Tag:Dana Holgorsen
Posted on: October 18, 2011 12:00 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2011 3:19 pm
 

Eye On College Football Midseason Report Big East



Posted by Chip Patterson


Offensive Player of the Year: Geno Smith, West Virginia. In Dana Holgorsen's high-powered offense, the quarterback's communication with the head coach and on-field decision making is pertinent to the system's success. Smith has been a victim of a few slow starts, but has finished every game with an impressive offensive output. Smith is averaging 359.8 yards per game through the air, and completing 64.0 percent of his passes. His ability to find receivers in space has been crucial for the Mountaineers, who only recently found their running game. With 16 touchdowns and 3 interceptions there have been few mistakes for the talented junior, who's next challenge will be leading this team to a conference title. Also considered: Mohammed Sanu, Rutgers; Ray Graham, Pittsburgh; Tavon Austin, West Virginia.

Defensive Player of the Year: Steve Beauharnais, Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have jumped out to a fast start despite only recently finding certain answers at the quarterback and running back position. A huge part of that has been stout play on the defensive side of the ball, led by linebacker Steve Beauhamais. Rutgers' leads the Big East in scoring and total defense, with Beauhamais contributing 32 tackles and ranking 4th in the conference in tackles for loss. Beauhamais also has added 3.5 sacks and a pair of interceptions to cap off a well-rounded defensive stat line for the leader of one the league's best defensive units. Also considered: JK Schaffer, Cincinnati; Sio Moore, Connecticut; Terence Garvin, West Virginia.

Coach of the Year: Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia.
After Bill Stewart's unplanned early exit, Dana Holgorsen deserves credit for stepping in and quickly taking ownership of the program. Much of the staff is still in place, including defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, but there has been no apparent dissension within the program since Holgorsen's promotion. The most conflict Morgantown has seen was the head coach's shot at the fan base after a home game played before a well-below-capacity crowd. Also considered: Greg Schiano, Rutgers; Butch Jones, Cincinnati.

Surprise: Rutgers. With a 5-1 start and two conference victories under their belt, head coach Greg Schiano has all but erased the horrid memories of the 2010 season. While they've shuffled the quarterback and running back positions, arriving on Gary Nova and Jawan Jamison as the apparent starters, the defense ranks 12th nationally only allowing 16.0 points per game. It hasn't always been pretty, but the Scarlet Knights are finding ways to win. Also considered: Cincinnati

Disappointment: Pittsburgh. After promises of "high-octane football," head coach Todd Graham has very little to show from his no-octane Pittsburgh Panthers. There is very little consistency on either side of the ball, with the offense riding running back Ray Graham to stellar performances at times (South Florida) and failing to find the end zone in other contests (Utah). With the talent returning from last season's squad, the Panthers were projected to challenge their backyard rivals for the Big East title. After losing four of their last five, a return to the postseason is even in doubt. Also considered: Louisville.

Game of the Year So Far: Wake Forest at Syracuse. The Orange overcame a 20-7 halftime deficit to knock off Wake Forest 36-29 in overtime on the first night of the college football season. Quarterback Ryan Nassib picked apart a Wake Forest back seven for 15 fourth-quarter points to kick off a "win by any means"-type season for the Orange. Also considered: Maryland at West Virgina.

Game of the Year (To Come): West Virginia at Cincinnati. Three teams poised to race for the Big East title down the stretch seem to be these two teams along with Rutgers. The only way to ensure a championship is to go undefeated in conference play and this is the best chance for someone to knock off the Mountaineers. The Bearcats have an offense that can keep up with West Virginia in a shootout, and their defense is one of the best in the nation at forcing turnovers. Look for Paul Brown Stadium to be lubed up and rocking when West Virginia comes to town on Nov. 12.

CHAMPION: West Virgina. It will take at least one upset or a furious charge from Cincinnati or Rutgers to keep the Mountaineers from claiming the Big East title and returning to a BCS bowl.

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Posted on: October 17, 2011 9:46 am
 

Big East poll reactions, Week 7

Posted by Chip Patterson

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Big East fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.

