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Dana Holgorsen talks about West Virginia, the triple option and how old is new again

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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(Lynne Sladky/AP)

Attention Big 12 teams: Dana Holgorsen would like you all to know that West Virginia is going to exclusively run the triple option next year.

"We've got all kinds of triple option stuff," Holgorsen told Yahoo! Sports deadpan. "I'd encourage you to write that."

Of course, Holgorsen was kidding, but as one of the new kids on the Big 12's proverbial block, West Virginia wants to be as much of a surprise to its new league opponents as possible.

"Actually, we could slip some speed option in there," Holgorsen said. "(Quarterback) Geno (Smith) is not quite the athlete Robert Griffin was, but he's a good athlete so we could probably do some speed option."

While the Mountaineers probably won't be running much speed option either, the thing is you never quite know with Holgorsen, who has become quite the offensive innovator in the past few years, especially among Big 12 schools. He was part of the staff that made Texas Tech such an offensive force and is responsible for making Oklahoma State one of the most offensively exciting teams in the country. That's why as Holgorsen and his Mountaineers embark on their first season in the Big 12, they're at both an advantage and a disadvantage.

"There's not a whole lot of stuff that's secret anymore," he said.

But he did manage to raise a few eyebrows during the 70-33 rout of Clemson in the Orange Bowl with a Fly-Sweep play that had Smith in the shotgun seemingly batting a hiked ball to a runner in motion across the pattern. West Virginia scored on the play four times and Holgorsen said it probably could have been more.

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(Robert Mayer/US Presswire)

While the play appeared to be a new addition for the bowl game, Holgorsen said it's something he started running while he was the offensive coordinator at Houston. He learned the play from Colorado School of Mines coach Bob Stitt during a one-back camp.

Holgorsen decided to try out the play while Stitt was watching a Houston practice and Stitt wasn't impressed. Holgorsen was running it wrong and Stitt stepped in to show quarterback Case Keenum the right way to run it — the way West Virginia executed it to perfection.

Knowing that play was something Holgorsen pulled from his Conference USA days in 2008 has to give defensive coordinators pause. What else did he run back then while no one was paying attention? During Holgorsen's two seasons at Houston, the Cougars ranked No. 2 (2008) and No. 1 (2009) in total offense and Keenum was first in total offense individually. And it's a pretty safe bet not a lot of Big 12 defensive coordinators were scouting Houston in those days.

Even scarier, Stitt already has spent some time in Morgantown, W.Va., this offseason swapping ideas.

Because of Holgorsen, West Virginia is a stellar offensive addition to a league that already has his offensive genius all over it.

"There are definitely some similarities and I think we'll fit in well," Holgorsen said. "I think we'll bring something to the table, too. The style of ball is going to be similar, but what we have to offer here in Morgantown is pretty cool, too, just from a venue standpoint. Football is as important as it is in the other Big 12 schools. From an environment standpoint, it's going to be bigtime football. I'd assume 10 is better than nine when it comes to that. I've been to all those venues and I've been to the venue here as well and we'll fit right in."

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(Lynne Sladky/AP)

Kind of like how Holgorsen has fit right in at West Virginia. After Bill Stewart was fired, there were some questions about whether Holgorsen was ready to lead West Virginia and how the team would respond. And while there were some bumps in the road — notably a loss to Syracuse — the Mountaineers went on to have their first 10-win season since 2007 capped by an Orange Bowl that set multiple offensive records and made West Virginia the talk of college football.

"The thing about a bowl game is, you win and it gives you momentum," Holgorsen said. "But you win like that on that stage and it really gives you momentum. So, it made the academics here better. It made the voluntary workouts here better. It made recruiting better. The season ticket sales are up. The booster club support is up. It made everything better."

Last offseason, Holgorsen spent a lot of time touring the state, shaking hands and doing a lot of West Virginia-type things that he didn't necessarily like to do.

"I hate fishing," said Holgorsen, who went fishing with several boosters and basketball coach Bob Huggins last June. "I like down time at times and peace and quiet and that sort of thing, but fishing is boring."

This offseason, Holgorsen said he's focusing more on coaching, watching film every day and getting his program ready for a move back to his old conference. Because he knows that despite West Virginia's good fortune last year, the expectations will be even higher in the Big 12.

"We won 10 games, we won a championship, a BCS game," he said. "It's always what have you done for me lately, so I assume everyone would be OK with me at this point."

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