By Cam Huffman
Playing in the Big 12 may be a new experience for West Virginia fans, administrators and players, but for the WVU coaching staff, it’s actually much more familiar than was the 2011 season spent in the Big East.
The upcoming game against Texas Tech is a perfect example.
Mountaineer head coach Dana Holgorsen spent eight seasons in Lubbock, Texas, as an assistant under Mike Leach — five as the wide receivers coach and then the final three as an offensive coordinator. He knows the city — and the school — inside and out.
“I’m not going to think twice about it,” said Holgorsen, who left Texas Tech in 2008 to become the offensive coordinator at Houston — assuming full play-calling duties, something he never had under Leach. “I’m over that. I had eight great years there, but I faced Texas Tech when I was at Houston and faced a road game at Texas Tech when I was at Oklahoma State. So it’s nothing new to me. I’m five years removed and have been at three different places since then, so all those feelings and emotions have gone away a long time ago.
“I’m excited about the trip, and, as we do each and every week, we’ll be able to tell the guys what it’s like in Lubbock, Texas.”
Holgorsen also knows a great deal about the Red Raiders’ quarterback, Seth Doege. The 6-foot-1 senior was a high school star in Texas, where his father, Randy Doege, was a well-known high school coach.
As a freshman in 2004, Doege led Crane High School into the Texas state playoffs, where it lost to a team quarterbacked by future University of Texas star Colt McCoy.
That put Doege on the recruiting radar throughout the Lone Star State, and his name grew when he led his team to a 13-0 record as a sophomore.
Holgorsen was well aware of Doege at that point, but the recruiting process slowed down after Doege, who had transferred to Frenship High School, injured his knee the summer before his junior year and then the other knee before his senior season.
While some schools backed off, Texas Tech stuck with him, honoring the scholarship offer, and Doege became a Red Raider, just as Holgorsen was leaving.
“He was a midterm guy and was enrolled at Texas Tech in January when I left to go to Houston,” Holgorsen remembered. “So I never met with him as a Red Raider, never coached him, just followed his high school career. He overcame some injuries and had a great sophomore year. But I didn’t get to see him play, because he tore up the knee two years in a row.”
The Red Raiders’ loyalty paid off. Doege threw for 2,004 yards and 28 touchdowns last year, and he’s already tossed 15 touchdown passes in five games this season, throwing for nearly 1,400 yards.
“You talk about a determined kid that never gave up, and that’s how he plays the game,” said Holgorsen. “He’s stayed the course and made the most of his opportunity to play.”
WVU’s familiarity with the opponent, though, won’t necessarily be an advantage, because Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville also knows plenty about the Mountaineers.
The 2012 season is Tuberville’s third at Texas Tech, and it will be the second time his Red Raiders have faced a Holgorsen-coached team.
In his first season, Texas Tech hosted Oklahoma State, where Holgorsen was offensive coordinator, and learned plenty about a Holgorsen offense in a 34-17 defeat.
“He did a very good job with (Brandon) Weeden, (Justin) Blackmon and those guys,” Tuberville remembered. “He knows what he wants to do. He has a system, and he runs it and sticks with it. He’s got a good running game to go along with it, and he takes advantage of it. They score and they score quickly.”
The running game — which was huge last week, as Andrew Buie rushed for 207 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-45 win over Texas — Tuberville said, is a big thing that sets Holgorsen’s attack apart from other spread offenses.
“Dana understands running the ball,” said the Texas Tech coach. “That takes the pressure off your quarterback. It’s hard to execute every time throwing it down the field. They do a great job of that, but they also do a very good, sneaky job of running the football. They’re very physical with their running game.”
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The Big 12 Conference announced Monday that WVU’s Oct. 20 game with Kansas State in Morgantown will begin at 7 p.m. and be aired on FOX. If both teams win this weekend, it will likely be a battle of top 5 teams. WVU was No. 4 in this week’s USA Today Coaches’ Poll, while Kansas State was one spot behind at No. 5. The teams were fifth and sixth, respectively, in the Associated Press Poll.
The Wildcats are at Iowa State this weekend.
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WVU won two of the three Big 12 individual awards this week, and all of the honorees came from the Mountaineers’ meeting with Texas. Tavon Austin was named the special teams player of the week for the second time, while Buie was the offensive player of the week. Texas defensive end Alex Okafor was the defensive player of the week.
— E-mail: chuffman@