Bowl eligibility still not Holgorsen talking point
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - For a couple of weeks now, Dana Holgorsen has been regularly quizzed on whether he had begun using the specter of bowl ineligibility as motivation for his West Virginia football team.
He hadn't, he said. And now, thanks to Saturday's 30-27 overtime win at TCU, he can get through another week without bringing it up.
"We've been trying to take them one game at a time and we weren't really looking at the big picture,'' Holgorsen said Monday. "The one thing we've been trying to talk and stress with our guys is just sticking together, and I think we've done a great job. Effort's never been a problem. Attitude's never been a problem. Just take it one game at a time and try to improve.''
Holgorsen hasn't seen it necessary to bring up bowl eligibility in anything more than a passing way because of simple mathematics. The Mountaineers weren't - and still aren't - in a position of needing to win every game in order to salvage a bowl bid, and so until and unless that time came he was just going to stick to the tried and true one-game-at-a-time mantra.
It's still not an issue thanks to that win at TCU. The simple fact is that the Mountaineers (4-5, 2-4 Big 12) need only to win two of the last three in order to salvage the necessary six wins to reach a bowl. That begins with Saturday night's home game against Texas (6-2, 5-0) and then moves onto a road game at Kansas and the home finale against Iowa State, the latter two at the bottom of the Big 12 standings.
But just because Holgorsen hasn't broached the subject of bowl eligibility doesn't mean it hasn't been discussed. It just hasn't been broached by Holgorsen.
"Going into the TCU game, there was some talk with some of the guys about that very thing, especially the seniors getting together,'' Holgorsen said. "They didn't want to be the first team to have a losing season in a while. A bowl game is important to them.
"I haven't taken that approach.''
There could come a time, of course, when he delves into it. The fact is, West Virginia is still a loss away from being in the position of needing to win every game in order to become bowl eligible. Yes, it could come if West Virginia loses another game. One loss means the Mountaineers have to be perfect after that. Who knows, it could come this weekend if Texas wins. It would have been the situation had the Mountaineers lost to TCU.
But again, until and unless the time comes, Holgorsen figures it's better to concentrate on more tangible aspects.
"It's just a matter of trying to improve with me each and every week,'' Holgorsen said. "But with the guys in the locker room, they started to talk about that to use as a little bit of a motivational factor.''
Maybe it worked, maybe not. It's impossible to tell what kind of an effect a speech or two in a locker room ever has, no matter who gives it.
But while Holgorsen insists he will shy away from it unless it becomes necessary, he seems glad to have a handful of players who will take it upon themselves to essentially attempt to rally the troops.
"It's important. That's where leadership comes in,'' Holgorsen said. "We don't have a ton of seniors, but the seniors don't have to be the leaders. But we do have a collection of seniors - especially defensively and on the offensive line - that I've been very impressed with and very proud of as far as how they've taken it and not let this team quit and just focused on trying to get better each and every week.''
As for Holgorsen, he'll shy away from that specific rah-rah stuff, at least for now.
"It's not something you really need to talk about until mathematically you [are in a position where you] lose and you're out,'' Holgorsen said. "We weren't at that juncture yet.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.