West Virginia University head football coach Dana Holgorsen had a bad week leading up to his team's match-up with Oklahoma State on Saturday. His team turned the weekend into gold with their victory over the Cowboys at Milan Puskar Stadium. The win wasn't the prettiest ever witnessed by Mountaineer Nation, but any win against a team ranked 11 is certainly satisfying.
The Mountaineers improved to 1-1 in Big-12 conference play with the victory.
Last year the defense was among the worst statistically in the country. Against Oklahoma State, it was the defense that secured the victory. The offense sputtered at times and special teams continued to be less than special. Still, the defense held their ground time and time again.
With Oklahoma State leading 7-0 Mountaineer quarterback Clint Trickett threw his first of two interceptions in the game. The Cowboy offense took possession at their own 49 yard line and two plays later Mountaineer defensive back Ishmael Banks intercepted a J.W. Walsh pass and returned it for a touchdown tying the score.
For the rest of the game the Mountaineer defense would harass the Oklahoma State offense and the 7-7 tie would be the closest the Cowboys would get to the victory.
The Cowboy's entered the game as the only team to score a touchdown on every red zone possession this season. They were 15 for 15 with a first down and goal inside the two yard line and they left Morgantown 15 for 16. Thanks to a stingy WVU defense that refused to give up the touchdown.
With third and goal inside the one yard line Mountaineer defensive lineman Dontril Hyman shot through and tackled Cowboy running back Jeremy Smith for a five yard loss. Then Oklahoma State kicker Ben Grogan hit the upright on the ensuing field goal attempt and the Mountaineer defense had held.
The score remained WVU 24 Oklahoma State 21.
Holgorsen has repeatedly stated he wanted his team to compete, bad things happen in games, players have to find a way to make a play. His defense found that way, and his offense did just enough to hold on for the victory.
On third and seven with the ball at the Oklahoma State 31 yard line Jordan Thompson laid out for a 17-yard reception and the first down. Thompson has been called a great player in spring practice, until yesterday he had not showed that same potential in a game.
Kevin White has been known more for his drops of potential touchdown passes this season, against Oklahoma State he made a tough catch of a Trickett pass that allowed his team to take a 14-7 lead. All day the receivers began to show their potential and made plays on the ball, just as their coach had been asking.
Let's be honest, this was not a pretty football game, it was about as ugly a game as has been played in Morgantown in some time. In fact, the video of this game could easily be used as a training video on how not to win a football game.
Instead, to Mountaineer fans everywhere it is a testament to how Holgorsen's team followed his lead and never gave up. It was Holgorsen that planted the seeds for this upset following the embarrassing loss last week to Maryland.
In the post game press conferences for the Maryland game Holgorsen only allowed players from the defensive side of the ball to answer questions. Originally, it was thought that was Holgorsen protecting his players on offense from what was sure to be pointed and inflammatory questions about their performance in the loss.
What Holgorsen was truly doing was setting the stage for the next game. Ford Childress had injured his pectoral muscle in the loss to Maryland and Holgorsen wanted to keep that injury quiet. The news did not break until late Thursday evening on Holgorsen's weekly radio in show.
That decision was a master stroke of gamesmanship by Holgorsen. He protected his injured quarterback and his first time starting quarterback with one move. Plus, he forced the Oklahoma State coaching staff to prepare for Childress and then adjust for Trickett.
Holgorsen stood at the podium last Saturday and took full responsibility for the ugly performance and the loss to Maryland. While at the same time positioning his team to produce a much needed signature win against the Big-12's preseason pick as champion.
Holgorsen served notice to the members of the Big-12, Morgantown is not an easy place to win a conference football game. The frustration and anger from the loss to Maryland has been replace with the relief and joy of winning against Oklahoma State.
Holgorsen's team may not be the definition of pretty, and will probably continue to make mistakes. What they will do is compete. The fight that was missing from the team last season is alive and well in the team this season. It is that fight that Mountaineer football was once known for and will be known for the rest of this season.
Mountaineer Nation should realize that Holgorsen is responsible for all of it.