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Dana Holgorsen: A Fan’s Perspective

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One of our readers shares his thoughts on how Dana Holgorsen has embraced the West Virginia culture since coming to WVU in 2011.

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Baylor Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published as a FanShot a day prior to West Virignia’s 50-39 loss to Oklahoma State. While this article doesn’t reflect the outcome of that game, I believe GIMMFD’s point here is still solid.

Thinking back on the times of 2010, and where WVU football was, where we are, and where we're heading. At that age, I was 17 years old. Ready to head to college, I never attended WVU even as a native West Virginian, but that never stopped old gold and blue from running through my veins. WVU football was losing frustrating games in the Big East, and Oliver Luck was in the midst of orchestrating a move to the Big XII conference, allowing us fresher pastures and more resources to further develop the university. Coming off the years of Steve Slaton and Pat White, and that glorious Fiesta Bowl performance, it seemed we had hit a lull with Bill Stewart. Following the Fiesta Bowl, I like many, was under the impression maybe a good old West Virginia boy like Bill Stewart is exactly what we needed in order to continue our successes and prosper into a brighter future. However, after 3 straight 9-4 seasons, the turmoil was beginning, and Oliver Luck decided to go with a "sexy" young coordinator hire in Dana Holgorsen to be "Head Coach In Waiting," much to my confusion.

What did I know of Dana Holgorsen then? Not much. He wasn't a native, would he understand our culture, would he understand what it meant for us 60,000 on Saturdays to travel up US-19, I-79, I-68, etc. to get to our temple, our sacred piece of land that embodied the spirit of each West Virginia native? Sure, his resume was impressive, he had led high octane offenses, and would bring a breath of fresh air to a program that very much so needed some life to be injected into it, after subpar recruiting and poor performances. How would this work, could he mesh with Stewart (this we found out to be the furthest thing from the case, but we won't go into that), could he embrace our culture, and allow us to embrace him? Oliver Luck was thinking ahead of time, with the move into the Big XII, we needed an offense that could compete in shootouts, and seemed like a great hire at the time, however he was unproven, new to head coaching, was this the best we could do?

Post-scandal, and Holgorsen taking over, the 2011 season held great rewards. Who doesn't remember Darwin Cook tackling the Orange Bowl mascot after the 99 yard recovery? Who doesn't remember smashing a Clemson program that contained NFL talents in Andre Ellington, Martavis Bryant, Sammy Watkins, Dwayne Allen, DeAndre Hopkins, and completely taking them to the woodshed. In my mind, we hired the right man, we were going to get into the Big XII, have a bit of a transition period, but opened up a completely new pipeline in Texas, and were going to start getting the recruits to thrive, and get that coveted National Championship each of us so badly yearned for. Holgorsen was fiery, passionate, a coach that could spark a fire under his guys in my mind, while leaving out the obvious glares of problems with time management, hiring his friends as coordinators, and completely going away recruiting wise from what made us successful in the past.

With the transition into the Big XII, rough days laid ahead for WVU. The team was rated so highly entering the season in 2012, with the explosive firepower of Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, and Geno Smith. This was our year to shock the world. After the most memorable night of fireworks in Austin, and the shootout with Baylor, something changed. Our defense was as porous as a wet paper towel, and our special teams were, well for a lack of better words, special. How could a Top 10 team, falter to a 7-6 record, and lose the Pinstripe Bowl to former Big East foe Syracuse? Dana aggressively began recruiting Texas, and going away from our local pipeline where kids would be honored to don the Blue and Gold, to some kids who were just waiting for the boys in Austin to call, so they could rep their home-state colors. Dana had Joe DeForrest, who couldn't coach a defense on NCAA Football 14 trying to sure up things, and it showed even worse the next year in 2013 with a 4-8 performance. Does Dana have it? A 21-17 record is nothing short of falling under expectations for WVU, what can he do to show he's getting this head coaching thing? I believe in around 2013-2014, 3 years into his regime in Morgantown, Dana began to grow. For starters, he brought back Tony Gibson (technically 2012-2013, but for sake of argument hear me out), the best move he's made in his coaching career. Gibson is a guy who would bleed for WVU, and is a mastermind defensively. Post 2013, Dana decided, you know what, this is it, I'm going to get back to what worked in the past, but was brilliant enough to know he couldn't do it alone.

In 2014, it was the first year I felt Dana Holgorsen had finally learned to appreciate the state. WVU was in a limbo of whether this guy was the right man to lead the job. Fans were thinking about replacements, what buyout clauses we could break, what we could do to fix the state of our program. We were spoiled in the Rich Rodriguez success years, with many forgetting the dark times that accompanied in the past (Um, hello 3-9 first season with Rich Rod, or some of the Nehlen days, not a bash on Nehlen he deserves so much credit and love for what he did for us), but being the winningest program without a national championship deserves some clout. Why did we want to keep some guy that keeps breaking headsets on the sidelines, and doesn't know anything about the state? I believe Dana began to embrace the culture, the way he established the Mountaineer Mantrip, and what sold it for me completely was this clip after Texas Tech.

