WVU football: Holgorsen looks to extend indoor win streak against Syracuse
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Dana Holgorsen looks to extend a two-game winning streak indoors today when the West Virginia coach leads the 11th-ranked Mountaineers (5-1, 1-0 Big East) against Syracuse (4-2, 1-0) at 8 p.m. inside the Carrier Dome. ESPN will televise the game.
Holgorsen was Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator last season when the Cowboys beat Arizona in the Alamodome, in San Antonio, Texas. When Holgorsen was the offensive coordinator at Houston, a win against Tulane at the Louisiana Superdome in Conference USA ended a two-game losing streak in domes.
"It was about 25, 30 degrees inside because they had the air conditioner set at 20 degrees because the Saints and Cowboys were playing the next day," Holgorsen said. "They tried to get it as cold as they possibly could so when they put all the people in there (the following day) it wouldn't be so hot. It was cold, but we won."
The Cougars led 9-6 at halftime and won 44-16. Holgorsen was on the Texas Tech staff when the Red Raiders lost to Iowa in the Alamo Bowl in 2001 and to East Carolina in the galleryfurniture.com Bowl at the Astrodome in Houston in 2000.
The problem in the Superdome will be different than what the Mountaineers anticipate in the Carrier Dome. The dome isn't air conditioned, even though it bears the name of a heating and air conditioning company. Those who have played there, like defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich, are ready for heat and thick air that becomes an additional opponent throughout the game.
"He told us that back in the day when they always sold it out, you couldn't breathe," defensive lineman Julian Miller said. "They're going to have a lot of people there. We're expecting a big crowd and preparing that we'll have a hard time breathing."
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THE ORANGE are coming off a last-second win at Tulane, but that was Oct. 8. Syracuse and WVU had open weeks last week.
Syracuse is 2-1 in overtime and avoided a fourth opportunity with the game-winning field goal against Tulane. The Orange have won two games by three points and two by seven points and lost one by three points and one by three touchdowns.
They've scored 27 points in the first quarter, 48 in the second, 27 in the third and 45 in the fourth. Their worst quarter on offense is the best on defense and the worst on defense is the best on offense. Syracuse has allowed 27 points in the first and 57 in the second.
"I think we as a team we really needed to take a step back for a minute because we've been so inconsistent," Coach Doug Marrone said. "There are times when you watch us play on film and go, 'Ooh, that's a pretty good football team,' and there are times when you go, 'Oof, what are they doing?' For us, it was time to go back and re-evaluate everything we were doing on offense, defense and special teams and look at what we thought we had going into the season and what we thought we could do well. Are we doing those things?"
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ONE AREA MARRONE paid attention to was the running game. Running back Antwon Bailey has gotten the ball on 125 of the team's 189 run plays this season. His backup, Prince-Tyson Gulley, was second on the team with 18 carries, but was lost for the season the week of the Tulane game after breaking his collarbone away from football.
Bailey carried 24 times against the Green Wave. Freshman Adonis Ameen-Moore had two and was the only other running back to get the ball. Marrone said Ameen-Moore was banged up and held out of practice early this week, but should play.
Last season, Bailey came on when starter Delone Carter was hurt against WVU and ended up filling in with 94 yards. The Orange, led by Marrone, who was the offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints, completed five passes, but ran effectively enough to win the game.
"It's pretty obvious what they want to do," Holgorsen said. "They want to control the game. They want to get in the huddle and run pro-style stuff. They want to beat you with formations, grind the clock down and get first downs. That's what they did last year and had success with it. I think they had about 260 yards last year, converted some big third downs and ate some clock up.
"Whatever defense you're running on a third down, you have to get off the field. We need to do a good job when we're in third-down situations of getting off the field and creating turnovers. If they want to grind it and run the ball on third down and three, then we need to be able to stop them."
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SYRACUSE SACKED WVU quarterback Geno Smith five times last season and pressured him throughout the 19-14 victory. Smith threw two interceptions and didn't have time to push the ball down the field. He completed one pass for more than 20 yards - a short pass to Jock Sanders that gained 28 yards.
Holgorsen said the Orange blitz on about half their snaps and his offense can't go into the game trying to avoid or to capitalize on the pressure because Syracuse isn't going to change.
"You have to adjust to what they're doing and just handle it," he said. "To say they're not going to pressure is the same as saying that we're not going to pass the ball. It's what they do and they're good at it. When they bring it, we'll have to be able to recognize it and block the guys that are coming. Geno will have to recognize it and know when he has to get rid of it or when he can hang on to it."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.