West Virginia's overall bowl record is 14-19, and have only been victorious once in three tries under head coach Dana Holgorsen. And although the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl isn't the same caliber as a win in the Orange Bowl, any bowl victory is always a step in the right direction towards the forthcoming season.
The Mountaineers are looking to even their bowl record in the state of Arizona at 2-2 with a win over in-state foe, Arizona State. A tough task, as the Sun Devils expect a good crowd. But this isn’t Dana Holgorsen’s first bowl rodeo.
“When I think of bowl games, this is one of the few areas (Phoenix) that stands out,” said Holgorsen. “So there’s no better place to be this time of year, and no better place to cap off the season”
“The thing with bowl games, and we’ve been to a bunch of them, is it’s a reward for a good season. I think the biggest key to a bowl game is being excited where you’re at, and we can check that one off. Then, being excited about who your opponent is, and we can check that one off.
Arizona State finished the season 6-6, but started with high expectations that riddled away as the year went on, and are now looking for a strong close. The Sun Devils did have a big win at UCLA, which showed their capability of being able to hang with the conference’s top opponants. And they are second in the nation in total sacks with 44 (only trailing Alabama), but are the second worst in the country giving up plays over 20 yards. It should be a tightly contested matchup.
ASU head coach Todd Graham was the co-defensive coordinator under Rich Rodriguez in 2001 and 2002 at WVU, but has since moved back to coach his alma matter. It’s been well documented that the two coaches have a personal history dating back to Holgorsen’s PRE-West Virginia days.
“Every game we’ve ever coached against Coach Graham has been very competitive, Holgorsen said. “Both of us were in the state of Texas for a long time. We competed against each other when I was at Houston. We competed against each other when I was at Oklahoma State, and then the first year I was at West Virginia he was at Pitt. He’s a fantastic football coach and he’s been successful everywhere he’s been.”
Holgorsen also noted that there’s no real formula for finding a balance between letting the player enjoy their trip and getting them prepped for the actual game, but fully expects his players to be ready by Saturday.
“I’m going to say 99 percent of our team hasn't been to Phoenix. So these guys are excited about being here," said Holgorsen. They’ll get out and see some things, and enjoy their time while they’re here. We've got a bunch of veterans. Twenty seniors and 17 of which already have their degree. So they're old, they're mature, and they'll get out and have a good time, but understand when it's time to go to work, it's time to go to work."
UPDATE: Holgorsen announced later at West Virginia's practice that Eric Kinsey, Daryl Worley, Jovon Durante and Kevin Worley are not eligible to play in the Cactus Bowl due to academic issues. Holgorsen noted that Worley was "eligible" but that his coursework was late getting in, so he failed to meet NCAA requirements for compelting all work by a certain date.
"Daryl is a good kid and a good student. It was too little too late for him," Holgorsen said. "It was not an eligibility issue, but it was a timing issue."
Holgorsen said a report compiled on Worley's NFL prospects indicated that he should come back to school for his senior year, and that he would welcome him back if he chosse that path.