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September 24, 2013We're a long, long way from the matchup that had so much hype a year ago.
It was the Big 12 Champions against the new, offensively-gifted new guys last November, a game the Pokes won 55-34.
But Geno Smith and Tavon Austin are long gone from the field in Morgantown, and a new batch is on the gridiron under coach Dana Holgorsen.
What's Holgo's squad look like this season? Let's break it down.
The Mountaineers (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) aren't eye-popping in any statistical category after four matchups. They rank outside of the top 50 in both passing and rushing yards per game this season, and don't have a non-QB with more than 2 scores so far. What's even worse, they only have two receivers with double-digit receptions this season, while Oklahoma State has three receivers after just three games with a few more that are close. Sure, both offenses are built on spreading the ball to multiple guys, but that's extremely unlike a Holgorsen offense.
WVU's D is holding opponents to just 19.2 points per game this season, which is good for 33rd in the nation. They've done very well defending the pass (156.8 yards against per game), and have made big strides in sealing off the corners that OSU gashed them with last season. They're led by redshirt sophomore linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski in tackling, who has 29 total with a sack and a forced fumble.
Where's the O?
When Holgorsen was in Stillwater in 2010, the Cowboys averaged 520.2 yards per game. The coach immediately darted for West Virginia following the season, and has since been dominant there until this season. His offensive unit is averaging just 393.8 yards per game, and only 18.0 points. What's happened since then? Holgorsen is lacking a few tools on the offensive side, but running back Charles Sims has been dependent by averaging 82.0 yards per game on the ground as the lead component of a two-part running back system. Holgs has moved the quarterbacks around quite a bit, already playing three of them this year. The best performer has been Paul Millard, but he was pulled after the Oklahoma game in Week 2. It should go without saying that this is a big, big week for WVU on the offensive side of the ball, as they're definitely struggling.
Who to watch
Sims definitely leads the pack in this one. If he finds ways to get loose it could open up other facets of the team's offensive game, and that isn't good for anyone other than Holgorsen. Beyond Sims, freshman receiver Daikiel Shorts is a name you could hear a lot of. He seems like a carbon-copy of last year's stud at WVU, Tavon Austin, and they use him just like it. OSU D-Coordinator Glenn Spencer said he was worried about Shorts running the Jet Sweeps, and he's definitely something to pay attention to in the passing game as he's been one of the top receivers in two games so far this season.
Obviously Holgorsen has ties to Stillwater, but he's not the only one on staff that knows the team well. WVU defensive coordinator Joe DeForest was on Gundy's staff for years as the special teams coach before leaving for the east coast with Holgorsen, and former All-Big 12 OSU cornerback Andrew McGee is currently the defensive graduate assistant with the Mountaineers as well.
In his weekly press conference, Holgorsen had this to say about the Cowboy offense...
"(Oklahoma State) is trying to play faster than Oregon... Is what I hear. But yeah, we're going to have to defend it, yes. And if you think this is going to be fast, then the next week against Baylor is going to be even faster."
Oklahoma State will travel to Morgantown, West Virginia on Friday, and the game is scheduled to kick off on Saturday at 11 am CT. It will be broadcasted on ESPN.
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