West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen can certainly feel his seat chilling with each passing win. In fact, Holg’s boys have already outperformed last season’s pair of conference wins and are just one more away from equaling the 2012 mark of four Big 12 victories.
With this season rapidly shaping into the most successful WVU run in its new conference, it’s time to give credit where credit is due. And no, I’m not talking about Josh Lambert. Somehow, someway, through predictable play calling and questionable clock management, Dana’s team is finding ways to win.
On Saturday the Mountaineers claimed their biggest W since leaving the Big East. But, it wasn’t just that they won, it was how how they won. WVU held No. 4 Baylor to a season low 27 points. To put that in perspective, the Bears still have the highest scoring offense in the country. The Mountaineer defense really was that good. Bryce Petty was sacked four times, held to 3-16 on third down, and couldn’t find the endzone after tying things up early in the third quarter. When you factor in the strength of the teams they’ve faced, Saturday was hands down the best defensive outing of the season for the Blue and Gold.
Offensively, things continued to roll, especially Dana’s personal forte, the passing game. Quarterback Clint Trickett is having the kind of season former WVU signal caller Geno Smith could have only dreamed about. Trickett has found his way into the school record books with eight straight 300 yard games, and ranks in the top 20 of just about any statistical category measuring QBs. Maybe the only downside? He’s forcing me to consider retiring the nickname I bestowed on him last season, Clint Trickell.
Against Baylor, Trickett outdueled on of the nation’s top QBs, throwing three touchdowns to make up for a fumble lost and an interception. If he is to truly vanquish his ‘Trickell’ alter ego, Clint has to cut down on the turnovers. But, with the way Dana’s system has been working this season, any version of Clint should be enough to keep these Mountaineers competitive.
On the heels of Dana’s most important win as a head coach, it’s naturally time to overreact. So, I’m going to do it. WVU has made its triumphant return to land of the nationally ranked, and things should, in theory, only go up from here. Three winnable road games remain on the 2014 slate (Oklahoma State, Texas, Iowa State), with a pair of home dates with ranked opponents sprinkled in (TCU, Kansas State). If the ‘Eers can come away with just four wins down that stretch, and get a little help from the rest of the league, a Big 12 conference championship isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility.
Taking down TCU or Kansas State will be no small task, but this Mountaineer team has shown that it can play with the likes of Bama, Oklahoma, and now Baylor. So you’d be wrong to count them out of a late season run.
Overreactions and high hopes aside, Holgorsen getting this team to 5-2 and No. 22 in the country is nothing short of amazing. Even the most optimistic WVU fan wouldn’t have taken that preseason bet. Whether Dana’s group continues to move back onto the college football radar this year or whether the Baylor win turns out to be the peak, the quiet whispers that were beginning to grow louder have undeniably been quelled. Congratulations, Dana Holgorsen, you’re officially off the hot seat. For now.