WVU Football: Offense, Defense, Rudderless Ship in Swirling Waters

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WVU Football: Offense, Defense, Rudderless Ship in Swirling Waters
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
West Virginia head football coach Dana Holgorsen

I’ve watched the late Bill Stewart’s “Leave No Doubt” fiery 2008 Fiesta Bowl pre-game homily three times before 4:30 this morning, as have 106,415 before me.  Then, as any other writer may, I wanted to read it.  I downloaded the transcript as offered by Caleb Wygal on YouTube. 

Coach Stewart was the interim head coach for the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, the final game against No. 3 Oklahoma, arguably the best team playing during the bowls that year.  Rich Rodriguez, as a result of his inept coaching of 28-point favorite and then-No. 2 West Virginia in an unfathomable upset at the hands of 4-7 Pittsburgh, had quickly turned a successful 2007 season into one that encountered a great deal of turbulence.

That was before he left his alma mater for the greener grass at Michigan. 

Coach Stew delivered his monumental, brief (just over a minute) motivational sermon with the tumult as the backdrop.  As the team sat in the locker room at what could have been the deepest nadir in West Virginia football history, already looking very outmatched and trampled on, Bill Stewart thought otherwise.

He went to work. 

Below you will find the speech, the transcript of which has been offered in segments to be compared to the gulch in which 2012 WVU football finds itself . 

We’ve all heard the adage, “The times call the man.”  In retrospect, early January 2008 was a terrible time.  Bill Stewart was that man chosen by fate to lead West Virginia out of the abyss. 

And, lead he did. 

We got a great opportunity.  We got a dandy waiting for us out there.

 

The Big 12 Conference is a great opportunity, a dandy waiting for Dana Holgorsen and the crew.  That opportunity unfortunately is being squandered.  The coaching staff is apparently unwilling to admit that their athletes, athletes as talented as any of those in the conference, are not being put in a position to win.  Wow, man.  And I thought Rich Rod was myopic.

Offense.  Play fast.  Assignment free, man.

Has Holgorsen's offense finally been discovered and deciphered?  This is the same attack that produced many 4,000-yard passing seasons by the quarterbacks and the receivers he groomed for the National Football League for over a decade.  If the defenses know what Holgorsen is going to do, why now and why in Morgantown?  And what's he going to do about it? 

Defense.  Swarm.  Swarm and tackle.  Punch that ball any chance you get and keep bustin’ them.

Are you serious?  One case in point: Quarterbacks in college with big arms attract NFL scouts if they are able to throw the deep out on a rope. Geno Smith can do it.  The deep outs of slow-footed, noodle-armed, but-he-just-wins-football-games Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein arch way too much and would be pickoff meat for NFL corners. 

How did the Mountaineers cornerbacks do?  Well, there were a lot of outs completed and many coaches' hats being flung through the air.

Special teams:  Lay it on the line and attack your responsibility.  Attack.

Tavon Austin finally got a kickoff return for a touchdown. However, another Austin return to midfield was called back on a holding penalty and, save one long roller, the punting game was abysmal. 

 

We can out-block them.  We can out-tackle them.  We can out-hit ‘em and hustle.

Yes, West Virginia can out-block them, out-tackle them and out-hit 'em and hustle.  Uh, no, I take back the out-tackle them. 

It’s real simple.  You out-block them.  You out-tackle them.  You out-hit ‘em.  You out-hustle ‘em.

It is "real simple," the philosophy of Bill Stewart.  Truly.  If you out-block, out-tackle, out-hit and out-hustle, the probability is high you'll win the game.  Dana Holgorsen should lay the Air Raid playbooks aside this week and work on those four concepts, because his team is not playing fundamental football.

And, you stay within the legal limits of the game!

I go back to the holding on Tavon Austin's long kickoff return.  Penalties kill.

It’s Mountaineer pride!  Nothing cheap!  From the heart!  Strain them!

We're watching the most uninspired football being played since the late 70s at old Mountaineer Field when WVU amassed six wins combined in 1978 and 1979, or the first four times Rich Rodriguez's teams played Maryland. 

Mountaineer pride never has been cheap.  It comes from the heart and stokes the soul.  It's just not happening this year.

Damn. I’m proud to be a Mountaineer!  I picked you a good one, didn’t I?  Huh?

 

I'm not seeing it, from the luxury boxes to Section 58 to Section 103 through Section 214 and all the way down to the sidelines and on the field.  I left at the nine-minute mark in the third quarter, my earliest ever.  That makes me part of the problem. 

We got a good one.  We are going to out-strain and out-hit these guys.

West Virginia's chances in the next five games will only begin by out-hitting.  It may be wise to give the opponent's receivers room, let them catch the ball and hammer them.  Championships have been won with this strategy.  Make it fun for the WVU defensive backs.  Don't cover, just unload.

Is anything else working?

Let’ em know.  Leave no doubt tonight!  Leave no doubt tonight!  No doubt!

Bill Stewart's signature sentence is being rolled and smoked by the 2012 Mountaineers.  Think about the ultimate meaning of "Leave no doubt!"  Think also of the circumstances under which coach Stew had ignited his players with it.  That three-word sentence, 12 letters strung magically together, is not congruous with the state of the program now, a mere five years later. 

They shouldn’t have played the old gold and blue.  Not this night!  Not this night!

It's sad how ludicrous this statement of pride has become.  Everyone wants a piece of West Virginia right now!

Don’t ever leave your wingman.  Never, ever, ever bail out on your brother!  You help.  You strain and you fight!

 

Next is finger-pointing and a fractious team.  If Dana Holgorsen can pull this gathering of athletes back together in two weeks, he may be Coach of the Year.

Start fast!  Stay on top of them!

So, West Virginia won the toss and deferred until the second half? 

It’s a game, lads.  Let’s go out there and have fun and get us a big victory!

West Virginia is 5-2 and ranked 25th in the Associated Press poll, and just about everyone who has anything to do with WVU football is morose and downtrodden.  All the yuppies who were being educated in the late 70s, including me, would have done most anything for a 5-2 record.  That, of course, is indicative of how the expectations have changed, and changed much for the better.

No longer are we Mountaineers fans satisfied with nine wins and a chance at the Gator Bowl.  That's the way it should be.  We, however, are "all-in" to such a degree that if WVU loses another game, it'll be fan anarchy.  That doesn't mean taking over Oliver Luck's office.  It does mean we'll vote with our feet and our butts—the butts will arise from the seat and the feet will do the walking.

Winning for winning's sake is pure and satisfying, but West Virginia football is a profit center that needs to sell out seven games a year.  A defense of matadors and an offense that can be held to three touchdowns in eight quarters will keep enough fans away, like the malaise of the Big East years.

No one wants to do that again. 

 

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