exciting brand of football and a more confident attitude, which has really rejuvinated the fan base. The whole HCIW concept was doomed from the beginning because of the way it was forced on Stewart. Personally speaking, I was glad that Holgorsen got to start this year as the head coach, even if I was saddened with the way it happened, which brought a lot of negative publicity to WVU. Ultimately, I think I speak for the entire fan base when I say we’re better off now.
2. Now that Holgerson is the head coach, what does he bring to the table, and what if any major differences in philosophies,does he have compared to Bill Stewart or Rich Rodriquez for that matter?
Holgorsen knows his offense. He has succeeded at the highest level as an offensive coordinator at Texas Tech, Houston, and Oklahoma State, and so far, it looks like he will do the same. I’m reserving judgment on his ability to perform the off-field duties of a head coach, like raising money, recruiting, handling the media, etc., but so far he looks to be off to a good start in all of those phases. He’s a very down to earth, matter-of-fact guy, and I think that plays well among WVU fans. In terms of a difference in philosophy, his adaptable air-raid offense and no-nonsense approach contrast sharply with both Rich Rod’s power-spread scream your head off approach and Stew’s conservative, affable approach. Frankly, Holgorsen has been a breath of fresh air in both aspects.
3 WVU is 2-0 this year with victories over Marshall and Norfolk State. In both games, WVU started slowly (especially last week vs. Norfolk State) What has been the cause of these slow starts, and what clicked to allow them to win both rather handedly?
The Marshall game will always be a hornet’s nest for WVU because of the magnitude of the game in Marshall’s eyes. So far, WVU’s superior athleticism has prevailed in the end, but just like a prohibitive underdog in a title fight, the little guy is going to come out of the gate swinging with everything he’s got. Norfolk State, in my opinion, was a combination of the players taking their opponent too lightly and a little bit of still trying to grasp the system. By that, I mean if the offense had been clicking on all cylinders, we might be able to sleepwalk through a game like that. At this point, we needed to put forth a more effort to get the blowout, as we saw in the second half.
4. Geno Smith appears to be coming into his own this season, in terms of stats anyway. He has over 600 yards and 6 TD’s and 0 INT’s in two games. Sure the games haven’t been against the stiffest of competition, but has he taken that next step from a pretty solid season last year. What does he do well, and where does he need to improve?
Geno was a pretty good quarterback last year, throwing for almost 2,500 yards and 24 TD with only 7 INT, so it’s not like he’s unproven. It’s just that now he’s in a system that emphasizes his abilities and is conducive to putting up video game numbers. He is still learning his check-downs, but he throws a pretty catchable ball and aside from the Syracuse game last year where he threw 3 picks, he’s competent at not turning it over. He’s a decent runner and actually pretty proficient at finding time in the pocket behind a mediocre line, but he could be better at moving the chains with his legs. Also, just like most quarterbacks, he can be prone to make mistakes when heavily pressured, such as that Syracuse game I mentioned.
5. What can WVU do to slow down Danny O’Brien and what looks like a pretty good balanced Maryland offense (for one game anyway)?
O’Brien had a good year last year and a great first game against Miami, so I’ll be interested to see how he does on Saturday. WVU’s pass defense is probably its strength as corners Keith Tandy and Pat Miller are tested and defensive ends Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller are top-notch pass rushers. If Maryland wins, I think it will have to do most of its damage on the ground against a young Mountaineer linebacking corps, and I think Davin Meggett has the ability to gash us up front. Plus, the ground game will keep Smith and the offense off the field. If Maryland has to pass, I think O’Brien’s line will look something like 23/44, 218 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, which won’t be enough to win.
6. Are there any injuries that could have an impact on the game?
WR Tavon Austin is rumored to have injured his hand last week, but evidently he played through it. I don’t expect that to have an effect, but you never know so it’s something to watch for. Also, RB Shawn Alston should be coming back from injury this week. He may not play much, but he ran well in limited time last year and would provide a bigger body in WVU’s short yardage sets.
7.. What is your prediction for the game?
I’m a homer, so I’m going to go with WVU 32 Maryland 21. But I’m not betting my trailer on it.
8. If this conference Armageddon takes place with the news of Oklahoma trying to go to the PAC 12, what do you think WVU’s future is, and if you had it your way where would want them to wind up?
WVU could end up in a number of places. We stand our best chance of winning if we stay in a reconstituted Big East, adding some Big XII leftovers, Houston, UCF, and/or Villanova. We probably fit best competitively in the ACC, as I see WVU as being most like Virginia Tech, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland and UNC from a number of different angles. And, while we wouldn’t win as much, I’d love to see WVU in the SEC. It would be fun as a fan to have teams like Florida, Georgia, Alabama and LSU coming to Morgantown on a regular basis, and I think the additional money and credibility would help WVU close the gap competitively. Based on what I’ve been reading, I truly believe we could be the 14th member of the SEC because we would bring additional media markets (WV, Pittsburgh, and part of DC) and not step on the toes of any current members. But again, I’m not betting my trailer on it.
Special thanks to Country Roads for taking the time to answer our questions. Check them out as we get closer to the game for more on WVU