Bad memories for motivation
MORGANTOWN - Most of those involved with West Virginia's football program have a vivid recollection of what happened to the Mountaineers a year ago at Connecticut.
Coach Dana Holgorsen does not.
He wasn't around when West Virginia ran for 279 yards, had 414 yards of total offense, held UConn to less than 300 yards, sacked the Huskies four times and still lost. He doesn't recall the seven fumbles. He wasn't there when one of those fumbles, at the UConn 1-yard line in overtime, cost the Mountaineers in a 16-13 loss.
He's not still kicking himself over the one loss, more than any other, that kept West Virginia out of a BCS bowl and put Connecticut into one.
So, shortly after the Mountaineers throttled Bowling Green 55-10 Saturday to move to 4-1 and end the non-conference portion of their season, Holgorsen began to study. He wanted to know what happened.
His conclusion about that defeat a year ago in East Hartford, Conn.?
"That's going to provide a lot of motivation for our guys this week,'' Holgorsen said.
Indeed, if there was any question about whether the Mountaineers could get up for Saturday's noon Big East opener at home against a UConn team that has limped to a 2-3 start, Holgorsen discovered through his film study that that shouldn't be an issue.
He saw that anyone who was around for that game on the West Virginia side of things should be at no loss for motivation.
"I wanted to familiarize myself with what they went through last year,'' Holgorsen said of watching a game that happened while he was busy coaching the offense at Oklahoma State. "We played really well defensively against them and offensively we didn't play terrible. We just turned it over four times, which ended up being the difference in the game.
"It's an important game, it's a conference game and our guys will be motivated due to the fact that we lost to them last year and didn't go to a BCS game because of it.''
This is not the first time Holgorsen has dipped into the archives to study a game he didn't see and really has no relevance to this year. Because he wasn't around last season, Holgorsen wants to familiarize himself with anything that could be cause for motivation. He did it with tapes of last year's games with Marshall and LSU. He will likely do it for every remaining game, as well, since the final seven opponents were on West Virginia's schedule a year ago.
"I typically do that not for schemes, but personnel and how they stack up against our guys,'' he said. "I don't pay a whole lot of attention looking at the schemes from last year. But I did it with LSU and I did it with Marshall. You look for motivational factors on what we've got to do to win the game.''
What Holgorsen saw in watching West Virginia's loss at UConn a year ago was missed opportunities and self-destruction. The Mountaineers lost four of those seven fumbles and a game they should have won. In the final analysis, it was the difference between finishing alone in first place in the Big East and finishing in a three-way tie with Pitt and the Huskies.
The Mountaineers lost the tiebreaker and the BCS berth because of that loss.
"After practice [Sunday night] we talked about what happened last year and this being the second part of the season, which is conference play,'' Holgorsen said. "I anticipate that our guys will have a good week.''
Still, the beginning of league play doesn't change things for Holgorsen and the staff. They faced a challenge motivating the players a week ago after a loss to No. 1 LSU and a lesser opponent coming to town in Bowling Green. But aside from motivation, there is little difference between this week and last.
"Not for us as a staff. For the kids it probably is. For the fan base it probably is,'' Holgorsen said. "I would anticipate a bigger crowd and a little rowdier crowd, unlike what we had last week. You guys in the media probably treat it different. But as a coaching staff it's about a routine and getting our guys ready to play.
"Last week we had some challenges to reach our kids due to the fact that we didn't have to do much the week before. This past week we had to do quite a bit to reach our kids. I would assume it will swing back to the other side. We're not going to have to do a whole lot to get them ready to play this week.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org.