MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia planned on running the ball against TCU, and running it a lot. This was the commitment throughout the week and remained a priority throughout Saturday’s game, even after the Mountaineers lost/benched their two top running backs and dipped to a pedestrian 3.6 yards per carry.
At 54-26, not only was it the most one-sided run-pass ratio of Dana Holgorsen’s four seasons at West Virginia, but also more run-dominant than any game he called during his previous six years as a coordinator. This was done in deference to Gary Patterson’s reputation for cramping spread offenses, the other Kevin White’s ability to marginalize his receiving namesake, and the fact WVU was playing from ahead in the second half and desperately waiting for the sand to drain through the hourglass.
The plan nearly worked, until TCU closed the game with 10 straight points and retained just enough time to crush West Virginia’s spirit with a last-play field goal. In a bottom-line business, Holgorsen was crushed for becoming too conservative down the stretch.
“We went into the game knowing that we needed to run the ball right at them as much as we possibly can,” he said Tuesday. “I think we did a very good job of that in the first half. I thought we did an acceptable job in the third quarter. I thought we did a very poor job of that in the fourth quarter when it counted.”
The second-half breakdown for Holgorsen’s offense—22 runs vs. five passes—seemed more like Air Force than Air Raid, though to be precise, two of those runs were dropbacks that saw Clint Trickett smothered.
While Holgorsen labeled the fourth quarter “unacceptable”—accurate for a succession of three-and-outs on which WVU lost 7 yards on nine plays—he defended the performance of the offensive line and explained his decision to stick with the running game that couldn’t budge TCU down the stretch.
“I think the quality of the opponent was pretty good,” he said. “I didn’t do a very good job. I didn’t motivate (the linemen) enough. I didn’t call the appropriate plays. We didn’t get it done in the fourth quarter. I take responsibility for it.
“There is an execution element to it, and I have to get them to execute in critical situations. Against a really good football team, against a really good defensive-minded football team, we did pretty well in certain areas of the game. We’ve got some work to do this week in order to be able to get some things corrected to be able to win this game this week.”
This week brings a trip to Texas, a chance to face one of college football’s landmark programs, a chance to move on from the sour ending against TCU.
“The sun came up on Sunday, and we came to work,” joked Holgorsen, who said his players “believe it or not, are excited about the opportunity to go play another Big 12 football game.
“Our job is to prepare hard and put ourselves in position to win a few more of those Big 12 games like we didn’t do on Saturday.”