Dana Holgorsen and Mike Gundy have history, and they will add to it when Gundy’s Oklahoma State Cowboys take on Holgorsen’s West Virginia Mountaineers. Both have proven themselves as capable coaches, but it will be Gundy who comes out on top of this coaching matchup.
Holgorsen received his current gig at West Virginia after helping the Cowboys offense soar to new heights as Gundy’s offensive coordinator. He left for Morgantown after a single season, and while the Mountaineers offense has been among the nation’s best, Gundy’s Cowboys have continued to score at a high level as well.
Holgorsen has two other former Gundy assistants in co-defensive coordinator Joe DeForest and running backs coach Robert Gillespie. These coaching staffs are incredibly well-acquainted with one another, which will definitely factor into the strategy on both sides.
Since leaving Oklahoma State, Holgorsen has proven that he can run a program and win games, especially against weak Big East competition. However, his squad has struggled recently against stronger Big 12 teams.
Gundy has done one of the best coaching jobs in the nation over the past eight years, taking a program that went 4-7 in his first season and going 46-14 in the last five seasons. That experience is the first reason why Gundy will outcoach Holgorsen in this matchup.
When we compare the head coaching experience of these two men, the assessment becomes a bit lopsided. Holgorsen has just 21 games of head coaching experience, dwarfed by Gundy’s 97.
Obviously, that figure alone does not make Gundy a better coach than Holgorsen. However, this matchup is a big one, and coaching experience matters in these types of big moments.
Gundy has had to play both Oklahoma and Texas every year in his tenure with Oklahoma State. Those are big games for everyone. He has also played Texas Tech, Missouri and Kansas State as Top 10 teams throughout his career.
As talented a play-caller as he is, Holgorsen really has yet to prove himself in those big games. Granted, Gundy has not won them all, but a coach learns more from losing big games than not playing them at all.
A case could be made that, before this season, Holgorsen’s Mountaineers played just one or two teams that could even come close to the opponents Gundy has faced. Coaches have to learn how to win games just like players do, especially games as evenly matched as this contest appears to be.
Gundy has the experience to know what to do in crucial situations. Holgorsen is obviously a good coach, but he cannot compare to his counterpart in this area.
That is why Gundy will outcoach his former offensive coordinator. Holgorsen lost by one point to TCU (a team that Gundy’s squad beat by 22 points) and to Kansas State by 41 at home (a team that Gundy’s squad lost to by just 14 in Manhattan, Kan.).
Comparing scores can be dangerous, but in this case, it shows a big gap in big-game and Big 12 experience. Thinking such a gap will not factor into this matchup would be foolish.