With every West Virginia win and every Geno Smith completion throngs of admirers and believers climb on the Mountaineer "bandwagon," and with every Stedman Bailey touchdown reception, the Old Gold and Blue blip on the national college football radar seems to swell a little bit more.
However, there is still one person who isn't sold on the performance of the kids from Morgantown. In his weekly press conference, WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen called his team "soft" no less than nine times when answering just one question—nine times. For me, this invokes thoughts of a particular scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
Mike Casazza, WVU beat writer for the Charleston Daily Mail picked up a reference to another comedy flick:
Either Dana Holgorsen just saw Super Troopers and was inspired to honor the humor or he thought WVU was soft Saturday. bit.ly/S3w97E— Mike Casazza (@mikecasazza) September 18, 2012
I did only earn a "C" in my "Appreciation of Motion Pictures" class, so Casazza may be more correct here. Regardless of the reference, it didn't seem too funny to Holgorsen, as he made it clear throughout his meeting with the press that he is expecting more out of his team from start to finish.
In the first two games of the season, his squad quickly built a lead then cruised to victory against Marshall and James Madison. For Holgorsen, the key word in that sentence would be "cruised."
"We’ve done a good job of starting fast," he said in his weekly press conference (via Grant Dovey, WVUSports.com). "We need to start faster in the second half, and we need to finish people. We haven’t done a good job of that. We let Marshall keep playing, we let James Madison keep playing and score late."
The story was similar in last year's game against Maryland.
The Mountaineers held a 27-10 halftime lead thanks to touchdowns on the ground by Vernard Roberts and Andrew Buie and an interception return by then safety Terence Garvin. WVU even had a hot start in the second half when Geno Smith found Stedman Bailey for a touchdown to make a 24-point lead.
Then, West Virginia set its cruise control while UMD kept on the gas, scoring 21 unanswered and coming within three points of a fourth-quarter tie.
Ultimately, WVU outlasted the Terrapins, edging out a 37-31 victory.
This method worked against Marshall and JMU this year and barely worked against UMD last year, but the Mountaineers' luck will catch up with them eventually. It could happen as early as this week against Maryland, in what will be their toughest test to date.
"They are talented," Holgorsen said of Maryland. "They have experienced guys on defense, they have talented secondary guys that tackle well and cover well. Are they better than the teams we’ve played? We’re certainly expecting that."
And so, West Virginia's head coach will be expecting his team to play better late this week, no matter who is on the field.
"A lot of people, even myself, have been guilty of saying 'well it’s just the young kids in the fourth quarter,'" Holgorsen said. "It’s not all just young guys. There are some experienced guys out there as well, and I don’t care who they are, their job is to move the ball or tackle people."
Despite the lack of late-game closure, West Virginia appears to be furlongs ahead of where it was at this time last year. Still, stronger play will be needed late in games. Maryland may not be the biggest cat in the college football jungle, as WVU is still a heavy favorite in the game, but the Terps will still be out to notch a huge rivalry upset.
"We expect to play at the highest level of college football," Holgorsen said. "We want everybody’s best every week that we play them. We expect to get everybody’s best, and we encourage them to bring their best."
That kind of confidence is great, but if the Mountaineers expect to see every team's best every week and stay at the pinnacle of college football, then they'll need to bring their best every week as well—and that means playing four strong quarters of football.
All quotes from Dana Holgorsen Sept. 18 press conference embedded above, via WVUSports.com.