By Cam Huffman
When West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen hears the word “trap,” one thing comes to mind. He envisions a play where the back side guard pulls and provides the lead block for a running back, leading the way through a hole. That’s the only definition he accepts.
When No. 5 WVU (5-0) hits the road to Lubbock, Texas, to face Texas Tech (4-1) Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Jones AT&T Stadium — a game that will be broadcast on ABC — all of the earmarks will be in place for the other type of trap, the one analysts and fans love to discuss during the week as another football Saturday approaches.
The Mountaineers are coming off a huge win on the road at Texas, a 48-45 triumph in front of the largest crowd to ever watch WVU play — and the largest ever at Texas’ Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium — that officially tabbed WVU as a Big 12 player in its first year in the conference, as well as earning the Mountaineers a great deal of national respect.
Up next is a battle in Morgantown with No. 6 Kansas State. If everything goes as planned, the Mountaineers and Wildcats could both be undefeated and ranked in the top 5 as FOX sends the game to a national television audience.
Between those two sits Saturday’s matchup with an unranked Texas Tech squad that has some talent but is coming off a 41-20 thrashing at home against Oklahoma. It’s the perfect scenario for WVU to look ahead and not play its best in a typical “trap game.”
“I don’t know what a trap game means. What does that mean?” Holgorsen asked rhetorically. “Did you feel like our game against Baylor, from an atmosphere standpoint, was good? That will be what it will be like at Texas Tech. They’ve got 60-some-thousand people that care about their football, and I would assume it will be pretty rowdy.
“That’s the beauty of the Big 12. Every game is like that. Was Texas a little bit above and beyond? Yes. But that environment exists (everywhere) and we need to get used to having those types of games. That’s why we wanted to be in the Big 12. I’m looking forward to it.”
Holgorsen said having focus during practice and energy on the sidelines is important every week, but he doesn’t expect that to be a problem for his players against the Red Raiders.
“If you don’t have the ability to understand that every week is the same, and that we’ve got to be able to trust everybody involved to do the same thing every week, you’ll get beat, whether it’s a ‘trap game’ or a ‘big game,’” the second-year coach, a former Texas Tech assistant, explained. “It’s just a game. It’s the same thing every week.
“It’s all about staying on the grind, and if these guys want to win a championship, then they’ve got to learn to do that. You can’t worry about what happened in the previous game. The next game has to be every bit as important as the previous one. We’ve had three pretty emotional games in a row with Maryland, Baylor and Texas, and these guys have got to understand that’s the way of life in college football. Hopefully we have a group that understands that.”
Saturday will be WVU’s fifth straight game without an off week, and that, Holgorsen admitted, can become a concern. Playing week after week in the Big East simply didn’t take the same toll on the players’ bodies as playing week after week in the Big 12.
“The game’s physical,” he said. “Every game you play in is physical. So you’ve got to try to stay healthy and do things to keep your body in shape, such as go to treatments, eat good, lift good and sleep at night. From a mental standpoint, you have to stay focused and understand that everybody you play can beat you. If you think you can take anything for granted, then you’ll get beat.”
When WVU boards the airplane Friday, it will also be the second straight week it has flown more than 1,400 miles into the Lone Star State, but Holgorsen said the travel isn’t the concern that many believe it is.
“It’s probably a little easier than driving to Cincinnati or the same as flying to (South) Florida,” he said, comparing the Big 12 road journeys to road trips in the Big East. “It’s an hour longer than flying to Rutgers. It’s 2 hours and 45 minutes over there and 2 hours and 15 minutes back. We’re on a plane maybe an extra hour, so the routine is no different.
“I don’t view it as a big deal. We had zero glitches, and it was no different in my mind. It’s probably a little different for (fans and media) going commercial. But from a charter standpoint, it didn’t affect us.”
So if the flights and the schedule aren’t a concern, what does worry the WVU coach?
Simple. All of Holgorsen’s concern is on a Texas Tech squad that runs an offense similar to that of the Mountaineers and is ranked among the nation’s leaders on defense.
“Texas Tech’s a good football team,” he said. “They had a setback last week (losing to OU), but they’ll be ready to go. That’ll probably motivate them even more. I see it’s their homecoming, and they’ll be fired up about playing. There will be 60,000 rowdy people there that will be ready to get a crack at the Mountaineers, and we’ll have to play well on all three sides of the ball. It will be a challenge, and we’ll have to prepare as hard as we ever have.”
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