GAME PREVIEW: The climb leads WVU to a battle with former Head Coach Dana Holgorsen

By Zippy Zimmerman, RealWV

The 4-1 Mountaineers prepare to duke it out on Thursday with their former head coach Dana Holgorsen in Houston.

Holgorsen left West Virginia University for Houston in 2019 following a disappointing season from a Mountaineer team which many believed had a chance at winning the national title. Current Mountaineer Head Coach Neal Brown took over following Holgorsen’s departure, and has led the team to an even (26-26) record thus far in his tenure. Holgorsen has abstained from stirring the pot during this week’s lead up to seeing his old team, only stating “… I enjoyed my time at West Virginia, there’s no question. A lot of really, really, really good people, and I know a lot of them are coming. It should make for an exciting game.”

The Houston Cougars have struggled on all fronts thus far in their young college football season. The Cougars are currently (2-3), placing them 13th out of the 14 teams that comprise the Big 12—this is largely due to their (0-2) record within conference play. Offensively, they’ve been able to put points on the scoreboard, averaging 27.4 points per game. Houston has a strong air attack led by quarterback Donovan Smith. Smith has accumulated 1,348 passing yards thus far, placing him 38th among passers. He’s accompanied by his favorite target, Samuel Brown, who has amassed 518 of those passing yards from Smith, placing him 20th in the nation.

The two most notable stats for the Cougar’s offense, is their lack of rushing yards and the number of times which Smith has been sacked. Houston’s main rusher in running back Parker Jenkins has only rushed for 218 of Houston’s total 664 yards this season, and the offensive line has allowed defenses to get to Smith on nine separate occasions. Houston was only able to put up 13 points to TCU’s 36 in their second outing of the season, and 28 to Texas Tech’s 49 in their last matchup. Both teams which the Mountaineers have defeated this season.

The Mountaineers unveil their uniforms for their matchup against Houston. Photo credit: @wvufootball via. Instagram

For West Virginia, they need to continue to win the time of possession battle. The Mountaineer’s rank 10 in the country in the category, averaging 33:11 of offensive possession a game. WVU has shown they don’t want to beat teams by running up the scoreboard, rather they prefer slow methodical offensive drives that tire out the opponent’s defense. The Mountaineer’s defense will need to maintain its high level of efficiency that is has displayed over the past four games—they currently rank 28th in allowed points per game. Although the Mountaineers are only averaging 3.7 yards per rushing attempt against FBS schools, they rank 10th in the country in rushing attempts per game, with an average of 44 a game.

The Mountaineers will have had a week and half to prepare for their matchup with the Cougars of Houston—a much needed rest following the injuries suffered in their last outing at TCU. Although they’ve had success so far, there is still room for improvements on the offensive side of the ball. In order for continued success, it will be imperative for West Virginia to begin capitalizing on both turnovers on downs, and forced turnovers. Empty offensive possessions have been an area of much needed improvement for the Mountaineers. Following their bye-week they’ll look to improve in that area.

WVU will be wearing all white tops and bottoms with their classic blue helmets this week. Kickoff for the game is set for 7:00 p.m. ET Thursday in Houston, Texas. Viewers can tune into FS1 to watch the game, or FS1 live on streaming services. As always, it will be Tony Caridi with the play-by-play call of the game on your local WVU affiliated radio station.


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