By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Things are changing rapidly in athletics at WVU. With the move to the Big 12 the rivalries with Pitt and Marshall have fallen by the wayside.
One rivalry that probably won’t end, however, is the one with Maryland, this weekend’s Saturday opponent. Coach Dana Holgorsen believes it is an important game for WVU to continue to play, and over the past few days he has been vocal about it.
“It’s neighboring states that go way back, and it’s the one existing (non-league) game that’s going to continue to be played,” Holgorsen said during the Big 12 coaches call on Monday. “We’re wanting to play regional games, so this is one that’s going to remain on the schedule because it does have so much meaning,” Holgorsen said. “We go up against Maryland in recruiting a lot, so there’s a lot of familiarity between the two programs and it’s going to continue to exist.”
Nothing had changed by his press conference on Tuesday.
“Every game is important, and I think from a fan base that this one is pretty important. I think we have 10 or 12 guys from Maryland, and it’s going to be important to them,” he said.
Holgorsen went on to explain what he meant by that.
“One of the things last year that was big, like when we went and played at Cincinnati, was that the Ohio guys got everybody cranked up. When we went and played Maryland, the Maryland people got people cranked up. When we went and played South Florida, the south Florida kids got people cranked up, and when we went and played Rutgers, the Jersey kids got people cranked up,” he observed.
Maryland is 2-1 after a 24-21 home loss to UConn, a difficult loss for that is where Coach Randy Edsall had been before jumping to the ACC team.
The Terps opened the season with a scary 7-6 victory over William & Mary and then beat Temple, 36-27. Temple is rejoining the Big East.
The Mountaineers led the series 25-21-2 but have dominated recently with six straight victories.
Looking for some prime time
When WVU moved to the Big 12, one of the reasons stated was that it would get more prime time network exposure.
To date that hasn’t happened and a lot of local businesses are not happy with the fact that three of the first four “home” games have featured one of them in Washington, D.C., a 4:30 p.m. opener against Marshall, and then a pair of noon games, including this Saturday’s matchup with Maryland and next Saturday’s historic Big 12 debut against Baylor.
Do not, however, count Holgorsen among those upset with the early starts.
“Not at all,” he said when asked about it.
“You have to play at some time, so we might as well get it over with,” he continued, almost trying to make a joke out of it. “We’re trying to play fast around here. What is a better way to start fast than playing early? As opposed to sitting around being lethargic, let’s just get up and play. Plus, we get to practice for the next week.”
He’ll have to excuse some of the tailgaters who may disagree.
Garrison still in limbo
Doesn’t sound like last year’s leading rusher, Dustin Garrison, out as he recovers from knee surgery just before the Orange Bowl, will be ready to play this week and with each passing week the chances of his redshirting grow.
“We’ll see how he does today,” Holgorsen said. “Each and every week we look to see if he’s getting stronger. He’s been practicing some, so we’ll see how he is and play him if we need him to play and if he is ready to play.
In his place Shawne Alston and Andrew Buie have offered a strong 1-2 punch.
In search of a strong finish
WVU played 59 players last week against JMU and even more against Marshall in the opening blowout, which kind of gave them an excuse for not finishing the game strongly.
It’s an excuse Holgorsen won’t accept.
“A lot of people, even myself, have been guilty of saying ‘Well it’s just the young kids in the fourth quarter and we’re not doing a good job of finishing games.’ We gave up the touchdown in the fourth quarter last week. There were six missed tackles, and offensively for the second game in a row, we didn’t score in the fourth quarter with our young guys,” he said.
“It’s not all just young guys. There are some experienced guys out there as well, and I don’t care who they are, their job is to move the ball or tackle people. It’s great to play those guys in situations, but it needs to look better than it has the past two fourth quarters.”
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.