By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Dana Holgorsen, now head coach at West Virginia, may have spent just one year in Stillwater as the offensive coordinator of the Oklahoma State football program.
But he left a lasting impression when he instilled the Air Raid offense, which has been tweaked and fine-tuned under the coordinators to follow.
“The offense that we still run is the offense that he brought here. I think that’s the one thing, that’s kind of all he’s got left now,” said redshirt sophomore quarterback J.W. Walsh, who was heavily recruited by Holgorsen. “He’s got his offense that we run, and even then, we’ve tweaked it a bunch and we’ve added our own nuances over the years.”
With the success the offense has had at Oklahoma State, including a run at a Big 12 Conference championship and a BCS bowl victory in 2011, it comes as a bit of a surprise that Holgorsen’s current offense is having struggles. The West Virginia offense has looked nothing like the team a year ago, which lost several key pieces to the NFL such as quarterback Geno Smith and receiver Tavon Austin.
“Everybody sees the obvious, they’ve struggled offensively a couple games. But if you look at the Maryland game (last weekend), they went up and down the field on them, but all of a sudden they had six turnovers. It was just one of those days where it just wasn’t working out,” OSU defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. “They have weapons. Their quarterback can throw the ball. They have two good running backs with (Charles) Sims and (Dreamius) Smith.
“Coach Holgorsen does a tremendous job of spreading the field with the screen game and vertical under game. It’s just a test on us defensively to defend on that, so we’ve got a big challenge ahead of us. They’re wounded right now and that’s what scary. They’re getting things corrected this week and I’m sure being back in front of their home crowd, I’m sure they’re going to be ready to play. So it’s going to be a challenge for us.”
Having his team ready is definitely likely from a fiery personality like Holgorsen, something he was well-known for in his stint at Oklahoma State.
“He was a character. People talk about his coaching style and then recruiting, he was definitely a lot of fun to get recruited by and talk to and I know he’s a great coach,” Walsh said.
Whether win or lose on Saturday — kickoff is at 11 a.m. — Holgorsen has given the Cowboys a lot, even in just one year, that has put the program on the map. First from the explosive offense, to pushing to recruit Walsh, even though he was known more for his escapability than his throwing ability.
“We knew about J.W., but Dana kind of pushed the issue with him and his relationship with coach Walsh was really good,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “From that point on when we saw his tape and his history of being a winner, it didn’t really take much to convince us to bring him in. But he was the one that kind of pushed the envelope early.”
As for his current woes in West Virginia, Gundy sees this season as just a part of the process for Holgorsen and the Mountaineers.
“I think he’ll be fine,” Gundy said. “... Without speaking for him (it’s) a learning process that most of us go through being a head coach.”