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Holgorsen hopes underdog role ignites WVU


Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.  — West Virginia University is ranked, has only two losses to a pair of teams that figured in the playoff picture until the final weekend, yet they are an underdog to a four-loss Miami team.

Is this a comment on West Virginia itself or is it a comment on the Big 12 Conference, which has seen its reputation erode over the past three years?

Either way, Dana Holgorsen understands and doesn’t mind the underdog designation one bit.

“They are a national brand,” the WVU coach notes. “I usually have to educate our players on our opponent, I didn’t have to educate our players on this opponent. Everybody knows about Miami and what type of players they have.

“Having guys from South Florida, there is some crossover with some of our players and some of their players, which helps. We are the visitor. We are the visiting team, in Florida, against a Florida school that has a national brand.

“If we can go win this one, it would mean something. We aren’t supposed to; we aren’t supposed to win it. We are the underdog, but if we can somehow find a way to win, it would be good for the program.”

The heart and soul of the Miami offense is quarterback Brad Kaaya. He just isn’t the team spokesman, for coach Mark Richt did not make him available to talk at the bowl site on offensive team day.


Football coaches are control freaks, all of them, and it’s their way of showing the media who is running the show … as if the media can’t write about the guy anyway.

Kaaya’s numbers are impressive, 237-of-387 passing with only seven interceptions and 23 touchdowns while throwing for 3,250 yards.

Certainly, WVU is impressed.

“He is a good top quarterback, one of the best in the nation,” said Mountaineer defensive end Noble Nwachukwu. “We are going to have to put a lot of pressure on him. He doesn’t like to get out of the pocket so we are going to have to make it as uncomfortable as possible.”

So look for them to try and get him to start talking, like to his offensive linemen, begging them to protect him.

How good is the Miami defense?

This is the way WVU’s offensive line coach Ron Crook put it.

“I would say take the best player from every defense we’ve played and put him out there at every position. That’s the nature of this time of year when you’re playing in a bowl game; that’s why good teams go to bowl games,” he said.

“They got really good personnel across the board, you look for a weak spot but you can’t find one. They’re all big, they’re all fast, they are the kind of defense you’d expect to see from Miami.”

Wonder if they see the WVU defense the same way?

Certainly the Mountaineer defense ranks with Miami, and defensive coordinator Tony Gibson thinks they are only getting started and signed a new contract to prove that.

“I think we have some unfinished business here, obviously, and we are not anywhere near where we want to be as a program and I think you can see trending up over the past couple of years,” Gibson said. “I think Dana and I work well together. The systems fit well together and we work well together. We have a great relationship on and off the field. That is the comforting part of it.”

There are indications that WVU cornerback Rasul Douglas will be assigned mostly to the dangerous tight end/wideout David NJoku.

“He might become my responsibility and if he does I will respect the challenge,” Douglas said. “I will be physical with him at the line of scrimmage and try to see if he can beat me vertically.”

Interesting stat on Douglas, the second team All-American who led the nation in interceptions, compared with Miami.

Douglas intercepted eight passes this year. The entire Miami defense only intercepted eight.

And the offense threw only seven.

Ka’Raun White, who was coming on big time late in the season, is out for the bowl game with a broken leg but Holgorsen feels fine about the depth he has still at the position, moving sophomore inside receiver Jovon Durante out to start in his place.

“We started him on the outside against Baylor and four plays into it he tweaked his knee so he couldn’t play the rest of the game,” Holgorsen noted. “He is good, he will play a good bit at that outside spot. (Freshman wide receiver) Marcus Simms has come on as of late, played well against Iowa State and played well against Baylor.

“Those two guys will hold it down. (Sophomore wide receiver) Gary Jennings is doing some good things as well. He has had a really good month, probably the best month that he has had since he has been on campus.”

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