Column - Holgorsen Era begins with success in 2011
Published: Sunday, December 4, 2011
Updated: Sunday, December 4, 2011 23:12
It's been quite a year for West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen.
When he was hired last December, Holgorsen was going to spend the 2011 season as the Mountaineers' offensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting. After spring practice and an interesting summer, Bill Stewart resigned and just like that, Holgorsen found himself with his first head coaching job.
From the day he was introduced as the school's 33rd head football coach, Holgorsen's goals were simple.
"We'll be united as coaches, we'll be united as players and administrators to help bring championships to Morgantown," Holgorsen said in June.
Maybe it wasn't the ideal way to do it, but with their win Thursday against South Florida, Holgorsen achieved that goal by clinching a share of the Big East Conference title.
He became the fourth Big East coach to win at least a share of the conference championship and the first since former Miami (Fla.) coach Larry Coker did it in his first season with the Hurricanes in 2001.
With all things considered and all the obstacles that West Virginia has encountered, I think it's pretty impressive to see the success this team has been able to have this year.
Sure, it was never really pretty when the Mountaineers won games, but at the end of the day that wasn't what mattered.
Following deflating losses to Syracuse and Louisville, West Virginia found itself in a tough position where it had to win out in order to even have a chance to play in a BCS game and earn a share of the league title.
In each of the last three crucial games – and also the game against Rutgers – the Mountaineers fell behind and had to work their way out of a hole in order to win. They turned it over, had troubles on special teams and defense ,and made mental mistakes that would have – and probably should have – costed most teams the game.
But they still found ways to win.
"Give the guys a bunch of credit for hanging in there and continuing to play and not caving in when they had the opportunity to cave in," Holgorsen said. "I'm just extremely proud of them, and I'm obviously glad that we pulled it out.
"The way we pulled it out is just kind of who this team has become."
While the players definitely get most of the credit, something has to be said about the way Holgorsen was able to handle this team.
It can't be easy stepping up from a coordinator to head coach. The way he was able to step into the situation and take this team to where it is now is pretty amazing.
To be honest, when the Mountaineers fell to Louisville at home, I wasn't the most optimistic person in the world when it came to the way their season would end.
A lot of things had to get better quickly, or else I felt they would lose to Cincinnati and South Florida on the road.
I didn't know if West Virginia, led by a first-year coach, a relatively young coaching staff and a defense that, for the most part, was still inexperienced and struggling mightily to stop teams from scoring, would be able to go on the road in tough environments and find way to win.
And now they're heading to the Orange Bowl.
But Holgorsen isn't taking a lot of time to think back on what's happened so far this year.
His focus is on the future.
"I don't sit there and reflect on anything. I keep full steam ahead and whatever the next challenge is is what we're going to focus on," he said. "I'm sure when I'm old and gray I will sit back and reflect on it.
"Until that happens, it's all about what's in front of us."