West Virginia will travel to Kansas this weekend to open its Big 12 Conference schedule but it was a coach in another league and half the country away that was part of the discussion earlier this week.
That coach was none other than Mike Leach who has multiple connections to both programs. It’s been well-documented by now the ties between West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen and his former boss, but he also has his hands on the Kansas program as well.
Junior quarterback Peyton Barber was with Leach and the Cougars for two season before leaving the program to jump start his career at the junior college level. That path would lead him to Kansas.
“He wants to stay in the pocket and he wants to throw that thing all over the place,” Holgorsen said.
So one would naturally expect that he would hit up his old friend for a scouting report on the Jayhawks signal caller. Not so fast.
“I’ve learned my lesson talking to Coach Leach. Washington State is playing well; we want them to keep winning, because the more they win, the weirder he gets,” Holgorsen joked.
Adding that his press conferences are much more entertaining than his own, before Holgorsen simply said that there is a reason he hasn’t taken the time to read any of Leach’s books.
“I lived it,” he said.
If things keep trending the way that they currently are with the West Virginia offense Holgorsen might not be hearing much from former coach Don Nehlen anytime soon.
An obvious joke, but one in reference to the fact that West Virginia has gone away from the predominant run attack it’s had over the past few seasons back to more of an aerial show.
Yes, the Mountaineers can still effectively run the football but likely not the preference of many old school football purists that are strong believers in pounding the rock like Nehlen.
Which is where the opening joke comes into play.
“He gave up on me a long time ago. Initially he did; he didn’t talk to me the first two years but then saw the transition a little bit and started talking,” Holgorsen joked. “Now he’s probably not talking.”
West Virginia doesn’t plan on abandoning the run anytime soon and has actually struck a balance it its play calling with 122 passing plays and 117 running plays. But even some of those passing plays have been initially called as runs before checking into some of the perimeter screens.
“We’re going to continue to force runs even when they’re clearly taking the run away,” Holgorsen said. “Because that’s who we are. It opens up big plays, too.”
Just not as much as some would like to see.
“He’d probably at least want it reversed, 300 rushing and 200 passing, right?” Holgorsen said.
West Virginia will open with its sixth Big 12 opener since joining the league and the Mountaineers are 2-3 in such games, with all three losses coming at the hands of Oklahoma. The Mountaineers are 0-2 in both trips to Norman to open conference play and overall the program is 22-23 in its five seasons.
The Mountaineers are 4-1 against Kansas during that span, with the only loss coming in a 31-19 defeat in 2013 to the Jayhawks that snapped a 27-game conference losing streak. It also put the program out of a bowl game.
So the program understands that anything can happen because it already has – so showing up ready to play is a must.