The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 22, 2011

Feud within the feud?

Holgorsen, Graham haven’t seen eye-to-eye since C-USA days

By Dave Morrison
Register-Herald Sports Writer

— Make no mistake about it, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen and Pittsburgh coach Todd Graham do not like one another.

Not that you will get them to say it.

But there is gas all around this relationship and at any time, either could drop a match.

The two will lock horns for the first time in the Big East Conference when West Virginia (7-3, 3-2 Big east) hosts Pitt (5-5, 3-2) in the annual “Backyard Brawl” at 7 p.m. Friday at Milan Puskar Stadium. ESPN will televise the action.

Holgorsen is 3-0 all-time against Graham and the feud began in 2009, when Graham was at Tulsa and Holgorsen was offensive coordinator at Houston.

In 2008, Holgorsen’s offense went wild in a 70-30 win.

The next year, Graham’s Tulsa team came up one point shy, falling 46-45.

At the time, Holgorsen accused the Golden Hurricane of faking injuries to slow the offense down, and said he even had evidence that they were signaling in when to fake those injuries.

Holgorsen also beat Tulsa 65-28 as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State.

The subplots in this game are numerous.

Graham, obviously, is a former co-defensive coordinator with Jeff Casteel going back to the Rich Rodriguez era.

And Holgorsen reportedly interviewed with Pittsburgh when Dave Wannestedt left, but didn’t get the job. Mike Haywood was initially hired but fired after two-and-a-half weeks on the job after he was charged with domestic violence.

That’s when Graham was hired.

And of course, it is the Backyard Brawl, which really needs no buildup.

These days, the whole Holgorsen-Graham feud is being downplayed.

“It is completely irrelevant with this game,” Holgorsen said. “It is blown out of proportion. There are rivalries every week. With me being in a new conference, there isn’t as many every week. I was going up against guys I have known for a decade. I have known Todd for three years. It is way overblown. It is about the kids, not the coaches. There are a lot of good coaches out there. It is about the place you are at. It is about playing with a bunch of effort and giving it all you have got.”

Not exactly inflammatory stuff.

Graham said the two have spoke at Big East Conference meetings.

“From my standpoint, I’ve got a tremendous respect for him,” Graham said. “We’ve always been competing against each other. I have nothing but respect for him as a coach and one of the best offensive coaches in the country. People probably make more of that than there really is.

“We have been competitors against one another and we have been intense competitors,” Graham said. “He is a tough one to go against. When I see him at Big East meetings we have nothing but respect for each other.”

Not exactly Hatfields vs. McCoys stuff.

But it should make for a story inside the story when the final gun sounds Friday night.

— E-mail: demorrison@