MORGANTOWN — There was a lot that went wrong for West Virginia University in its 30-14 loss at Iowa State last week.
Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital’s play calling, however, was not one of them, according to coach Dana Holgorsen.
“There’s always games where every game you coach in, every game you play in, every game you call, you can look back on it and say, ‘I wish I would’ve done this, or I wish I would’ve done that,’ ” Holgorsen said. “That exists everywhere in college football. The play calling is exactly what I was a part of throughout the course of the week in developing the game plan. It didn’t have anything to do with what plays were called.”
WVU, which dropped from No. 6 to No. 13 in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll after its loss, came into the Iowa State game averaging 41.4 points per game, 364.6 passing yards per game and 526 yards of total offense per game. The Cyclones clamped down on the Mountaineers, holding them well below all of those averages as WVU ran just 42 offensive snaps in the game.
Holgorsen said the plays that were called worked when they were winning, so that is what they stuck with Saturday in Ames.
“It was the same plays that were called when we were having 600 or so yards against decent defenses,” Holgorsen said. “I think Texas Tech has a pretty good defense, I think Kansas State has a pretty good defense. It’s all the same play calls. Those same plays worked.
“It has way more to do with, in this case, how we block people, how we finish blocks, how we come out of our cuts at receiver and how we attack the ball. There’s a lot of other things that you can point your finger at. I’m not buying in to scheme. We’re doing exactly what I want to do on offense.”
Fundamentals, namely blocking and tackling, were more of a cause for concern for the eighth-year WVU football coach. Energy and effort were fine leading into the game, he said, but once the game got rolling the Mountaineers got dominated.
“You look at the way we played, we didn’t have loafs, we didn’t have lack of effort, which is weird because we got whooped,” Holgorsen said. “There’s no way around it, we got our butt beat. But there weren’t any effort issues, so that’s a positive. But other than that, that’s it. It comes down to good, old-fashioned blocking and tackling, and here’s where I assume responsibility for it: They blocked and tackled better than we did.
“There have been plenty of times where we’d get whipped, and I’m just like, ‘Guys, you didn’t play hard. You didn’t play with effort. You didn’t respect the game. You didn’t prepare the right way.’ There have been lots of those situations — that wasn’t it. We simply couldn’t sustain blocks, we couldn’t get off coverage. Defensively, we were stuck on blocks, and we missed a lot of tackles. That’s a good, old-fashioned butt kicking when it comes to blocking and tackling, and that’s head coach responsibility.”
Former South Charleston High standout and Gazette-Mail Kanawha Valley Player of the Year Derrek Pitts started for the first time in his collegiate career Saturday at Iowa State.
The former Black Eagle provided one of the few bright spots for the Mountaineers as he scooped up a blocked field goal attempt and returned it 72 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.
However, Pitts’ night ended early. He left the game with a knee injury in the second half and did not return. Holgorsen said he does not think it is a serious injury and he expects Pitts to return sooner rather than later.
“It’s not long-term, which is good news,” Holgorsen said. “He’s going to have to rehab it. There’s four or five guys that were going down and pulling themselves out of the game. That happens when you’re getting your butt kicked. Nothing happened in the game that was long-term. He’s going to have to work at it a little bit.
“He did this to his knee last year, too. He tweaked his knee last year in game six or something like that. He missed about a month. Hopefully, he’s more mature, and he will be more aggressive with his rehab. Guys with bumps and bruises go to that training room every day. The more aggressive you are, the healthier you get and the quicker you get healthier. I know he’ll work on it. It’s a good time for a bye week for that to be able to happen. When he comes back, I don’t know. He’s playing well. So, hopefully he gets back really quick.”
Iowa State fined
Iowa State was fined $25,000 and reprimanded for a violation of the Big 12’s “Principals and Standards of Sportsmanship,” the league announced Tuesday after Cyclone fans stormed the Jack Trice Stadium field after beating WVU last week.
“We have a duty to provide a safe game environment,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “The Iowa State Department of Athletics has a written event management policy that was not thoroughly implemented, and was unsuccessful in ensuring the safety and security of all visiting team game participants.
“Although the Big 12 conference does not currently have a policy prohibiting spectators from entering playing areas for post-game celebrations, it is of utmost importance that home game management provide adequate security measures for our student-athletes, coaches, game officials and spectators.”