Even in the throes of a five-game losing skid, coach Dana Holgorsen said the core of West Virginia’s football team stuck together. Though last Friday’s win at Iowa State finally stopped the slide and qualified the Mountaineers for a bowl, Holgorsen previously saw encouraging signs from several of the close losses.
“We have a lot of seniors who didn’t want to go out like that, didn’t want to be remembered as the team that couldn’t handle the new conference,” he said.
“You stack a couple losses on top of each other and you can go one direction or you can go the other.”
West Virginia (6-5, 3-5 Big 12) closes the regular season by hosting Kansas (1-10, 0-8) Saturday at 2:30 p.m., where a win likely points toward a berth in the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl.
“There’s all kinds of good bowl games out there,” Holgorsen said. “I haven’t concerned myself with it. Becoming bowl-eligible is a big step, and after that whatever bowl game you go to is going to be fantastic.
“West Virginia’s always traveled well and I feel quite confident that would be the case no matter where it is.”
Though the Mountaineers are 20-point favorites against the Jayhawks, Holgorsen said his staff will be “at a major schematic disadvantage going against their coaches.”
There’s the well documented career path of first-year head coach Charlie Weis: four Super Bowl berths with the Patriots, a fifth with the Giants, and a 2005 national coach of the year award at Notre Dame. Kansas also has defensive coordinator Dave Campo, who won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys during a 14-year stint that included three seasons as head coach. The Jayhawks’ new offensive line coach, Tim Grunhard, is an 11-year NFL veteran who played on Notre Dame’s 1988 national championship team.
“I mean, they’ve got coaches with tremendous pedigrees, coached everybody in the world for decades and decades,” he said. “Your dealing with a bunch of coaches that understand football as good or better than anybody in the country.”
Iowa State’s defense neutralized Tavon Austin for much of Friday’s game in Ames, until the WVU dynamo burst loose on a 75-yard catch-and-run for the decisive fourth-quarter touchdown.
“We didn’t fit the play correctly,” said Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads, “so we didn’t have enough people in every gap. And when you do that against a player as gifted and as fast as him, then good luck. In the end, it was a matter of the guys that were left didn’t have the speed nor the angles to get him down. And he was in the ends zone in a hurry.”
THE LANDRY LIST
Oklahoma’s Landry Jones high-fives fans after the 35-20 win at Iowa State. Coach Bob Stoops scoffs at the fans who think the Big 12′s top all-time passer underachieved during his career. (Matt Ryerson-US PRESSWIRE)
After watching Landry Jones throw for 500 yards in consecutive weeks while leading comebacks against West Virginia and Oklahoma State, Bob Stoops was asked why the quarterback still gets only lukewarm reviews for his career at Oklahoma.
“That’s 5 or 10 percent of ignorant fans who are never happy, but 90 percent of our fans love him — I promise you they do,” he said. “In the end, the guy’s got Big 12 records, he’s won a Big 12 championship and he’s won a BCS bowl for us. He’s been fabulous, and 90 percent of our fans understand that.”
Jones passed Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell to become the Big 12′s career passing leader (16,124 yards) during the Sooners’ 51-48 overtime victory against Oklahoma State on Saturday. He now ranks third on the NCAA’s all-time passing yardage list, and is the only FBS passer to reach 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns during all four seasons.
TECH’S MISSING TIGHT END
West Virginia’s defense certainly can attest to the matchup nightmare that Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro presented. The 6-foot-6 sophomore made five catches for 156 yards and a touchdown during a 49-14 win over the Mountaineers in Lubbock on Oct. 13. But he absorbed a shot in the chest from WVU linebacker Terence Garvin and didn’t play in the final six regular-season games. It’s no coincidence that Texas Tech lost four of its final six games.
Tommy Tuberville said losing “the target he made across the middle —a 6-6 guy who can run, that one guy can’t bring down – really put us in a tailspin. It’s hard to replace a guy that might be one of the better players in the country.”
With Amaro scheduled to be re-examined by medical specialists this week, Tuberville is hopeful the Red Raiders’ only tight end will be available for the upcoming bowl game. Amaro made a total of 23 catches for a 17.1-yard average and four touchdowns in six games this season.
THE REAL McCOY
Texas coach Mack Brown says David Ash is questionable with a rib injury this week and Case McCoy will start the season finale against BCS No. 6 Kansas State.
In a 20-13 loss to TCU on Thanksgiving night, Ash was 10-of-21 passing for 104 yards with three turnovers before being replaced by McCoy.
“(Ash) got hit in the ribs early in the game and didn’t tell us,” Brown said. “That probably led to some of his struggles.”
“I haven’t had to beat the drum daily, because (the players) know what’s at stake. They weren’t born yesterday.”
— Bill Snyder on K-State trying to clinch the Big 12 title this week