Mike Gundy knows West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen pretty well. It was under Gundy that Holgorsen became the most coveted offensive coordinator in all of college football, calling plays for a unit that scored in bunches with players such as Brandon Weeden, Joseph Randall and Dez Bryant at his disposal. Six years after leaving his post at Oklahoma State and taking his the head coaching job at West Virginia University, Holgorsen has his deepest and potentially best team yet, and Gundy credits that to the Mountaineers' newfound balance on offense catching up with the quality defenses that Tony Gibson has put on the field for the past few seasons.
"There's a reason they're undefeated and their ranked number 10 in the country," Gundy said about the Mountaineers. "They're playing really good football and we're going to have to be sound on defense and find a way to make plays. They're playing considerably different this year than they did last year. In my opinion they have always played really good defense and now their quarterback is understanding the system and seems to be playing in the base of what they're trying to accomplish and I think that's the big difference in their team this year from last year."
That quarterback is of course Skyler Howard, who is coming off of a four touchdown performance against a stout TCU defense and has looked noticeably better through three games in conference play than he did last year. A big reason for Howard's improvement is a more experienced cast of receivers and an offensive line that has blocked much better this season, giving Howard more time in the pocket and opening up holes in the run game, where the Mountaineers have sprung Rushel Shell for over 100 yards in back-to-back weeks. It looks as if the Mountaineers' offensive personnel is starting to gel and come together at the right time, and to Gundy that's no surprise, because Holgorsen's ability to mold an offense around what the unit does well is a big reason why Gundy decided to hire him in the first place.
"I had Brandon Weeden as a quarterback and we had terrific receivers," Gundy recalled. "My background in offense didn't fit the style that I thought could get the best out of the personnel that we had and bringing him in and making the transition we did allowed us to go on a stretch there where we were averaging 10 or maybe 11 wins a year. The reason was that we were able to access our talent based on the system that we had in place."
Six games into the season it now looks like Holgorsen has West Virginia's program humming and ready to compete for Big 12 championships much like Gundy's ball clubs have consistently done for many years. Of course, a big part of that formula is going on the road and winning tough games, which is something Holgorsen will have a chance to do when the Mountaineers travel to Stillwater on Saturday for their toughest road game of the season.null