MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — While the previous 5-0 start for West Virginia in 2012 proved to be fool’s gold, coach Dana Holgorsen won’t entertain any comparisons.
“Y’all are thinking 2012, I know y’all are, but this is a totally different team,” he said. “There’s no similarities between the two teams.”
The current two-deep features 11 fifth-year seniors who redshirted during the 2012 season when West Virginia blazed out for its Big 12 debut only to finish 7-6.
Holgorsen hinted at better chemistry — and didn’t have to hint about superior depth — this time around with the No. 12 Mountaineers (5-0, 2-0) preparing to host TCU (4-2, 2-1). The Frogs were picked second in the Big 12 preseason poll, five spots higher than West Virginia.
“I think this team is a good group of kids that likes each other and likes playing the game,” he said. “They didn’t listen when everybody was saying we sucked, and they’re not going to listen when everybody’s saying we’re good.”
Tony Gibson estimated he blitzed on 60 percent of overall snaps against Texas Tech. And after Patrick Mahomes’ third-and-29 touchdown pass in the first quarter? “It was probably about 80 percent.”
West Virginia’s defensive coordinator admits to blitzing out of frustration sometimes, which certainly was the case when Mahomes stood in the pocket for five seconds before lobbing the 44-yard Jonathan Giles.
Earlier in that drive, Mahomes converted a third-and-9 throw against a three-man rush, finding Ian Sadler for 37 yards.
“I was tired of him running around,” Gibson said Tuesday. “We let him run around and throw it over us (to Sadler) … and then they throw a Hail Mary (to Giles).”
Free safety Jeremy Tyler appeared to be in position to defend the touchdown pass, until badly misjudging its trajectory and letting Giles make the catch in the back of the end zone.
“He looked like a Pop Warner kid going up for it,” Gibson cracked. “Obviously he was a little embarrassed by it, but he’ll bounce back.”
Gibson also faulted his linebackers on the play for not impeding the receivers from sprinting downfield.
Ferns in TD mix
Fullback Michael Ferns participated on six plays Saturday, four resulting in touchdowns, a sign the ex-Michigan linebacker is getting the hang of playing offense.
“The thing with him early was he used to be a ‘thinker,’ and sometimes you can’t blink and play that position — you’ve got to go and make people react to you,” said WVU assistant coach Ja’Juan Seider. “Now Ferns is doing a better job of taking it to the defense instead of sitting back and trying to catch everything. That makes him be more physical at the point of attack.”
In retrospect Seider wishes he had used Ferns more in relief of Eli Wellman, who had an average day blocking.
“Eli probably played more than anybody in that (running back) room … but it’s hard for me take him off the field because I trust him,” Seider said. “Eli didn’t play as well as he’d like. I thought he was in the right place but he wasn’t running his feet on contact the way we like.”
Fleming’s targeting penalty
With Maurice Fleming paying his first-half penance for targeting, West Virginia’s cornerback rotation and nickel package will be missing a key contributor against TCU.
Holgorsen called Fleming’s ejection against Texas Tech a scenario in which Big 12 officials “got it right” despite the player “not trying to hurt anyone.”
“I don’t know how to coach that any different,” Holgorsen said. “That was a bang-bang thing where he shot the gap and, boom, the guy was on top of him right now. I don’t think there is anything malicious about what Maurice did, but with that said, I can see how (the officials) got there.
“I thought he did a decent job of trying to keep his head up, but when that is right there in your face you are going to blink, and if you blink you are going to lower your head just a little bit.”
During the FS1 broadcast, color analyst Joel Klatt suggested adjusting the severity of penalties to remove automatic ejections for incidental targeting.
“Maybe they do need to revisit it, and guys who are trying to hurt someone, throw them out,” Holgorsen said. “I would support that, but (not) guys who are just playing ball and not trying to hurt anyone and not trying to cause any harm.”