Holgorsen gets inspiration from Steelers on 2-point-play design
CHARLESTON — It has been a few days since West Virginia University quarterback Will Grier ran in a two-point conversion with less than a minute to play to give the Mountaineers a 42-41 comeback win at Texas, but that is still the topic of conversation surrounding WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen.
Holgorsen had the play in his back pocket going into Austin, Texas, and when Grier hit receiver Gary Jennings for a 33-yard touchdown with the game clock winding down to put West Virginia within a point of the Longhorns, the time came to make the call and he knew what he wanted to do.
“I just think it’s a gut feeling on how the game is going and what the situation is,” Holgorsen said Monday during his portion of the Big 12 coaches teleconference. “You have momentum, you want to go and win the game. The players had confidence, and we had confidence. The QB we have is as good, I feel, as anybody in the country, and we had a good idea of how they were going to defend it.”
Holgorsen did, however, consider trying to throw Texas off a bit when he anticipated UT coach Tom Herman trying to get some timeouts in before the play.
“I knew he was going to call time out,” Holgorsen said. “I thought about running a dummy play, but then I didn’t want to get caught if he didn’t call it.”
So where does the WVU coach get his inspiration for those kind of calls and those kind of plays? Holgorsen doesn’t have to look far. Pittsburgh isn’t far from Morgantown, so the head Mountaineer turns to the pros and picks the brain of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.
“One of the hardest thing we do as coaches is coming up with two-point plays,” Holgorsen said. “I go visit with the Steelers a lot. They go for two a lot; Tomlin is good with it. We have taken some of that. We have two-point-play competitions in our practices. It’s a combination of scheming things and how you are doing on the goal line and what they do on the goal line. I felt good about what we had.”
RUN GAME TAKES OFF: WVU had been winning games this season despite having trouble establishing its ground attack while also not getting the best from its offensive line. Holgorsen said the run game and the line play Saturday at Texas were as good as they have been for the Mountaineers this season.
“It was the best it’s been all year, the O-line play in general — and I include tight end Trevon Wesco in that,” Holgorsen said. “We did a great job in scheming up some things and executing the basics of run blocking. (Running backs) Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway were running as hard as I’ve ever seen them. That’s why they were our players of the game, and it’s why we were able to score more points.”
AMPED UP IN AUSTIN? Holgorsen is no stranger to Texas’ Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, having been around the Big 12 as an assistant at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State prior to coming to WVU.
Saturday’s game brought 100,703 fans out to DKR, and they were no doubt loud and rowdy. There were times, however, that it seemed like the noise in the stadium — both from the fans and from the in-game music being played — was getting an extra boost from the field microphones.
Holgorsen didn’t directly accuse Texas of pumping extra noise through the stadium speakers, but he did tiptoe up to the line of doing so.
“It was loud,” Holgorsen said. “The loudest I have heard Memorial Stadium for more than one reason.”
“HORNS DOWN” DISCUSSION: Officiating was also a hot topic Saturday, and it still hasn’t died down. WVU was flagged 14 times for 120 yards against Texas, including twice for flashing a “Horns Down” hand signal after a big play — one each by receiver David Sills and Grier.
After the game, Holgorsen told the media he had specifically asked the officials prior to the game if that gesture was going to be penalized and that he was disappointed with the apparent miscommunication. On Monday, he still seemed confused as to what was called and why.
“They are incredibly tight on some of these things,” Holgorsen said of officials. “We have addressed it with our team, but we’re at a point now where I don’t know what to tell them. Emotion is going to kick in. We’re doing our best to coach these guys to behave the appropriate way, but I don’t know what to tell them. We are in communication with the Big 12 office, and we will relay that information to our players. I’m tired of kicking off from the 10-yard line.”
BIG 12 HONORS: Grier threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns in the win against Texas in addition to his late two-point conversion to put the game away, and for his effort the WVU quarterback was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week by the league Monday.
Kicker Evan Staley, a Romney, West Virginia, native and former Hampshire High standout, was named Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week after connecting on 44-and 45-yard field goals on a very windy day at DKR in Austin.
TCU (4-5, 2-4) at No. 7 WVU (7-1, 5-1)
When: Noon Saturday
Where: Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown
Radio: WWQB 102.3-FM