MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- When Dana Holgorsen joined the University of Houston staff as the offensive coordinator in 2008, he met with his new boss, Coach Kevin Sumlin, to talk offensive philosophy.
Sumlin had just left his job as the co-offensive coordinator at Oklahoma and didn't enjoy the fondest farewell.
"He'd just got his butt whipped by West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl," said Holgorsen, who joined the Cougars' staff after he decided to leave the Texas Tech after eight years.
In that 48-28 defeat, Sumlin saw a tempo from the underdog Mountaineers that he wanted to feature in his offense. The idea was to identify what the offense does best and do those things as fast as possible.
The results were undeniable. The Cougars were ranked No. 2 in total offense in 2008 and No. 1 in 2009.
"We didn't play that fast at Tech," Holgorsen said. "We'd huddle sometimes, we'd go slow sometimes, we wouldn't huddle but we'd still go slow. Every now and then we'd have a two-minute mode and hurry along, but we never practiced like that. Kevin told me, 'Do exactly what you do, but do it as fast as you can.' It puts pressure on the defense."
Last year, Holgorsen was leaving Houston for Oklahoma State.
"Mike Gundy hired me for a reason," Holgorsen said. "A year ago at this time, he wasn't a very happy guy."
Gundy, a former star quarterback for the Cowboys, had an offense in 2008 that was ranked No. 79 in total offense, No. 99 in passing offense and No. 56 in scoring offense.
In this one season with Holgorsen, Oklahoma State was Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in those categories.
Now he's the Mountaineers' offensive coordinator, effective with the start of the new year, before replacing Bill Stewart and assuming the head coach's position in 2012.
This time, it was WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck who wasn't a happy man and called on Holgorsen to make a change. The offense had its lowest point total of the season and second-worst in Stewart's 39 games in the 23-7 Champs Sports Bowl loss to North Carolina State.
The only touchdown was a 32-yard score that required a great throw from quarterback Geno Smith as he was hit and an acrobatic catch by receiver Stedman Bailey.
Other than that, WVU didn't have more than eight plays or 42 yards on a drive. It was the N.C. State defense dictating the tempo with an avalanche of zone blitzes.
Holgorsen is expected to change all of that and boost WVU's offensive rankings: No. 68 in total offense, No. 77 in scoring, No. 67 in passing and No. 51 in rushing.
While improvements are expected, nothing is guaranteed. The first season of the past two coaching changes haven't hit as desired. The Mountaineers were 3-8 in 2001 when Rich Rodriguez followed Don Nehlen and 9-4 in 2008 when Stewart followed Rodriguez. That team started the season ranked No. 8, but was out of the polls after three games.