(AP/Coaches)

11/14. West Virginia

Not a bad week for West Virginia, who saw a rise in both polls despite having the week off. As teams begin to stumble in conference play, the Mountaineers will continue to rise as one of the most impressive 1-loss teams. If they continue to ride the gas pedal against the rest of the Big East conference slate, the Mountaineers could continue to rise and break into the top ten.

However, Dana Holgorsen's squad really does not have much to gain from the pollsters from here on out. The best possible finish for the Mountaineers in 2011 is likely a Big East title and BCS bowl win. Their focus has shifted from the national scene to the six conference match ups left on the schedule. Keep winning and West Virginia will have an opportunity to achieve all of their goals. Any slip ups along the way, and things could get interesting.


Others receiving votes:Cincinnati and Rutgers, both 5-1 overall and undefeated in conference play, saw some attention from the Coaches and Associated Press voters.  The Scarlet Knights put together an impressive comeback against Navy this past weekend, while the Bearcats outlasted the youthful (and sloppy) Louisville Cardinals.  Rutgers is probably the surprise of the conference this season, with freshman quarterback Gary Nova taking over for Chas Dodd.  They will face a tough challenge on Friday, visiting that angry Louisville team looking for redemption. 

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Posted on: October 10, 2011 5:30 pm
 

Big East poll reactions, Week 6

Posted by Chip Patterson

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Big East fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.

(AP/Coaches)

13/16. West Virginia

West Virginia got off to a slow start before riding a 33-point second half to a 43-16 beatdown of Connecticut in their Big East conference opener.  The Mountaineers are off to a 5-1 start under first-year head coach Dana Holgorsen, and should feel good heading into their off week with only a loss to top-ranked LSU.  The Mountaineers will return to action in two weeks against Syracuse, and finish the season with five straight conference games.  

Holgorsen referred to Big East play as "the second season," and that's the way the schedule sets it up for the only ranked team in the league.  As West Virginia found out in 2010, ranking does not hold any weight in the second season.  Despite a national ranking, two conference losses had the Mountaineers playing in the Champs Sports Bowl in December.  It was unranked Connecticut that earned the Fiesta Bowl bid with their play in the "second season."   


Others receiving votes:South Florida and Cincinnati make their second straight appearance as vote-getters, both falling short of the Top 25 once again.  The Bulls and the Bearcats were off in Week 6 and will try to capitalize on what little voter attention they have left with conference matchups ahead in Week 7.  

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Posted on: October 9, 2011 3:04 am
Edited on: October 9, 2011 12:02 pm
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 6



Posted by Chip Patterson


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: West Virginia's rushing game

Freshman running back Dustin Garrison broke out a week ago as the Mountaineers best option running the ball, piling up 291 yards against Bowling Green. Because of the option, it was hard to say that West Virginia had done much more than get a start on fixing their one-dimensional offensive problem. However Garrison had a commendable showing once against against Connecticut, picking up 80 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. The numbers weren't flashy, but when Geno Smith is carving up the defense for 450 yards it serves as a nice compliment. Connecticut also entered the game as the Big East's second leading rushing defense, so the Mountaineers have to feel good about having a more balanced attack as they proceed in conference play.

LOSER: Louisville

North Carolina did not show up to play offensively, and Louisville had several chances to take advantage of mental lapses by the Tar Heels on defense. But the Cardinals were unable to make the most of the opportunity to steal a win on the road and dropped to 2-3 after the 14-7 loss. The defense sacked North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner four times, and held the usually productive offense scoreless in the first half. The Tar Heels were lucky to escape with a win, and Louisville missed out an opportunity to grab potential confidence booster for the young team.

WINNER: Gary Nova

After taking over for starting quarterback Chas Dodd and leading the Scarlet Knights to a double overtime victory against Syracuse, head coach Greg Schiano made the this week's starter a game time decision. When Nova got the nod, he made the most of the opportunity and led the team to a 34-10 win over Pittsburgh. A huge portion of Rutgers' victory on Saturday is due to the play of the Scarlet Knights defense picking off Pitt quarterbacks four times, but the freshman signal caller did just enough to turn those turnovers into the points needed to push Rutgers to the top of the Big East standings.