Dana loves his players, Dana loved that win, hearing the guys chanting the fight song brings me chills even to this day. I believe he still had his short-comings, but he deserved the benefit of the doubt even after the Liberty Bowl loss, and a chance to show he has figured things out, starting with bringing back the guys that know the region, and recruiting our old stomping grounds.

As 2015 progressed, with Skyler Howard at the helm after golden-locks of hair Clint Trickett, I began to notice a bit of a different demeanor of Dana. He finally had his house on Cheat Lake, with a beautiful Flying WV in the background. He enjoyed his time touring the state for the Little General Tournament with Huggins (I met Dana during one of these, incredibly nice guy, didn't talk football, just chatted about NBA that was going on, and other nature, but what stood out is his genuine interest in people). Dana began to grow before it, but the positive progress was enough to sell me. Many fans still wanted Dana's head, winning a Cactus Bowl? Is this what we are supposed to be settling for? We want to compete at the highest level, we deserve it don't we? However, the signs were there that we are building for the future, the cement foundation was set, and it was time to start building the house.

Last season was make or break for the Holgorsen regime, and Dana answered with an impressive 10-3 record, albeit losses to ranked teams. He performed well enough to earn himself an extension through new AD Shane Lyons who came from Alabama, which is a university that is no stranger to success in a plethora of sports. Dana began gold-mining good recruits, his parents moved to Morgantown from Iowa, he planted his family roots at Morgantown High with his son Logan. Dana began even making jokes at the expense of Pitt on Twitter (I still laugh at this tweet). Holgorsen has embodied the Mountaineer spirit, he has grown in his play-calling from pass-pass-pass, to becoming more balanced, utilizing strengths of the roster, understanding how to grow and develop talent. He's become someone that has learned from past mistakes, rather than infuriating you with the same stupid stuff time after time.

This season so far has been solid at 5-2, we lost against top ranked teams, and were in it until the final seconds of the game. Sometimes luck doesn't swing your way, the comeback against Texas Tech was nothing short of brilliant, as bad as the blowing the lead to Baylor and sweating it out was bad. But we WVU fans are used to that, what's a game without having to take a shot to relax your nerves? I wouldn't know. Dana currently sits at 51-33 with Oklahoma State coming to town tomorrow morning. Has he completely figured this thing out? I'd say no. We still are frustratingly bad against ranked teams, which seems to be a mental thing rather than a talent thing, making numerous mistakes in key situations. He took over coaching Special Teams, and it has not improved even in the slightest bit. Dana continues to have flaws, but what head coach doesn't (stop using Saban as an example, he's in a league of his own, guys). Dana has embraced change in his life, and embraced the Mountaineer culture. How many people were trashing on him for wearing black, though his reason was solid, we wanted to be fickle, and look at him donning the blue these days. The Mantrip, the house, the coal wall of WV, the rafting trips, the hikes to Coopers Rock..

Here in West Virginia, we are simple people, who will work hard and care for one another. We are always quick to help, and always here to defend a fellow Mountaineer. From Wheeling to Princeton, from Parkersburg to Martinsburg, we all love our state, no matter what we think of it from a political, or social, or economic standpoint. West Virginians care for West Virginians, and I know for one I'm damn proud to be born and raised a Mountaineer. For those who still haven't sold themselves on Dana Holgorsen, I say this: for a kid from Iowa, used to coaching in Texas, and translocating to Morgantown, he sure as hell has done a lot to embrace us, and embrace our culture. That wasn't the case when he first arrived. I believe he looked at WVU as a stepping stone to a bigger job, but right now, I could see Dana Hologorsen being our head coach for a long long time. We must rally around a guy who's still learning, and still improving as a person, a coach, and a mentor. He gives everything for us, he learned what being a true Mountaineer is, the least we can do is give him our love and support our Mountaineers. Can he lead us to a National Championship? Who the hell knows, but the direction we're heading in recruiting, stability, and resources can definitely have us competing for a Big XII championship year in and year out. We won't be in on 5 star recruits often, and we won't have that type of strangle hold, but what we will have is someone who cares, and believes in us. It's time to reward his faith by putting ours into his. I'm typing this 3,000 miles away from Morgantown, but it's 4:32 PM, and it's a great day to be a Mountaineer wherever you may be.

Poll

As of today, are you happy with Dana Holgorsen as our head coach?

This poll is closed

  • 73%
    Yes
    (1037 votes)
  • 26%
    No
    (369 votes)
1406 votes total Vote Now