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WVU football: Holgorsen refuses to talk conference realignment

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Dana Holgorsen promises his players don't read what the beat writers report. He assures listeners his eyes are on a game plan and not the Internet.

Yet West Virginia's football coach admits it's hard to get away from all the chatter about the Mountaineers and their future in whatever conference they'll call home.

Tuesday began with a report saying WVU's interest in the Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference had been rejected, a suggestion WVU officials privately brushed off by saying neither an application nor rejection had occurred.

"It's impossible to avoid it, whether it's the newspaper, the Internet, television, whatever," Holgorsen said. "It's impossible to avoid, but I don't think is necessary to have to avoid it.

"They understand everything I talk about is worrying about things you can control. You can control going to class. You can control getting treatment, going to study hall, practice, preparation, giving good effort."

Holgorsen refuses to let it affect him and won't even offer an opinion about whether WVU should play Pitt once the Panthers enter the ACC.

"I don't have any control over that," he said. "It's kind of the same thing, what I call an administrative duty, which is for Oliver Luck. He's as good as there is out there. I trust him and the direction he has this athletic department going."

WVU officials were in New York on Tuesday along with other officials from Big East schools to discuss present plans and future possibilities.    

"Our membership met this evening and we are committed as a conference to recruit top level BCS caliber institutions with strong athletic and academic histories and traditions," a statement released by the Big East on Tuesday night said. "We have been approached by a number of such institutions and will pursue all of our options to make the Big East Conference stronger than it has ever been in both basketball and football."

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No. 2 LSU, which has used 10 receivers to pass for 536 yards and four touchdowns, gets a boost to a passing game that ranks No. 92 nationally.

Russell Shepherd, a 6-foot-1 junior receiver from Houston who was second on the team in receptions last season, is back after a three-game suspension. He'll play in Saturday's 8 p.m. game at No. 16 WVU.

"I watched him when he was a sophomore in high school and that was a very impressive (Class) 5A highlight film," Holgorsen said. "He's got a lot of ability."

The Tigers (3-0) have done well enough without Shepherd. Odell Beckham, Jr., is the reigning Southeastern Conference freshman of the week. He had eight receptions for 61 yards against Mississippi State. Reuben Randle, a 6-foot-4 junior, has 11 receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown the past two games.

"The good news is there's only one ball and it can only go to one of them," Holgorsen said.  "It's our job to figure out which one it's going to and how to stop it."

LSU has plans to make the most of the available talent -and not just on offense.

"I think that there will be some immediate awareness and fondness for the offense," Coach Les Miles said.

"I don't think it will take time for Russell to get back into it in any way. I am sure that he will make some appearances on special teams."

*  *  *

IN JUST 15:43 of game clock against Maryland, WVU saw a 34-10 lead slip to 34-31. The offense had three drives, ran 11 plays for 31 yards and only had the ball for 4:54. Holgorsen was asked to respond to the suggestion his passing offense cannot control the clock and protect a lead.

"Well, we successfully ran off 1:30 with three victory formation snaps," he said.

When the laughs disappeared, Holgorsen said he doesn't believe in abandoning the style that built a lead.

"I've seen an opposing offense change what they do after they have a lead," Holgorsen said. "I've seen them go out, change the offense and try to run a couple of plays just to keep the clock going and they successfully punt. Then we get the ball, go down the field and score and beat them. I can't tell you how many times I've seen that.

"You have to be good at something. Whatever you did to get that lead, you probably have to keep doing that just to create positive plays to keep yourself on the field. If you go out and punt, then you give them an opportunity to win."

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WVU HAS won three straight home games with nighttime kickoffs on ABC. They've won 18 of the past 20 home night games and are 25-6-2 all-time at home at night. The Tigers, meanwhile, will be playing their third nighttime game away from home this season.

They opened against Oregon in Dallas on ABC and won at Mississippi State last week. They're the only team to play three ranked opponents in the first four weeks of the season.

"These are guys that understand big games, loud crowds and big stadiums," said Miles, who has won 35 straight regular season non-conference games.

"It is a nice opportunity to start the season with some quality experiences that will lend us to the remainder of the schedule. This won't be foreign to this LSU team when we go to West Virginia. We will expect a loud crowd, expect a quality opponent and expect to play a tight ball game. Those things benefit us."

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RECEIVER Tavon Austin said he had surgery on his right pinky last week. Austin said he broke his finger against Norfolk State and had screws inserted last Monday to help it heal.

"They said I'm a quick healer, so I'm good," Austin said.

The junior from Baltimore said he had no discomfort in Saturday's win against Maryland. He wore a thick protective wrap on his finger and had career-high totals of 11 receptions and 122 yards.

"I caught every ball thrown my way," he said. "If they'd thrown me 100 more I would have caught 100 more."


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