By Cam Huffman
Halfway through the 2013 West Virginia University football season, there’s been good, bad and ugly for the Mountaineers.
The good came in wins over William & Mary and Georgia State — games in which the Mountaineers didn’t play their best but found a way to win — and especially on Sept. 28 at home against Oklahoma State, when head coach Dana Holgorsen’s group came in as a heavy underdog and came out with a victory over the No. 11 team in the country.
The bad came on the road in a 16-7 loss to No. 16 Oklahoma on Sept. 7 — a game that could have had a different outcome had WVU been able to find any semblance of offense — and the ugly came in blowout losses on the road at Maryland (37-0) and Baylor (73-42).
So coming off a bye week that followed the clawing at the hands of the undefeated Bears, Holgorsen is hoping the Mountaineer roller coaster can find a straight section of track this week as his team prepares for a meeting with No. 16 Texas Tech (6-0) Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown.
“We’ve been as high and as low as you can possibly get with three wins and three losses,” said Holgorsen, whose team will take the field at noon Saturday in front of a Fox Sports 1 television audience. “We haven’t had two losses back-to-back and haven’t had two wins back-to-back. We need to get at a level of consistency like everybody does.
“It’s nothing new to us. This is the fourth team we’ve played that’s undefeated and ranked in the top 20. That’s what’s great about the Big 12. If you weren’t successful the last time you played a quality opponent, good news, you get to line up and play another good one the next week.”
Holgorsen knows a little something about Texas Tech. The bulk of his coaching career was spent on the Red Raider sideline, where he was a wide receivers coach and then the co-offensive coordinator for eight seasons under offensive guru Mike Leach.
His first three years, he watched as quarterback Kliff Kingsbury set school, Big 12 and NCAA records, and when Holgorsen left to become the offensive coordinator at Houston in 2008, Kingsbury — whose professional career in the NFL, NFL Europe and the Canadian Football League had fizzled out — became a member of his staff.
Kingsbury took over as the co-offensive coordinator for the Cougars when Holgorsen left for Oklahoma State in 2010, and last year Kingsbury was calling the offense for Texas A&M and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel.
When Tommy Tuberville abruptly left Texas Tech after the 2012 season to take over as the head coach at Cincinnati, the Red Raiders turned to an old favorite and named Kingsbury their 15th head coach.
On Saturday, the 34-year-old Kingsbury, the second-youngest head coach in college football, will bring in a team that is off to a 3-0 start in conference play — beating TCU, Kansas and Iowa State — to face his former coach and mentor.
“Kliff’s doing a great job of getting them to play at a very confident level with a tremendous amount of energy,” said Holgorsen. “There’s a tremendous amount of excitement surrounding the program, and it’s not surprising that he was able to get it going there in a short amount of time, just based on his past there and how well he knows the fan base and what the school pride’s all about.”
But Holgorsen’s not worried about the side story of facing an old friend. It’s really nothing new. He did it two weeks ago when the Mountaineers faced Oklahoma State and head coach Mike Gundy — who hired Holgorsen as his offensive coordinator for the 2010 season — and the last time out WVU faced Baylor and Art Briles, who was the running backs coach at Texas Tech when Holgorsen was coaching wide receivers.
“It seems like each and every week we’re playing against somebody associated with the program, guys I’ve coached with in the past or guys that I’ve coached in the past,” said Holgorsen, now 20-12 in two-plus seasons in Morgantown. “There’s a lot of carryover in the Big 12 when it comes to that, but we don’t think too much about it. We worry about our own teams. We try to prepare our guys as best as we can for what they’re going to get themselves into. So the personal side typically doesn’t exist. Anytime you play against guys that you like or coach against guys you’ve been with in the past, you wish them a lot of luck in every game other than one.
“They’ve had success, which is not surprising,” Holgorsen continued on the job being done by his former player. “Kliff’s a bright young coach and was an extremely competitive player. He’s an extremely competitive coach, and he’s done good things in the short time that he’s been there. They’re fortunate to have a lot of guys on their staff that understand how Texas Tech works and what the Red Raider nation is all about. They’ve been doing good, but we’re a little bit more worried about us than we are them and we’ll try to prepare our guys the best that we can to get a victory this weekend.”
WVU need not look very far to find motivation for Saturday’s game.
Last year, the Mountaineers were riding high at 5-0 and ranked No. 5 in the national polls when they made the trip to Lubbock, Texas, and were ambushed upon their arrival. The Red Raiders dominated from start to finish, winning 49-14 and sending WVU on a downward spiral that eventually led to a shocking five-game losing streak.
The tables are turned this time around with Texas Tech holding onto perfection, and the many Mountaineers that remember that agonizing, windy afternoon at Jones A&T Stadium last year would like nothing more than to return the favor to the Red Raiders.
The Mountaineers have bounced back from every loss this season with a win the following week, and with what Holgorsen hopes is a healthier, more prepared team, they’ll look to do it again.
“It’s college football,” said Holgorsen. “It’s why it’s the most popular thing out there. There are a lot of people who have emotions involved. There are so many people that care about what happens out there on Saturdays. It’s incredibly competitive, and it’s probably never been more competitive than it is right now.
“Everybody’s doing the same stuff, and you try to get your guys ready to win. When that doesn’t happen, it’s a huge letdown, but you’ve got to regroup and get your guys ready to play at the highest level they possibly can, or you’re not going to be successful.”
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The Big 12 announced Monday that WVU’s Oct. 26 game against Kansas State at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan., will be aired on Fox Sports 1 with a kickoff time scheduled for 3:45 p.m.
— E-mail: email@example.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.