WVU football: Determination drives Doege
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- There's the obvious headline in advance of No. 5 West Virginia's trip to Lubbock, Texas, this week because of Coach Dana Holgorsen's connection to Texas Tech.
It was there where Holgorsen got his first Division I coaching job and it was there where he spent the 2000-07 seasons mastering the art of his offense with former Red Raiders Coach Mike Leach.
Yet there's a subhead involved, too, because while the Air Raid offense wasn't invented at Texas Tech, it was popularized there in Big 12 Conference shootouts with the eye-popping quarterbacks and receivers and the team that in 2008 would knock off top-ranked Texas, start 10-0 and reach No. 1 in the polls.
Leach is at Washington State and Holgorsen is at WVU, but the Red Raiders say the offense never left.
"We started it," quarterback Seth Doege said. "The Air Raid is our identity at Tech and we take some pride in it and in throwing the ball around the field for a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns. That's something we want to keep as our identity."
WVU's version and Texas Tech's version face off in Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game (ABC telecast) at Jones AT&T Stadium.
The Mountaineers (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) rank No. 2 nationally in passing offense, No. 3 in total offense and No. 5 in scoring offense. Texas Tech (4-1, 1-1) ranks Nos. 7, 15 and 21 while Doege is No. 25 in passing offense (278.4 yards per game).
Texas Tech's exploits may be a surprise for a team that was picked ninth out of 10 teams in the Big 12 preseason coaches' poll, but Doege's success shouldn't shock anyone.
His skill was the reason he was recruited to Texas Tech - by Holgorsen.
Doege (DAY-ghee) committed to the Red Raiders before his junior year in 2006.
"He had a great sophomore year and looked like he was going to be a player," Holgorsen said.
The two never got to work together.
"One of the first days I was there, I walked in and he was packing up to go to Houston," Doege said.
Doege said he hated to see Holgorsen leave because he wanted to learn from Holgorsen, who by then was the offensive coordinator, but also because he felt he owed Holgorsen. Doege tore his left ACL when he was tackled during two-a-day workouts in August 2006.
Holgorsen and the rest of the staff told Doege they were still with him.
"The fact I still had my senior season left, that motivated me," Doege said. "I knew I had one more year left to still live out winning a state championship and still live out playing with the group of guys I grew up with."
A year later, things were back to normal and looking to get much better. In the summer of 2007, Doege led his high school to the state tournament of the 7-on-7 championship, which is a pretty big deal in Texas. When the team returned to workouts in August, he tore the ACL in his right knee simply running the ball. He would miss his senior season, as well.
"I had to call Coach Leach and tell him what happened, but they told me they were honoring the scholarship offer and they made me feel like everything was going to be all right - 'Just have the surgery and rehab it and get better. You're still our guy,' " Doege said.
He enrolled at Texas Tech in January of 2008 before signing a national letter of intent a month later.
"I had motivation to still play college football," he said. "Tech honored the scholarship and that was a huge deal to me. If they were to revoke it and I didn't have anywhere to play, it could be a whole different story. But I think that's what gave me some motivation, like, 'OK, I still have the chance to live out my dream and I can still rehab and play at the Division I level.' "
Doege redshirted in 2008 as Holgorsen worked his first season as the offensive coordinator at Houston.
When the Red Raiders needed a quarterback in 2009 to fill in for Taylor Potts, they called on Doege, who led the way in a win against Kansas. He played in four games that season, but just two in 2010.
Leach was fired in 2010, but his replacement, Tommy Tuberville, was able to retain assistant coach Neal Brown as offensive coordinator.
They trusted Doege to be the starter and he complied by leading the country with 33.17 completed passes per game and ranking fifth with 333.7 yards per game.
Doege was at his best against the best and completed 33 of 52 passes for 441 yards and four touchdowns in an upset at No. 1 Oklahoma. He added a rushing touchdown and didn't throw an interception.
The Sooners got the better of Doege last week, when he was 22-for-36 for 203 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions.
No matter the results, the offense is barely different from what Leach and Holgorsen had in place before.
"It's very similar," Doege said. "There have been some changes on the staff, but at the same time, the verbiage and all that stuff is pretty similar. We've tweaked a few things here and there, but Coach Brown played under Leach at Kentucky, so he's going to do the same things and spread you out and throw it. He's been in that system for a long time."
The memories of the knee injuries, and the sentiment attached to people like Holgorsen, are all that remains. Doege acts like he was never hurt. He refuses to wear knee braces because he can't stand the way they feel when he's moving. He would have run track as a high school junior, but his father wanted him to wear the braces. He's never worn them in college.
"Talk about a determined kid," Holgorsen said. "He never gave up and never changed how he played the game. He hung in there and stayed the course there at Texas Tech and he's done a good job once he got the opportunity to play. Obviously, he's made the most out of it, which I'm proud to see."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.