MORGANTOWN — There were a couple missed scoring opportunities for WVU in its 31-24 loss to now-No. 18 Virginia Tech.
On one, the first play of the second quarter, Mountaineer coach Dana Holgorsen and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital decided to go for a fourth-and-2 situation at the Tech 22 when a Will Grier pass was intercepted. The Mountaineers ultimately trailed at the half 10-7.
Then, late in the third quarter, WVU had a third-and-1 situation at the Hokies 23 when Justin Crawford rushed for what appeared to be a 2-yard gain.
The officials, however, called holding on Mountaineer tackle Yodny Cajuste, giving West Virginia a third-and-11 at the Tech 33. It wasn’t out of the question that WVU could a) either pick up a first down or b) get close enough for a field goal attempt.
Until, that is, c) Holgorsen was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct along the sideline.
On the ensuing third-and-26, a Grier pass was incomplete and the scoring threat was over.
Holgorsen’s outburst came shortly after WVU freshman safety Kenny Robinson was whistled for a personal foul for hitting Tech kickoff return man James Clark out of bounds. It gave the Hokies possession at the WVU 32. A play later, Tech was in the end zone and up 24-17.
The Mountaineers were called for nine penalties on the night for 81 yards, while the Hokies were flagged five times for 34 yards by the Big Ten officiating crew.
And during Tuesday’s Holgorsen press conference, the Mountaineer coach wasn’t shy about expressing his displeasure.
Initially, he was asked about his unsportsmanlike call in light of a new NCAA emphasis on coaching conduct.
“I’d really like to sit here and talk about officials,” Holgorsen said. “Actually, I can if I want to based on who they are, if they’re not associated with our [Big 12] conference.
“I mean, that to me was the biggest deal in the game. [Virginia Tech] declined like four penalties and we had how many? A lot. And you can add about five more to that.”
“I don’t agree with a lot that happened. I can’t argue? Apparently not. How many officials are there? Eight? Any of the eight can throw the flag. I wasn’t even arguing the call. I stepped out of the box. Three of them looked at me and didn’t do anything and one guy that was all the way down there [pointed] came running in and threw it at me. I don’t know what his problem is. They’ll have to address that rule. I guess he can throw it if he wants.”
Holgorsen said he was not warned.
“No,” he said. “I didn’t do anything. How do you get a warning if you don’t do anything?”
The Mountaineer coach said the call supposedly didn’t have anything to do with his vocal protest over the Robinson foul. He then claimed that, if it did, the officials’ actions go against previous directives.
“They encourage communication,” he said. “Coaches encourage communication. Officials encourage communication. So I was communicating on why I didn’t think Kenny should be called for that personal foul.
“It was loud. There were [67,489] people there and the guy steps out of bounds by this much. I’m looking at it right here. And he continues to run down the sidelines. So what am I supposed to tell the safety? Just let him go score?
“So he hit him and I didn’t agree with that. I was like, ‘Look, what do you want me to tell him?’ He said, ‘He can’t hit him out of bounds.’ I go, ‘He’s tip-toeing down the sidelines, what do you want me to tell him?’ He said, ‘Tell him not to hit him out of bounds.’ I said, ‘I know, I tell him that all the time. If they’re out of bounds, don’t hit him.’ So that was the communication that was going on.”
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Holgorsen also gave updates on a few of his players on Tuesday.
Foremost, he confirmed the one-game suspension on “X” receiver Marcus Simms was indeed for one game. The sophomore will be eligible to play at noon Saturday when the 0-1 Mountaineers, which fell out of both major Top 25 polls on Tuesday, host the 0-1 East Carolina Pirates.
“He’s ready to roll,” Holgorsen said. “He helps. He’s got that speed factor. We played [freshman] Reggie [Roberson] about 30 snaps [against Virginia Tech]. He was targeted I think twice. The more he plays, the more comfortable Will will be targeting him. He gives us the speed guy and Marcus gives us the speed guy and we desperately need that.”
The head coach also said offensive guard Grant Lingafelter, who had an MRI on Monday, is “going to be fine. He’s day-to-day.”
Also, WVU punter Billy Kinney, who struggled to punt for an average of 36 yards on nine punts Sunday, appeared injured during the game. Holgorsen cleared that up.
“He was cramping, which I can’t explain,” said the coach. “I mean, I get how Gary Jennings falls out because he ran over 10 miles. I get him falling out… I can’t explain how Billy Kinney had full body cramps. But he did. And it affected his punting.”
Holgorsen said 55 players saw action against Tech.
“In a tight game, 55 is quite a bit,” he said.