Big 12 Football is Fast Paced
Dana Holgorsen remembers having to temper his player’s excitement when it was announced last October that West Virginia was finally invited into the Big 12 Conference.
The official word came down during the Mountaineers' Friday afternoon workout before a key Big East game at Rutgers.
“I specifically remember that Friday, we were about to do our walk through to play Rutgers and it came across the TV that we were going to the Big 12, and everyone was excited about it but me,” Holgorsen recalled.
The reason Holgorsen wasn’t jumping up and down like his players was because he had a football game to get them prepared for. “I was like, ‘Geez, we’ve got to play a football game here.’ So we gathered the team out there on our Friday walk through and we said at one point, we are going to start talking about the Big 12, but this is not the time that we are going to be talking about the Big 12.”
Of course, with 25th-ranked Baylor coming to town this Saturday, now is the time to finally start talking about the Big 12.
“Now that the Big 12 is upon us, the biggest questions are what are you going to do different?” Holgorsen said. “Well, we are really not going to do a whole lot different.”
But there are some differences between the two leagues that West Virginia will have to get used to. Holgorsen, familiar with the conference having coached at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, said the biggest thing his players must adapt to is the rapid rate of play in the Big 12. Every team in the conference has athletes at all of the skill positions, and it takes a lot of players to adjust to that. Otherwise, a team will get exploited.
“The biggest difference is the amount of kids that play in those (Big 12) games compared to Big East games,” he explained. “You can go into a Big East game and plan on playing about 40 kids, which happened last year and happened here for a long time.
“But that is hard to do when you are taking a whole bunch of snaps. Baylor is averaging 90 snaps a game. Defensively, they are defending an average of 87—88 snaps a game.”
Compare that to last weekend’s game against Maryland when the Terps tried to control the football and reduce that amount of opportunities West Virginia’s offense had with the football. This week, getting the ball will not be a major concern for Holgorsen.
“Based on what Baylor is going to do – they are going to go up-tempo and they are going to play fast – they are going to play a lot of snaps, and that means we are going to take a lot more snaps on offense as well … which means you have to play more people. I have been saying this for some time – this is the biggest difference between the Big 12 and the Big East.”
What will be particularly interesting to watch on Saturday is how West Virginia counters Baylor’s personnel changes. The Bears are notorious for sneaking players into the game and changing their personnel on the fly in an attempt to get mismatches.
“The rule is that if the offense subs, then the defense matches,” said Holgorsen. “If Baylor doesn’t sub, then we better be careful about subbing because they are going to snap it. I do the same thing offensively because if I don’t sub, and they feel like they need to sub, we are going to go ahead and snap it. You have to pay attention to their sideline and find out what their personnel groups are, and you have to match it.”
Holgorsen and Baylor coach Art Briles are familiar with each other, but their familiarity is not quite what you might think even though the two worked together for a brief period of time at Texas Tech under Mike Leach.
“You have to remember that I worked at Texas Tech 10 years ago, and I have a hard time figuring out what I did 10 days ago,” Holgorsen joked. “(Briles) has been to two different places and has evolved, and I have been at three different stops and have evolved. We haven’t sat down and talked football in 10 years. Just from watching it on film, there is obviously some differences, which if you go and study it, there is quite a bit of differences from what I am doing now and what I was doing at Texas Tech, let alone what we did at Texas Tech in 2002, and what he did at Houston in 2004.”
Holgorsen admitted that he got impatient against Maryland last weekend because the Terps wanted to try and limit West Virginia’s offensive possessions. This week, that won’t be an issue because Baylor is simply going to try and outscore the Mountaineers.
“We ran seven plays in the first quarter last week,” Holgorsen said. “It was not because defensively we were giving up a lot – we ran five plays and punted. That happens. They got the ball for the first five plays and punted. We forced a turnover and then scored. We then held them, they punted, and two plays later we scored again.
“We got seven plays and what they did in their three drives was that they were huddling and getting under the ball and waiting 30 seconds … how did they do that, I don’t know? That is hard to watch and I got impatient and they scored a couple of times and then it was 14-14,” said Holgorsen.
It may be 14-14 at some point again this Saturday, but it won’t be because either coach is impatient - you can count on that.