The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

October 26, 2011

Coach likens Rutgers to Syracuse

No. 25 West Virginia takes on Scarlet Knights Saturday

The last thing West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen wanted was a bunch of questions about conference expansion.

Especially coming off a humiliating 49-23 loss to Syracuse.

But as news leaked that WVU had been accepted by the Big 12, that’s exactly what he got.

“I don’t have any dealings with that,” he said of WVU going to the Big 12. “If I had an opinion, I don’t even know who I’d call. If I called (athletic director) Oliver Luck and Dr. Clements, they’d probably laugh at me and say, ‘You need to worry about Rutgers.’ That’s true — 100 percent true.”

He was asked if anyone in the Big 12, where Holgorsen coached at Oklahoma State, had reached out to him.

“No. All my connections are coaches,” Holgorsen said “What do you think they’re doing this week?”

The same thing as Holgorsen — preparing for a game.

And this week, No. 25 West Virginia (5-2, 1-1 Big East) will try to rebound at Rutgers (5-2, 2-1). The game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised on ABC.

Holgorsen sees a lot of Syracuse in Rutgers. And the Scarlet Knights beat the Orange 19-16 in double overtime this season.

“Rutgers is the same type of team as Syracuse,” Holgorsen said. “They’re well-coached and they play hard. The thing most impressive about their defense is how hard they play and how aggressive they are to attack the ball to get the ball out. They lead the nation in turnovers — they’ve got 25 of them. We’ve got eight, if I’m not mistaken.

“They do a good job of that.”

Holgorsen said the onus is on the offense to not turn the ball over. Quarterback Geno Smith threw two interceptions against Syracuse.

Another similarity is the fact that Rutgers will try to sustain drives.

“Offensively, they control the clock; they control the ball,” Holgorsen said. “Their special teams are extremely solid. It’s going to be a challenge to go up there. It’s going to be much like Syracuse. They’re going to be fired up about playing at home, and they’re going to be fired up about playing the Mountaineers.

“We’re going to get their best shot. If we want to win a championship this year, then we’ve got to be able to handle that. We didn’t handle it last week, and we need to be able to handle it this week.”

Holgorsen was impressed by Scarlet Knights receiver Mohamed Sanu, who has an eye-popping 65 receptions for 683 yards and six TDs. He has lined up in the backfield in the past, but has stayed more at the receiver position this season.

“When he catches the ball 16 times a game, I’d keep him out as receiver, too,” Holgorsen said. “He’s been very productive at receiver. He’s a good player. We’ve got to cover him. If he’s out wide, we’ll be in situations that it’s one-on-one with the corners. If he’s inside, we’ve got to pass him off, much like we didn’t do with the tight end last week. The guy’s an eligible receiver, so we’ve got to cover him.”

He also likes the way true freshman quarterback Gary Nova has responded, completing 73 of 132 passes for 870 yards and seven TDs.

“He’s getting better — he’s like all true freshman quarterbacks. Guys that are that young struggle at times, but consistently get better,” Holgorsen said. “They’ve been going back and forth, and they may still go back and forth, you never know. Once you settle on a guy and give him reps, he’ll get better and better.”

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