MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy can relate to Dana Holgorsen’s rut at West Virginia.
The Mountaineers are struggling to score one year after their offense was prolific but overshadowed by a struggling defense and a five-game losing streak.
Gundy gets the chance to add to Holgorsen’s headaches today when No. 11 Oklahoma State (3-0, 0-0 Big 12) plays its conference opener at West Virginia (2-2, 0-1).
Gundy went 1-7 in Big 12 play in his first season in 2005. Now he’s the school’s all-time winningest coach.
Holgorsen was Gundy’s offensive coordinator in 2010 and is 19-11 so far in three seasons as the Mountaineers’ head coach. Most of those wins came in 2011 during West Virginia’s march to an Orange Bowl win.
“I think Dana will be fine,” Gundy said. “I don’t really pay much attention to what’s going on outside of our program, but I believe it’s a learning process that all head coaches go through.”
West Virginia had six turnovers and was limited to six first downs in a 37-0 loss at Maryland last week, the first time in 12 years that the Mountaineers were held scoreless. Holgorsen saw panic set in among some players and he tried to restore a sense of calm this week.
“We can’t have guys who are afraid to make a mistake,” he said.
Some are bound to happen against Oklahoma State, which is coming off a bye week and has outscored opponents 136-41.
Among the Oklahoma State players that will be reunited with Holgorsen is quarterback J.W. Walsh, who was recruited by him.
Walsh was hurt and didn’t play against the Mountaineers last year. This season he’s averaging 214 yards passing and a team-high 61 yards rushing per game.
Holgorsen described Walsh as “a winner,” while the sophomore recalled Holgorsen during his recruiting visit as “a character.”
“He was definitely a lot of fun to get recruited by and talk to, and I know he’s a great coach,” Walsh said.
Here are five things to know as Oklahoma State makes its first trip to West Virginia since 1928:
QB SHUFFLE: Clint Trickett is the third starting quarterback for West Virginia this season. The Florida State transfer got the call after redshirt freshman Ford Childress tore a chest muscle and was unable to practice this week. It will be Trickett’s first start since October 2011 when he was subbing for EJ Manuel. Paul Millard started the first two games but lost his job after a 16-7 loss at Oklahoma to Childress, who started the last two.
COACH UNDER MICROSCOPE: West Virginia’s Joe DeForest remains under scrutiny since being moved from defensive coordinator to special teams coach. A muffed punt led to a Maryland touchdown last week and there have been penalties on punts and kickoffs this season. And this month DeForest was mentioned in Sports Illustrated articles that alleged misconduct and potential NCAA violations at Oklahoma State starting in 2001. DeForest was a Cowboys’ assistant starting in 2001 before being hired by Holgorsen in 2012. Among the numerous allegations were that DeForest paid performance bonuses to players. Both schools are investigating and have notified the NCAA.
FAST AND FURIOUS: Don’t look for a ball-control tempo, at least out of Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have eight TD drives of less than two minutes this season and is averaging 74 offensive plays per game. West Virginia is averaging 66 – far below what Holgorsen would like. “I need to get to terms with the tempo and force ourselves to play faster,” he said.
SENSATIONAL STEWART: Oklahoma State’s Josh Stewart scored his first TD of the season on a 67-yard punt run against Lamar two weeks ago. He also had a 41-yard punt return in the game. West Virginia is familiar with Stewart, who torched the Mountaineers for three TDs last year and had 13 pass receptions for a career-high 172 yards. He scored on catches of 21 and 20 yards and on a 46-yard run.
UNKIND HOME: West Virginia lost in Morgantown three times last season and needed to overcome a 10-point halftime deficit to beat William & Mary of the Bowl Subdivision in the season opener. The Mountaineers have lost three straight against ranked opponents, including the last two at home. Oklahoma State is 16-5 on the road over the past four seasons. “We’ve traveled well and handled it like it’s a business trip,” Walsh said. “With the leadership we have on this team, we will continue to handle traveling with success.”