COMMENTARY

COLUMBIA, Mo. – West Virginia fans still have plenty of ire for former coach Rich Rodriguez, and understandably so. But perhaps more venom should be reserved for the recently departed Dana Holgorsen.

At least Rodriguez left Bill Stewart the keys to a luxury car. Holgorsen left Neal Brown with a 1975 Ford Pinto.

Holgorsen’s second-hand Pinto had its inevitable fender bender-turned-explosion at Missouri Saturday afternoon in a miserable 38-7 loss to the Tigers.

There were enough low points to fill a piñata.

When the Mountaineers took possession with 7:49 left in the fourth quarter, they weren’t just facing a 38-0 deficit. West Virginia was staring directly at a pair of ignominious records.

At that point, WVU had minus-7 rushing yards. The Mountaineers have only been limited to negative rushing yardage five times in program history, with the most recent instance being in 1996.

West Virginia had only gained 93 yards total at that juncture, which put them at dire risk of establishing their lowest offensive output since 1994’s season-opening loss to Nebraska. That Cornhuskers team went on to be one of the greatest in college football history. It’s safe to say the 2019 Missouri Tigers aren’t in the same company after already being exposed by Wyoming.

Only Missouri’s sprinkle of second- and third-string defenders prevented WVU from achieving its worst shutout loss since a 39-0 blanking to Penn State in 1975. Three defensive backs forgot that George Campbell existed, and the wide receiver was 15 yards away from the nearest human when he hauled in a 46-yard touchdown reception to get the Mountaineers on the scoreboard.

All of the embarrassment goes on Brown’s record, but his predecessor is the only one who deserves blame for this disasterpiece.

West Virginia is averaging 1.14 yards per carry through its first two games. One of the biggest factors in that putrid number is the fact the team only has five offensive linemen the coaching staff has deemed game-ready.

Think this is rock-bottom? If someone so much as stubs a toe, it will only get worse.

That’s a failure of both recruitment and development that has the new coaching staff working with a hand tied behind its back.

Had Holgorsen groomed a replacement for Will Grier, perhaps defenses would be much more respectful of a passing game that would force them to back out of the box. Instead, Holgorsen proved incapable of developing a single quarterback he recruited out of high school. Heck, two of them became wide receivers. And now West Virginia is stuck with a quarterback shaking off three years of rust as its best option.

A gambler to his core, it’s clear that Holgorsen went all-in on the Mountaineers competing for a Big 12 title in 2018 so he’d get a long enough contract extension to weather through a stormy 2019. As his NFL career progresses, we may end up better realizing how much Febreze Grier sprayed on everything around him.

Holgorsen is surely laughing all the way to the casino cage after signing his five-year, $20 million contract with Houston. Once West Virginia lost to Oklahoma last season, he was left with a zero-percent chance of reaching 2020 as the Mountaineers’ head coach. With every down that’s played, it seems increasingly likely that he wouldn’t even have made it to the end of this season.

If there’s one thing Holgorsen should be commended for, it’s his ability to make himself richer while simultaneously leaving his former program poorer.

There will be more lumps for the Mountaineers this season, and the sheer ugliness of it all will inevitably lead to impatience with the new coaching staff. But as much as WVU fans may grumble about this season’s offense, they should never forget who left them in this position.

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