MORGANTOWN - In a perfect world, Dana Holgorsen would look at his West Virginia football team during its first off week of the season and see perfection.He can't, of course, there being that pesky 47-21 loss to LSU blemishing the record. But all things considered, he can't be displeased at the midpoint of the season.And he isn't."Our goal from the beginning has been to win the Big East championship,'' Holgorsen said Sunday night after putting Saturday's 43-16 win over Connecticut in the books. "We're happy being 5-1. We're 1-0 in the conference. Obviously everybody wants to be undefeated at the midway point, but we put up a decent fight against the No. 1 team in the country and learned a lot from it, to the point where we just continue to get better each week.''
Now the routine changes just a bit.After playing six straight weekends, five of them at home, West Virginia has a chance to regroup just a bit. With that 5-1 record and a No. 13 ranking in this week's Associated Press Top 25, the Mountaineers have an off week during which they will practice just three times - Tuesday through Thursday - then take a few days off and resume on Sunday.That's the beginning of a short week that concludes with a Friday night game against Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, followed a week later by a visit to surprising Rutgers. Including those two games, three of the next four are on the road - there is also a home date with Louisville and a visit to Cincinnati - before another off week and the season finales against Pitt at home and South Florida in Tampa."We're going to be challenged,'' Holgorsen said. "After the off week, we've got a couple of road games that are going to be important, obviously. Our job is to keep getting better each week. And if we can do that, then we'll put ourselves in position to win the Big East.''A few weeks ago, winning the Big East seemed to be a matter of taking care of business for a month until the games with Pitt and USF decided things in the final weeks. Recent results, though, would seem to indicate that none of WVU's remaining opponents can be viewed as much more or less difficult than any other.
For instance, South Florida seemed a juggernaut while climbing to No. 16 in the AP poll with a 4-1 start, then was hammered by Pitt. The Panthers seemed to have things going the right way with that win, and then were embarrassed 34-10 Saturday at Rutgers.Meanwhile, Cincinnati is sitting there at 4-1 and Rutgers is 4-1 with only a two-point loss at North Carolina spoiling things. And Syracuse is 4-2 after playing three overtime games and another decided by a field goal.Holgorsen, though, isn't nearly as concerned with what's happening around the league as he is with what's going on under his own roof. And there, with the off week at hand, he seems pretty well satisfied."We're happy with where we're at. The morale of the team is really high, the excitement level is really high, the kids have bought in and we're showing improvement each week in all three phases of the game,'' Holgorsen said. "Hopefully we can just keep doing that. We can't taper off.''BRIEFLY: While the offense managed 541 total yards and 43 points, Holgorsen was still talking about West Virginia's defensive effort against Connecticut."We gave up some yards and three field goals in the first half,'' Holgorsen said. "But when you put together a second half like we did defensively, it makes what we gave up in the first half seem like a disaster compared to what we did defensively in the second half. It was just a dominating performance by coach [Jeff] Casteel and those guys.''
In the second half, UConn's offense gained 97 total yards and scored three points.West Virginia's award winners for the UConn game were Stedman Bailey (offense), Bruce Irvin (defense) and Mike Molinari (special teams). The scout team champions were Lucas Henn and Rob Kressler.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org