WVU hoping to use momentum in bowl
Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012
Updated: Thursday, December 6, 2012 04:12
After two consecutive losses by a combined 76 points to Texas Tech and then-No. 4 Kansas State, the last thing any of the West Virginia players or coaches wanted was a week off.
"Bad timing for that," said quarterback Geno Smith.
Smith said the Week 9 bye following the 55-14 loss at the hands of the eventual Big 12 champion Kansas State couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Despite Smith’s claims, WVU’s second bye week actually proved to come at an opportune time for the Mountaineers.
Even though West Virginia went on to lose three more consecutive games after the bye, it was clear from the team’s two one-point losses to TCU and No. 12 Oklahoma the Mountaineers had at least stabilized some of their numerous issues heading forward.
In fact, following West Virginia’s latest win, second-year West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen offered the bye week as a potential catalyst for WVU shaking its first five-game losing streak since 1986, in order to finish the season with two straight wins and earn the Mountaineers a trip to the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl.
"In my opinion, we’ve been playing pretty good football for the last four or five weeks," Holgorsen said after the Mountaineers’ 59-10 drubbing of Kansas Saturday. "We didn’t play (well) at Texas Tech, we didn’t play (well) against Kansas State and then had an off week. But since then, I feel like we’ve been playing pretty good football."
The most obvious improvements have been the adjustments made to the offense during the bye week. After putting up just 14 points in back-to-back games against Texas Tech and Kansas State, West Virginia’s offense exploded for 211 points for its final five games. The Mountaineers are also averaging 543.3 yards of offense since the Week 9 bye.
"(We had) couple of tough losses, but then these guys didn’t quit," Holgorsen said. "They wanted to finish the year strong. We got a very tough victory at Iowa State, and then coming here and finishing the game, we played really well on all three sides of the ball. (I’m) excited about the way we finished and glad they went out on top."
Now Holgorsen essentially has a four-week bye to prepare his team to play in the aforementioned Pinstripe Bowl against a 7-5 Syracuse team.
Ironically, the Mountaineers had their first bye last year the week before they traveled to the Carrier Dome in Syracuse to take on the Orange in West Virginia’s second Big East conference game of last season. West Virginia was subsequently blown out 49-23 in its worst loss of the entire season.
Holgorsen told reporters after Saturday’s game against Kansas that he was planning to invoke the same type of motivational tactics he’s used on the Mountaineers during their other bye weeks this season, which includes appealing to the seniors and letting them know this will be the last time they ever officially suit up in the ol’ Gold and Blue for the Mountaineers.
"The only way these seniors are going to really go out on top and have good memories is if they win the last game," Holgorsen said. "So I’ll use that again in the bowl game. Because this isn’t really the true senior day; the next game is really the true senior day."