Head coach Dana Holgorsen met with the West Virginia media Tuesday afternoon for one of his last mid-week media chats of the season. The Mountaineers head coach previewed the last home game of the season, a noon kick facing the 5-5 Texas Longhorns at home, and spoke of the importance of sending the seniors out of Milan Puskar singing “Country Roads” one last time.
” . . . first thing that comes to mind is the last home game, Senior Day. We have 20 seniors,” Holgorsen said. “verything we do this week will be about those guys, and getting them a victory on Saturday to close out their career.”
Coach Holgorsen was quick to warn those in attendance to not take lightly the 5-5 record this Longhorns team has accumulated over this season. Holgorsen pointed out just how strong this team’s wins and losses have been, and how much more first-year head coach Tom Herman’s offense really brings to the table.
“Texas is coming in; I’m putting everybody on high-alert on this 5-5 thing. We’re sitting here at 7-3 with three losses to the Top-15 teams, or whatever it is. They aren’t any different. Those guys have lost close games to the likes of Southern Cal, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU. The last time I checked, those guys are all in the Top 15, too, right? They’ve done pretty much what we’ve done; they’ve beaten teams, then they’ve lost some close games to really good football teams,” Holgorsen warned. “They have new stuff going on, we know they have a new coach and are changing some things up with schemes and coaches and culture and all that good stuff. But the thing that looks the same to me, and I’ve competed against Texas, coached against them for the better part of about 15 years now, is they always have the best players, period.”
Coach Holgorsen has clearly seen his fair share of Texas teams, both with his years at West Virginia and his years prior to the Mountaineers in the Big 12. This Longhorn team, however, brings an edge of difficulty in preparing for its offense. As of Tuesday, it was still unsure which quarterback, Shane Buechele or Sam Ehlinger, would start which poses a threat for the Mountaineers defense to fully prepare.
“We don’t know about their quarterback situation; we’re all aware of it. (Shane) Buechele is a guy we faced last year that throws it all over the place. He has a history of being able to throw the ball and does a great job of that. (Sam) Ehlinger is the young kid, bigger guy, that they run a lot and has been very, very effective. It’s a little different of a situation to last week where, regardless of what quarterback was going to be out there, it was going to be about the same thing,” Holgorsen said. “These guys are both capable of hurting you in their own kind of way. Buechele will run it, but he’s more of a thrower. Ehlinger can throw it, but he’s more of a runner. So, we have to be on guard when it comes to that. I’m expecting both to play, and we’re going to prepare for both.”
Texas’s defense will pose another challenge for the Mountaineers offense Saturday afternoon, as Coach Holgorsen sings Todd Orlando’s defense’s praises, making all aware how difficult going up against this team could be.
“Their defense is probably the best defense we’ve faced all year. They have a whole bunch of talent, all guys that we’ve faced in the past, with a couple of new guys. They aren’t just rolling a bunch of freshmen out there because they have a new coaching staff, they have a lot of experience,” Holgorsen remarked. “I’m looking at probably somewhere in the neighborhood of about 15 juniors and about five seniors on this two-deep. They’re just experienced; all these guys we’ve faced, and they’re getting better.”
Finally, the head coach spoke about the temporary end of the White brothers era as Ka’Raun and Kyzir both play in their last home games in the old gold and blue Saturday. The White family has become loved by all of Mountaineer nation, maybe by none moreso than Coach Holgorsen himself.
“This is the end of the White era – that is sad. That’s sad, although I do have a good relationship with their dad. He says there are cousins coming. That should get everybody fired up. I don’t know how old they are,” Holgorsen said. “but that White family is pretty special. Those guys have played a lot of us, (redshirt senior wide receiver) Ka’Raun (White) being a three-year player and (senior safety) Kyzir (White) being a two-year player, and they’ve started pretty much every game since they’ve been here. I know their family is coming back. This will be a big weekend for them, just as far as the last five years, as many games as they’ve been to for the last five years. That family has certainly meant a lot to me, without a doubt.”
Facing the Texas Longhorns Saturday will be no small feat for the Mountaineers but the driving force for the week is obviously Senior Day and paying respect to those 20 seniors on their final home game of their careers. Coach Holgorsen has set the tone for the week to send his seniors off in style and it is his hope he accomplishes just that.