This was touched on briefly in the game blog, but Dana Holgorsen’s emotional reactions — admittedly emotional reactions — to stubbed toes in the first two games are worth circling. Twice now he’s watched his offense get shut down on a third-and-short and angrily decided to go for the first down.
Twice it failed.
Look, I know he won with no trouble in both games, and I can argue for the decision both times because of field position or game situations or practice and things like that, but it’s about as easy to argue against one or both, too.
Some might say disliking the decisions is picky or that he’s working out some things here and he’s learning in blowout wins. Fine, but another might say this is a tough habit to break — especially when you say you’ve given in to stubbornness and anger twice.
What happens when it’s a similar situation in the Big 12? What happens when he’s up two scores on Texas Tech and can kick a field goal? Or when he’s down two scores at Texas and can kick a field goal? What happens when WVU’s threatening to put away Kansas State and can push back the Wildcats offense with a punt? What happens when he’s down 10 at Oklahoma State and can keep his head above water with a punt?
Again, not a crisis here, but certainly worth circling. And maybe it is picky or the product of saturated Geno Smith storylines, but Dana has, thus far, proved to be a good game manager and a very good team manager, save this one little trait that we probably wouldn’t give such attention to if he wasn’t so darned honest about it.
Yet there remains this Midas-like quality to things because his attempt to prod his offense early in the third quarter failed, but succeeded in empowering the defense.
“I was excited,” safety Darwin Cook said. “I wanted to see what we could do with our backs against the wall. You don’t want to see the offense go off the field or anything like that, but I knew it was a great chance for us to grow up and learn.”
WVU let Marshall convert three third downs on its 14-play touchdown drive that followed the failed fourth-and-goal. JMU converted a third-and-5 with a 20-yard run as quarterback Justin Thorpe scrambled and escaped. That brought the ball to WVU’s 3.
“I felt like it was going to be fun,” Cook said. “I wanted to see what this defense could do with some adversity and our backs against the wall. It was good for us because what we were going through, we didn’t want anything easy. We had to see who had something in them to step up and make a play.”
Safety Karl Joseph combined with nose guard Shaq Rowell to stop running back Jordan Anderson after a 2-yard gain. Linebacker Isaiah Bruce, who followed his 16-tackle performance against Marshall with nine against JMU, dropped Anderson for a 2-yard loss. Cook and linebacker Terence Garvin stopped Anderson a yard short of the end zone on third down.
The Dukes called a timeout and ran the same play they used for a 10-yard gain on fourth-and-1 in the second quarter. Thorpe faked a handoff to the fullback and pitched it outside to Anderson. Cook raced to the right sideline, caught Anderson and brought him down as linebacker Doug Rigg arrived to finish the play.
“That was great for us,” Rigg said. “You can try to simulate that in practice all you want, but it’s different in a game with the fans going crazy and the adrenaline you’re feeling.”