By Dave Morrison
Register-Herald Sports Writer
While insisting his team is still a work in progress, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen will take better-lucky-than-good at this point.
When the Mountaineers blocked a Cincinnati field goal that would have tied the game Saturday, giving the Mountaineers a 24-21 win, the first-year coach could finally breathe Monday.
West Virginia (7-3, 3-2 Big East) hosts Pitt on Friday, Nov. 25, at 7 p.m. in the home regular-season finale. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
“Sure, why not?” Holgorsen said Monday, when asked if his team was lucky to win. “When bad stuff happens, don’t quit. I’ve seen guys quit. We’ve had a tendency at times when things went wrong that we had specific people or units quit. The fact that’s finally sinking in with them to keep playing, keep playing, keep playing to be able to win at the end is a sign of a good team. Not that we’re there yet. We’re not.”
But WVU did win, got back into the Big East race — though still in need of some help — and now is poised to finish anywhere from first to last in the up-and-down conference.
“I haven’t experienced that before,” Holgorsen said. “We’ve talked about it all year, and we talked about it at the Big East media meetings, too. You pick one through eight, you could probably flip it, and it’s come out that way for the past 10 years. The reason everyone has wanted to talk about it is because that’s what reality has been for the last 10 years. The more things change, the more they probably stay the same.”
One thing that hasn’t changed in the last decade is the expectations of the Mountaineers, at least by most fans.
Holgorsen was asked if that expectation level was too high entering his first season.
“I don’t know. Somebody else can answer that,” he said. “We have our own expectations, and it’s about improvement. We’re piecing it together the best that we can, and we’re trying to put ourselves in a position to be successful every series and every game. We’ll continue to try to get better at what we’re trying to do.”
One of the things he has done is scale back the offensive play-calling.
“Yes, I’ve slimmed it down a little bit to the things that we can handle,” Holgorsen said. “The amount of plays that we go into a game with is relatively the same. At the rate of how fast we’re calling it, how challenging the things are, it comes down to being able to block people up front and being able to make accurate reads or running the ball with numbers.
“Probably the most discouraging thing that I dealt with last Saturday was we had numbers to run the ball, and we couldn’t do it, which changes a whole lot of things that I do offensively.”
He also plans to talk to quarterback Geno Smith, who was upset with officials during the Cincinnati game and said so after the game.
“I’ll have a talk with him about that,” Holgorsen said. “He doesn’t need to be mentioning anything. His job isn’t to talk with the referees. I’ve told him that 10 times during a game. Ignore them, don’t talk to them, that’s not his job. His job is to listen and not do it. My job is to communicate with the referees, which I really think that the Big East Conference, from a referee standpoint, does as good of a job as anywhere I’ve been, as far as a communication standpoint.
“Whether we agree with the calls or not, it’s not our place. He’s not going to say sorry or pick up the flag. There’s nothing you can do about it. You move on and overcome it. Our job as coaches is to get guys to play with better technique and get the guys to play within themselves.”
— E-mail: demorrison@