LOSER: Tino Sunseri

For the second time this season, Pittsburgh's starting quarterback was replaced by backup Trey Anderson after committing one to many turnovers. No need to bring up the "quarterback controversy" topic, head coach Todd Graham has already said Tino is still the starting quarterback for now. But Sunseri's three interception performance was particularly frustrating for the Panther fans who were singing his praises following the beatdown of USF on national television last Thursday. Sunseri has thrown five touchdowns compared to seven interceptions on the season, and has yet to prove he can throw deep in this new high-octane offense. Ray Graham is still the heart and soul of this offensive unit, but he can't do much to prevent or reverse the Panthers' turnover problem.

WINNER: West Virginia's pass rush

In addition to Geno Smith's high-powered passing attack and a growing ground game, the Mountaineers defense was a nightmare for Connecticut on Saturday. Huskies quarterback Johnny McEntee was sacked five times, including once for a safety, and was on the run all night from West Virginia's pass rush. Once West Virginia began building a lead, defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel turned up the pressure and muted any chance for momentum from the Connecticut offense. The Mountaineers held the Huskies to 97 yards of total offense in the second half, keeping drives short while the offense extended the lead. If West Virginia can continue that kind of formula against their other conference opponents, it should result in several more league victories like the one in Morgantown on Saturday.

LOSER: Paul Pasqualoni

When the former Syracuse head coach took the Connecticut job, I am not sure the Huskies' 2-4 start was what he had in mind following a Big East title. The defending league champs got off to a rough start in 2010 before turning the season around in league play, but there has been little to cheer about for the Huskies at this point in the season. Pasqualoni finally solved the quarterback situation, but has no answer for a defense dealing with injuries and inexperience along with a significantly downgraded rushing game. The only UConn victories have been against Fordham and Buffalo, and at this point bowl eligibility is already looking doubtful. Pasqualoni is too far into his career to think of this as a rebuilding opportunity, but his loyalty to his home state makes me think it will take a lot more than one bad season to derail his passion for coaching the Huskies.

WINNER: Syracuse

The Orange are off to a 4-2 start in the 2011 season, thanks to yet another close victory in the final minutes. Syracuse has gone to overtime in three games (2-1) and had every victory decided by seven points or fewer. After the non-victory overtime victory against Toledo, I wrote that the double overtime loss to Rutgers was some weird kind of karma. After Syracuse's 37-34 victory over Tulane on the road, I'm convinced their is voodoo at work.

LOSER: 3,000+ no-shows in Morgantown

The official attendance at Saturday's game was 56,179. After head coach Dana Holgorsen's tirade this past week, all 3,000+ no-shows deserve a stern look from the head coach. NOW DEAL WITH YOUR STERN LOOK.

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Posted on: October 4, 2011 5:40 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 5:47 pm
 

Holgorsen questions commitment of WV fans

Posted by Chip Patterson

While West Virginia fans continue to circulate rumors regarding a possible move to the SEC, head coach Dana Holgorsen dropped some strongly worded comments to the Mountaineer fans this week - particularly criticizing the lack of commitment and attendance.

The announced attendance for the Mountaineers' matchup against Bowling Green was 46,603, well below the 60,000+ capacity. Holgorsen expressed his displeasure with the fan base for the poor showing. The weather was less than favorable on Saturday in Morgantown, but Holgorsen said the climate should be no excuse for that kind of turn out.

"You only get seven opportunities a year, what's so hard about it?" Holgorsen remarked. "Is it too cold? It wasn't too cold for our players. It wasn't too cold for our coaches, managers or trainers. They were out there. So why did we have 20,000 less people than we had last week [against LSU]."

The comparisons to LSU were not isolated to the fan attendance for that primetime showdown. The first-year head coach drew a comparison to the dominant SEC program, pointing out an example of what he seems to consider a more devoted fan base.

"The funny part about it is we were all talking two weeks ago about how much of a different the [West Virginia] fans and crowd make to LSU," Holgorsen said. "Well, LSU played well in front of 62,000 of our people and they turned around went home and played a 1-4 Kentucky team at noon and had 95,000 people."

"You want to talk about an elite program, that's one. I don't know about this place"

A reporter followed up asking if Holgorsen felt like he needed to "beat the drum" more or whether more success would lead to better turnouts. The head coach responded by challenging the Mountaineers' own self-made reputation.

