Dominant Offense

  • By John Antonik
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  • December 17, 2010 01:23 AM
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Do you remember what it felt like the first time you ever got dominated in sports? For me it was many, many years ago, back in the day around the seventh or eighth grade, I believe. The kid who was doing the dominating actually flunked the eighth grade three straight years and was driving a Chevy Nova to middle school, but that is a story for another time.

Years later when I was in college, my 5-foot-8 roommate was sipping an adult beverage one night in our dorm room and challenged one of the guys down the hallway to a game of one-on-one. He said it would be for the Intergalactic Championship - or something to that effect. Well, the guy down the hall turned out to be a decent player and he decided to raise the stakes a little bit, betting my buddy a small amount of money that he would not only beat him, but would do so by scoring all 21 points in a game of make-it-take-it.

Grenada put up a better fight against the U.S. Marines than my guy did that night. Come to think of it, I don’t think he got a single shot close to the rim. Once again, that’s a story for another time.

The point is we’ve all been dominated at some point in our lives - everyone that is except for new West Virginia University coach Dana Holgorsen, at least since he started calling football plays for Kevin Sumlin at Houston and Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State. The way Holgorsen’s offenses have owned defenses the last three years sort of reminds me of that kid who used to drive the Chevy Nova to middle school.

Go look up what Holgorsen has done as an offensive coach, even back to his days working for Mike Leach at Texas Tech when he was more advisor than play caller. The numbers are just stupid ridiculous.

Those of you who play video games (I don’t), get out Madden Football and set up a few games with, say Oregon against Akron, and I bet you can’t come close to matching what Holgorsen has done for real during his last three years as offensive coordinator.

I’m telling you, the numbers are that crazy.

To give you an idea of just how dominant Holgorsen’s offenses have been consider this: West Virginia’s best offensive performance this year of 523 yards against Rutgers is 32 yards less than what his offenses have averaged the last three years.

In 39 games of calling plays at Houston and Oklahoma State, Holgorsen has failed to produce at least 400 yards just four times. He has that many 700 yard games.

Twenty eight times he has produced at least 500 yards with 13 of those going for more than 600 yards. Holgorsen put 572 yards on Oklahoma State last year and 483 the year before that, so naturally Mike Gundy figured the best way to stop Holgorsen was to hire him to run his offense this season.

The guy who really should have hired him was Tulsa’s Todd Graham, West Virginia’s one-time co-defensive coordinator. Holgorsen’s offenses have averaged 60.3 points and 686 yards per game against Graham's Golden Hurricanes the last three years.

Holgorsen took an Oklahoma State offense that was ranked 61st in the nation in total yards in 2009 and turned it into the top offense in the country this year averaging 538 yards per game. The Cowboys scored at least 30 points in all 12 games, including four games of 50 points or more. Oklahoma State’s 44.9 points-per-game average is currently third best in the country heading into the bowl season.

When WVU athletic director Oliver Luck went before a gathering of reporters outside his office Thursday afternoon to talk about Holgorsen, he thought it would be a good idea to take a little time to list some of his achievements. Seven minutes later Luck was still reading them.

“As a former quarterback, I feel obligated to highlight some of his accomplishments, because they are really unbelievable,” Luck explained.

He's not kidding.

Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon caught 20 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman in 2009. This year under Holgorsen his numbers were slightly better – 102 catches for 1,665 yards and 18 touchdowns.

At that rate of improvement look for Tavon Austin to catch around 400 or 500 passes for about 5,000 yards and 40 or 50 touchdowns next year, considering he shows 53 catches for 757 yards and eight touchdowns heading into the Champs Bowl.

Yeah, I’m exaggerating a little bit, but you get the idea.

Geno Smith’s numbers should get a little spike, too. This year quarterback Brandon Weedon got the Holgorsen boost, going from 248 yards and four TDs as a sophomore in 2009 to 4,037 yards and 32 touchdowns this year.

And unlike Leach, Holgorsen will run the football, too.

It was about a 35-to-65 run-pass ratio when he was at Houston, but this year at Oklahoma State it was closer to 45-to-55 with All-American Kendall Hunter in the backfield. Hunter once again put up big numbers in 2010 with Holgorsen calling the plays, accumulating 1,516 yards and 16 touchdowns heading into the Alamo Bowl.

“I think Dana Holgorsen is one of the great coaches right now in college football,” Luck said. “And as I look at a guy like Dana Holgorsen, I thought to myself that he would be a head coach somewhere very soon ... and I wouldn’t want to prepare against his offense.”

With the kind of numbers Holgorsen offenses have been putting up, Luck better be prepared to set aside a little extra money in next year’s budget for scoreboard parts. He’s probably going to need it.