So when the first-year Mountaineer head coach was asked his thoughts about rumors and reports circulating concerning West Virginia possibly seeking a move to the Tigers’ own Southeastern Conference, he had an answer at the ready.
“You know, I don’t have an opinion,” Holgorsen said. “We’re in the capable hands of [athletic director] Oliver Luck and [WVU president] Dr. [James P.] Clements, and I’m going to worry about Xs and Os.”
That was all the discussion the conference shakeup got during Holgorsen’s segment of the Big East coaches’ teleconference Tuesday -- and with good reason, as those Xs and Os seem a bit tougher to decipher when facing a daunting challenge from LSU.
Coming on the heels of a 37-31 win at Maryland in which the Mountaineers had to hold on late after building a 34-10 lead, there were plenty of issues film study exposed that West Virginia will have to work on this week.
But in what had to be an encouraging development for Holgorsen, WVU’s offensive line had its best all-around game by far against the Terrapins. That comes just in time for that front five to face the Tigers’ stout defensive line -- among the nation’s best and almost surely the toughest challenge the Mountaineers’ O-linemen will face this season.
“[West Virginia’s offensive linemen] pretty much proved our point that they were capable of finishing blocks, getting running backs free and getting some pretty good pass protection and all that,” Holgorsen said. “It’s definitely, definitely going to be a challenge this week.
“LSU has as good a D-line as there is out there in the country, and they’ve got about eight or nine guys they can roll in there that all look about the same to me. You know, so we’re not going to be able to wear them down because of their depth. So then it’s just going to have to be that we execute and do our best to hang on.”
But while Holgorsen indicated the Tigers’ defense is “as good as anything I’ve seen on tape” that doesn’t mean he will spend time fretting about individual position battles.
LSU’s overall talent would seem to make that a daunting proposition in the first place. Rather, staying within the coaches’ tactical plans will be of particular importance to find success this week, according to the coach.
“When you play a team like this that has talented individuals at every position, you know, and they’ve got backups that are talented as well, you don’t worry too much about match-ups,” Holgorsen explained. “You worry about scheme ... you try to take advantage of what they’re giving you.”
Part of that scheme is based on limiting how much of an impact any individual defensive player (say, LSU’s star cornerback Tyrann Mathieu) can have by working to distribute the ball to as many players as possible.
As evidence that at least that portion of Holgorsen’s offense is coming to fruition, West Virginia had three receivers (Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Ivan McCartney) who all registered at least 100 yards in grabs in the win over Maryland.
That’s the first time in Mountaineer program history that has ever occurred, and it was the first time even two WVU players reached the century mark in receiving yards in the same game since a 1998 win over Pitt.
In a sign of just how much Holgorsen’s offense differs from the one LSU saw from former West Virginia coach Bill Stewart in a 20-14 Tigers victory in Baton Rouge last year, the Mountaineers had as many receivers with 100 yards or more in the Maryland game as they had during the entire 2010 season.
“Everybody looks at balance as how much you run it and how much you pass it. We’ve always done this, for a long, long time -- 15 to 20 years ago with Hal Mumme and Mike Leach -- and spreading the ball around to specific people has always been one of our goals,” Holgorsen said.
“You can put five skill guys out there, and our goal is to spread the ball to all five of them and make five guys as productive as we possibly can. Devon Brown is the fourth receiver, and he had 100-some yards the previous game.”
So given those differences in schemes, Holgorsen said he likely won’t watch any film of these programs’ meeting from last season -- though WVU defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel will do so, and special teams film from that match-up will be looked at as well.
But in his earliest study of film of this year’s LSU team, Holgorsen indicated one key point has already begun to stick out.
“They’re as fast as any football team out there, all three sides of the ball. They’ve got guys that can really run,” the head coach said. “They’re extremely well-coached on all three sides of the ball. It looks to me like they’re highly motivated.
“They’re playing with a lot of energy, and they’ve already been in some big games this year and have guys that can rise to the occasion. So we’ve got to adjust to the speed of the game quick. They’re a physical football team as well. So we’re going to have to play fast and we’re going to have to play hard.”