"All I heard was how much this meant to everybody across the state of West Virginia and this was the NFL team here in town and we're going to be there to support you," said Holgorsen. "Having 40,000 people at a game isn't doing that."

The Mountaineers fan base will have a chance to prove their dedication to the program when West Virginia kicks off Big East conference play against Connecticut on Saturday. It's a noon kickoff, and the pre game "Man Walk" will begin at 9:45 a.m.. A noon kickoff against the 2-3 Huskies doesn't scream "high profile," so the fans could make up a lot of ground proving their coach wrong this weekend.

[You can check out the full video of the Holgorsen presser here, courtesy of West Virginia Metro News]

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Posted on: October 2, 2011 8:58 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 2:26 am
 

Big East poll reactions, Week 5

Posted by Chip Patterson

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Big East fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.

(AP/Coaches)

16/19. West Virginia

West Virginia utilized Saturday's 55-10 victory over Bowling Green as a chance to break in a running game that was absent in the loss to LSU a week ago. Freshman Dustin Garrison exploded for 291 yards, and the Mountaineers had more team rushing yards in Week 5 than they had totaled all season. If West Virginia can keep that ground game going in conference play, they will make it much more difficult for opposing defenses to prepare for Dana Holgorsen's high-powered attack.


Others receiving votes:Predictably, South Florida was dropped from both polls following their 44-17 loss to Pittsburgh on national television.  The Bulls still collected a decent amount of votes and could still find themselves back in the polls with a few impressive conference wins.  Cincinnati made their debut as a Big East vote-getter, after matching 2010's win total with their 4-1 start.  

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Posted on: October 2, 2011 1:42 am
Edited on: October 2, 2011 1:51 am
 

What I learned from the Big East (Oct. 1)


Posted by Chip Patterson


1. Either Pittsburgh's better, South Florida's worse, or something. Not entirely sure what it is exactly we can take away from Thursday night's matchup between nationally ranked (probably not for long) South Florida and Pittsburgh. The Bulls are winless in nationally televised Thursday night games, so history wasn't on their side. But this was the same Panthers team that blew fourth quarter leads against Iowa and Notre Dame. The last thing I expected as a 44-17 beatdown in this Big East opener.

But in conference play, sometimes you'll have games that defy football knowledge or logic - and for this we are thankful. In this case, the Bulls are left with plenty of questions. The seemingly potent offense has very different numbers against Pittsburgh and Notre Dame (20 points per game) than they do against Ball State, Florida A&M, and UTEP (53 points per game). The methodical routs of lesser opponents had me thinking this could be South Florida's year to finally finish higher than 3rd in the Big East, but Thursday's loss made me much less certain.

But there are plenty of other factors that help explain Thursday's outcome. Mostly, it was the perfect scenario for Ray Graham to star in Todd Graham's "high-octane" offense. The Panthers had struggled to find consistency in the new system, with quarterback Tino Sunseri looking uncomfortable with the pace early and struggling to get the ball downfield. The scheme is by no means flawless, but Graham's work running the ball and catching out of the backfield helped keep South Florida's defense running all over the field, eventually gassing them for 303 all-purpose yards.

The fact that Pittsburgh had not put together a dominant performance meant there was very little film of the offense working for South Florida to prepare. The short week meant the defense had even less time to prepare. These are not excuses, but the Bulls did not seem ready for Pittsburgh at all. By the time they looked around to see what had happened, the game was already out of hand.

But that's how Todd Graham's system is meant to work. When USF's linebackers were already throwing hands on pads by the third quarter, the Panthers offense smelled blood and went into kill mode rattling off 24 unanswered second half points.

Pittsburgh is definitely improving, and South Florida might not be as flawless as some believed. To what extent both statements are true is yet to be seen, but that discussion will be for another week.

2. Cincinnati might be 2011's dark horse. For a team that was 4-8 a year ago and returns many of the same players, the Bearcats have tied up many of the loose ends that plagued them in 2010. Cincinnati's defense ranked near the bottom of the Big East in most statistical categories a season ago, and virtually the same lineup now is only giving up 12.2 points per game. The level of competition hasn't exactly been top-notch during Cincinnati's 4-1 start, but you have to see results somewhere. The biggest improvement on the defensive end has been the ability to force turnovers and then let the offensive turn them into points. The Bearcats lead the nation with 18 forced turnovers, and there is nothing that all-conference quarterback Zach Collaros likes more than a short field to do work.

