By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
A week off, especially so early in the season when there really aren’t any wounds – either physical or psychological – to heal can be a dangerous thing, and West Virginia University coach Dana Holgorsen was well aware of it when his team had an open week following the Marshall victory.
“You worry about having an off week this early in the year and the guys losing routine,” Holgorsen admitted in his Tuesday afternoon press briefing. “That concerned me, but I like our team’s mentality. They wanted to get back out there and get back in the routine, as well as play another game.”
Holgorsen spent the previous week – the off-week – working them hard on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Tuesday and Wednesday was a lot of football,” Holgorsen said. “We put them in about four or five different situations and let them play. The competition was high, and I told them to compete within their positions.”
That, Holgorsen said, went well, and so it was he shifted emphasis on Thursday. He was happy about how that went.
“We did more individual work and let the young guys get after it. Watching the young guys play 30 or so snaps was fun to do. Overall, I was happy with it. If I wasn’t happy with it, we would have practiced on Friday,” he said.
The NFL season began this past week, and it meant the debut of the Nos. 1 and 2 draft picks, each with Big 12 connections.
The No. 1 pick was Andrew Luck, the son of WVU athletic director Oliver Luck, himself a former professional quarterback after a career as a Mountaineer.
Andrew Luck’s first performance for the Indianapolis Colts was a mixed bag.
The Chicago Bears pounded the Colts, 41-21, and Luck did pass for 309 yards and a touchdown. But he threw three interceptions and was sacked three times.
“Chapter One of his novel of ‘The School of Hard Knocks’ is completed,” Oliver Luck said. “All these rookie guys need almost a full year to fully comprehend the game, the complexity. It’s the same as in college. You come in as a freshman, and it’s hard to be on your game.”
It was a lot better for former Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, the Heisman Trophy winner who was selected by Washington and was the only one of five rookie starters to lead his team to victory, 40-32, over New Orleans.
While his coach at Baylor, Art Briles, did not see the game, he saw the highlights.
“He was the same old Robert, making plays,” he said.
Did such quick success surprise Briles.
“Not at all. He’s a great football player. There’s a reason he won the Heisman and why he was taken No. 2 in the draft,” Briles said.
Two other Big 12 quarterbacks debuted on Sunday but neither had success, Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State losing as Cleveland’s starter and former Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill losing for Miami.
There was some talk that WVU might debut its new grey uniforms in Washington, D.C., against James Madison, it being designated a Mountaineer home game, but if that is the plan, Holgorsen isn’t tipping his hand.
“Maybe,” he answered, when asked about it. “I don’t make that decision. The captains make that decision.”
Make no doubt that Holgorsen likes the idea of playing in the D.C. area and thinks it is important to the program.
“It is important to us to have a presence over there (in the area). It is important too, recruiting-wise,” he said. “It is important to the 20 or so kids from that area. Oliver (Luck) and Dr. (James) Clements (WVU president) have looked at it as important. We have switched conferences and will be playing a lot of games in the Southwest and Midwest, so this is important for us. In the Big East, we played over there three times a year. We want to have a presence.”
Holgorsen also likes playing a game or two in a professional stadium, Fed-Ex Field being home to the Washington Redskins.
“It is nice for our guys to play in the pro stadiums,” he said, adding something that maybe Pitt can take as a jab. “I wouldn’t want my home stadium to be a pro stadium.
“We did it twice last year, and it seemed like our guys got juiced up for that. Next year, we will play in the Ravens stadium (in Baltimore). Family and friends get excited for that, too. Recruits and players do, too.”
Here’s a note to think about. When WVU defeated Marshall in the opener, it was the first time in Holgorsen’s tenure at WVU that the team won a game without ever having trailed at one time or another during the game.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.