The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 7, 2013

WVU looking for a more complete performance tonight against Sooners

By Cam Huffman
Sports Editor

— West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen saw some things he liked in the Mountaineers’ 24-17 win over William & Mary last week to open the 2013 football season. He just didn’t see enough of them.

Tonight at 7 p.m., when the Mountaineers (1-0) step onto Owen Field in Norman, Okla., to face No. 16 Oklahoma (1-0) in front of 85,000 fans and a FOX television audience, the third-year coach knows he’ll need more of a complete performance if he hopes to repeat history and knock off the Sooners, just as the last WVU team that made the trip did in 1982.

This year’s Oklahoma team is much different than the one that came to Morgantown last year and won in a 50-49 classic. The defense has been totaling revamped — partly because of Tavon Austin’s 344-yard rushing performance in that game — and the offense — which was more of a pro-style passing attack last year with Landry Jones at quarterback — has taken on a feel of the Barry Switzer days at OU with option football and a quarterback who likes to run.

Freshman Trevor Knight beat out Blake Bell for the starting job, and last week in a win over Louisiana-Monroe, he rushed for 103 yards, averaging nearly eight yards per carry, and threw for three touchdowns. He completed just 11 of 28 passes, though, and tossed an interception.

“He can run,” said Holgorsen. “He’s a talented guy. His completion percentage wasn’t very good, but when I watched the tape, he’s pretty good. He can throw.

“He’s a talented quarterback, and he’s going to get better and better. They’re going to rely on him to make plays in the run and passing games. Hopefully he doesn’t get things figured out this week. I would anticipate him figuring things out and being a very good quarterback for Oklahoma.”

WVU has its own quarterback concerns. Junior Paul Millard, who got the nod over Florida State transfer Clint Trickett in the opener, was efficient last week but not spectacular. He threw for 237 yards but tossed only 25 passes, a low number compared to the eye-popping totals that Geno Smith put up a year ago.

Part of that is because of the Mountaineers’ strength in the running game — Houston transfer Charles Sims, the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, rushed for over 100 yards in his Mountaineer debut, and there’s plenty of depth with junior college transfer Dreamius Smith, freshman Wendell Smallwood and junior Dustin Garrison all in the mix — but Holgorsen does want to see more balance.

“I’d like to throw the ball a lot more than we did,” he said. “We’re talking about throwing the ball 30 percent of the time. That’s embarrassing. We’re going to try to correct that — that’s for certain. I don’t care much about stats, but we have to be more balanced.”

Things may look different, but Holgorsen — who coached in the Big 12 at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State before coming to WVU — knows there’s one thing that won’t change.

“It’s still Oklahoma,” he said. “The atmosphere is rowdy and it’s loud. The people are right on top of you. They’re a lot like Oklahoma State’s venue. They have a winning tradition. We respect our opponent just like we always do, and we’ll go to Norman and try to win.”

— E-mail: chuffman and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.