Dana Holgorsen

Dana Holgorsen calls out WVU fan attendance


At just about 11 pm for the past few nights, my Twitter feed has blown up with the same set of rumors.

“Source tells me Mike Slive is in Morgantown. WVU to SEC is a done deal.”

“Been told to expect an announcement about SEC membership tomorrow.”

And on and on it goes. As the great West Virginia sideline reporter Jed Drenning relayed, “Some moments are truly special. I’ll never forget where I was all 17 times West Virginia was officially-unofficially invited to the SEC.”

Indeed, the Mountaineer faithful have opined over the last several weeks that West Virginia would be a solid addition to the SEC as the league’s 14th member to the point of some truly believing everything they read. After all, did you not see College GameDay live from Morgantown? Did you not witness the 13,000 fans packing the Mountainlair plaza and the over 60,000 who crammed into Mountaineer Field sporting gold?

It was a big-time atmosphere. A cultural ying to the SEC’s yang. How could they say no?

But then, this past weekend, West Virginia laid an egg. A crowd of roughly 46,000 — 14,000 less than capacity — showed up to a cold, rainy and overall dreary afternoon to watch the Mountaineers lay 55 points on Bowling Green. Speaking with the media on Tuesday, coach Dana Holgorsen said that’s not acceptable.

“Whatever our expectations are with our players as far as preparing every week and going to the games and playing our best – I highly encourage our students and support to take the same approach. You only have seven opportunities a year.   What’s so hard about it? Was it too cold?  It wasn’t too cold for our players.  Wasn’t too cold for our coaches, managers or trainers.  They were out there.  So, why did we have 20,000 less people out there this week than last week?

“We’re all talking two weeks ago about how much difference the fans and crowds going to make to the LSU people. Well, LSU played well in front of 62,000 of our people and then turned around and went home and played a 1-4 Kentucky team at noon with 95,000 people there. You want to talk about an elite program?  That’s one.  I don’t know about this place.

“All I heard about was about how much this meant to everybody across the state of West Virginia and this was the NFL team here in town and we’re going to be there to support you. Having 40,000 people at a game isn’t doing that.  The only thing we can do about it is fix it.”

To be fair, it’s hard to get excited about playing Bowling Green and Norfolk State, the two home games that hosted crowds of 51,000 or less. It’s almost equally difficult to get amped for Big East conference play. There just aren’t any great teams or marquee games.

Asking people to come out in force for Cincinnati or UConn? Even AD Oliver Luck, a smart businessman, has to know that’s a stretch.

But Holgorsen was brought in for a reason: to re-energize Mountaineer Field after it was lulled to sleep over the past three years under Bill Stewart. So far, WVU’s offense has responded accordingly. Geno Smith is a top-five passer in college football and points are bountiful.

The WVU Mantrip, a new pre-game festivity created by Holgorsen, is an exciting way for fans to interact with their team before the game.

If West Virginia’s fans are as passionate and loyal as they claim to be, and if the quality of the product has been raised, then I agree with Holgorsen that there needs to be a reciprocating level from those in the stands. Holgorsen is candid, so it’s not really his M.O. to implore, but his sentiment is valid.

A consistent 60,000 in the stands won’t get WVU an invite to the SEC, but it will show they have the atmosphere to hang with it.

(Big thanks: WVMetroNews) 

WKU to host S. Miss/LaTech winner in C-USA title game

BOWLING GREEN, KY - NOVEMBER 27: Brandon Doughty #12 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers looks to pass against the Marshall Thundering Herd in the second half of the game at L.T. Smith Stadium on November 27, 2015 in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The Hilltoppers defeated the Herd 49-28. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Not only is one-half of Conference USA’s championship game set, but so is the location.

East division members Western Kentucky and Marshall came into their game Friday afternoon at 7-0 and 6-1 in conference play, respectively, with the contest essentially serving as a play-in game to the league’s title game.  On the strength of Brandon Doughty‘s 370 yards passing and five touchdowns, the Hilltoppers played their way in and staked a claim to the division title with a dominating 49-28 win over the Herd.

