By Dave Morrison
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said Tuesday he saw improvement in his offense after the No. 16 Mountaineers’ 37-31 win over Maryland Saturday.
It had to be a positive sign to the coach, with No. 2 LSU (3-0) set to invade Milan Puskar Stadium to take on WVU (3-0). Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. and ABC will televise the action nationwide.
“We took a step forward last week. Very much so,” Holgorsen said. “That’s always good to see as coaches. As coaches, we told them to finish blocks and to continue to be in the right spot for two weeks, and we saw it happen in the third game. We improved technique-wise, and we got a little more effort out of them to the point that we sprung a guy a couple of times.”
They’ll need even more improvement to beat an LSU team that is as good as any Holgorsen has seen.
After beating then No. 3 Oregon 40-27 in the season opener, LSU has surrendered just nine points in wins over Northwestern State and Mississippi State.
WVU is the third ranked team the Tigers have faced already this season.
“As good as any of them,” Holgorsen said of LSU. “ I was on Row 1, 50-yard line at the Cotton Bowl last year watching them play Texas A&M. When I was at Oklahoma State, we were pretty good and had a pretty good battle with Texas A&M, and I knew what kind of players they had. They (LSU) physically whipped Texas A&M in that game. They’ve been good for quite some time.”
Tempo, a key word with Holgorsen in terms of his offense, is something the Mountaineers will have to have on their side. And that may be tough against an LSU game team that has depth at every position.
“Have success,” Holgorsen said of gaining the tempo edge. “You can’t go out and get a three-and-out in 15 seconds or you’ll destroy your team. We don’t have a goal of snapping the ball a specific amount of times; it’s about rhythm as much as anything. If you start having success, it’s easier to get into a rhythm. It doesn’t matter what offense you play.”
LSU, which features one of the nation’s premier defensive lines, has given up just 79.7 yards rushing per game.
And rushing has been a problem spot. The Mountaineers average just 78.7 yards rushing per game.
LSU rotates as many as eight defensive linemen, which is a major concern, Holgorsen said.
“We’ve played six offensive linemen in three games,” Holgorsen said. “We don’t have the luxury of depth right now. Those guys will have to suck it up, and they have to play. That’s nothing new to anywhere I’ve been. If we’ve got five to six linemen to work with, then that’s what we’re going to go with.”
Holgorsen reiterated Tuesday that he has no concern about conference expansion, with Pitt and Syracuse announcing that they are leaving the Big East four days ago.
“I’m quite positive that our guys haven’t paid any attention to what you all have said,” Holgorsen said. “I’m 100 percent positive that I don’t pay any attention to what you all write. I know what’s out there. It’s impossible to avoid it. People are talking about it, whether it’s newspaper, Internet, TV, etc. It’s impossible to avoid.”
He did say he was excited about ESPN’s College GameDay making its first visit to Morgantown in its 25-year history. The ESPN show will air on ESPNU from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and then on ESPN from 10 a.m. to noon.
“It’s good,” Holgorsen said. “I’ve been there before — the excitement level is good. The amount of eyes looking at our facilities and our stadium and the city of Morgantown and the state of West Virginia will be a positive thing. The amount of eyes looking at our program, not only the football team, but the athletic program, the city, and the rest of it, is good and I’m fired up about it. I’m glad it’s here and all that stuff is positive.”