Collaros has also rediscovered his rushing game, which took a back seat a year ago after being a weapon in his arsenal as an underclassman. The senior quarterback was the leading rusher against Miami on Saturday, picking up 89 yards on 15 carries in the 27-0 victory over their in-state rivals. Nothing is settled until conference play begins, but if this squad continues to show their improvement in conference play I'd imagine they are top three in the conference with a chance to steal the title in November. By no means the favorite, but definitely a dark horse candidate.

3. West Virginia might have found a ground game. It was a much different caliber of competition, but the Mountaineers delivered with a much-needed rushing performance against Bowling Green in their 55-10 victory. Freshman running back Dustin Garrison led the way with 291 yards and two touchdowns on a bruising 32 carry afternoon. West Virginia entered the game as one of the nation's worst rushing teams. On Saturday they piled up more yards on the ground than they had in the previous four contests combined. The special teams woes from the LSU game continued, but at least they may have found a solution for the unbalanced offense. With teams being forced to respect the rushing attack, quarterback Geno Smith should have plenty of opportunities to stretch opposing defenses and put torment Big East opponents with Holgorsen's offensive system. The rest of the Mountaineers' schedule is made up of their seven Big East conference games. If a return to a BCS bowl is the goal, then the ground game showed up just in time for West Virginia.

4. Syracuse can't avoid karma. The biggest story for Syracuse football in the last week was the win they might not have earned. I completely understand the decision not to overturn the extra point that wasn't, particularly because it wasn't the last play of the game, but the fact remains that the kick was no good. If Toledo can hold on to the ball, Syracuse loses in regulation and the game never goes to overtime.

When the Orange went to their third overtime of 2011 in a game that already featured four field goals, I had a feeling Doug Marrone's squad might not be able to escape this one. After Rutgers (gasp) kicked a field goal to take a 16-13 lead, it was only appropriate that a fumble needed to be reviewed to seal Syracuse's fate. Not trying to hate on Syracuse's team or the Big East's decisions regarding last week's outcome, but Saturday felt like the football gods were doing some self-correction.

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Posted on: September 26, 2011 11:36 am
 

Big East poll reactions (Sept. 25)

Posted by Chip Patterson

The new polls were released on Sunday, and as suggested by Brett McMurphy - holder of an AP ballot - LSU has taken over as the top team in the nation. The coaches poll reflects otherwise, with the Sooners holding on to No. 1 and Alabama locked with the Tigers in a tie for second.

In the Big East, the conference continues to only see South Florida and West Virginia receive any attention from the voters. The Bulls continue their climb up the rankings after their third straight 35+ point performance. West Virginia slipped to No. 22 after falling to LSU at home on Saturday night. With Cincinnati still trying to prove themselves and Pittsburgh continuing to frustrate their fans with inconsistent play, it is hard to find many more teams in the conference worthy of even consideration for a national ranking.

South Florida (AP: 16/Coaches: 14) - The Bulls weren't exactly known for their high-powered offense in 2010, and averaged just 11.0 points in their five losses. But four games into the 2011 season, junior quarterback BJ Daniels is leading one of the most prolific offenses in the nation. Voters and fans alike are impressed with 523.3 yards per game (9th nationally) and 45.5 points per game (10th nationally). The fast start will be met with a challenging stretch ahead for Skip Holtz's team. USF has just one home game (Oct. 22 against Cincinnati) between now and the mid-November. Surviving the extended road test will make or break the Bull's Big East title chances and be reflected in their climb or fall in the polls.

West Virginia (AP: 22/Coaches: 23) - The Mountaineers get credit for climbing back in the third quarter against the AP's new No. 1 team, still hanging on near the bottom of the rankings. Quarterback Geno Smith made some plays under center, but when you throw the ball 65 times against LSU's secondary you are going to expect some interceptions. After facing Maryland and LSU, the Mountaineers will face Bowling Green on Saturday before finishing their schedule against all seven Big East opponents. Rankings will mean much less to West Virginia for the rest of the season, with the focus being on winning the conference title.

Other receiving votes: Not Applicable

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com