The Hilltoppers became the first C-USA team to finish undefeated in league play since Houston in 2011. WKU is the seventh team to go unbeaten in league play in C-USA’s 20 football seasons.

WKU is in just its second season in Conference USA, and will be playing for its first conference title in Bowling Green as the win wrapped up home-field advantage for the Hilltoppers.

The opponent will be determined Saturday afternoon. West leaders Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech, both 6-1, will square off Saturday in Ruston, with the winner moving on to face WKU next Saturday. Tech lost to Marshall in its first-ever title game appearance last season, while USM is looking to get back to the game for the first time since 2011 and the third time overall.

Late pick-six gives unbeaten Iowa first-half lead on Nebraska

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With No. 4 Iowa’s unbeaten regular season and, potentially, a playoff berth on the line, Nebraska is doing its damnedest to ruin their rival’s postseason plans.

Thanks in very large part to a second-quarter defensive play, the favored Hawkeyes have taken a 14-10 lead on the Cornhuskers into halftime on a windswept day in Lincoln.  An interception from Tommy Armstrong Jr., his second of the contest, was returned four yards by Parker Hesse for a touchdown with 6:38 left in the second quarter and is the difference in the game.

A Drew Burns 39-yard field goal with three seconds left in the half sliced the Cornhuskers’ deficit to its current four points.

The Hawkeyes’ defense, stout all season long, was what’s everyone has come to expect, limiting the Cornhuskers to just 109 first-half yards before NU’s last drive netted 59 and led to the three-pointer.  NU’s defense was very much the equal to its counterpart’s stoutness, holding the Hawkeyes to 112 yards.  In fact, the two offenses combined to average just 5.4 yards per play, a number aided greatly by that last ‘Husker drive.

Armstrong now has 14 interceptions on the season; only three FBS quarterbacks have thrown more — Virginia’s Matt Johns, Maryland’s Caleb Rowe and Hawaii’s Max Wittek, all of whom have tossed 15 with one game each left to play.  Eight of Armstrong’s interceptions have come in the last three-and-a-half games.

Nebraska won the pregame coin toss and will get the ball on offense to open the second half.

Reports: Les Miles told boosters A&M game will be last at LSU

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 07:  Les Miles, head coach of the LSU Tigers, reacts during the first quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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It appears that, after a couple of weeks worth of speculation, the Les Miles era in Baton Rouge is indeed coming to an end.

Multiple media outlets are reporting that, at a booster club meeting, Miles informed those in attendance that Saturday’s game against Texas A&M will be his last as LSU’s head coach.  One person in attendance said that while Miles didn’t come right out and say the A&M game would be his last, he heavily intimated that very thing.

“He didn’t use those words but he made it clear that Saturday is his last game,” an unnamed Gridiron Club member told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

“He said , ‘We’re a second family to him and he’s going to miss us, he appreciates his real friends, and then he told us goodbye. It was very emotional but in control.”

Miles also reportedly stated that he would not coach the Tigers in a bowl game. Whether the parting of ways will be termed a dismissal or a mutual agreement remains to be seen, although it’s quite obvious the former is in play.

However, there is a different interpretation of both the scene at the booster meeting earlier today and the Miles’ current status:

If this is the end of Miles’ time with the Tigers — we’ll know for certain at some point after Saturday’s game despite today’s confusion —  he’ll end his 11-year tenure as one of the winningest in the program’s history. Miles has won 110 of the 142 games he’s coached at LSU, a winning percentage of .775, the best ever at the school.

He won two SEC West titles, but none since 2011. His Tigers won the national championship in 2007, and lost in the ’11 title game to nemesis Alabama. Since going undefeated in conference play in that latter season, the Tigers have lost two, three and four games the next three seasons; they are 4-3 in conference play ahead of the A&M game.

If the 62-year-old Miles wants to continue coaching — and all the indications are that he does — there will not be a shortage of suitors as there are currently a dozen openings, including nine at Power Five schools.  One intriguing possibility is Miles taking over for Steve Spurrier at South Carolina, speculation that’s gained momentum over the past few days as the rumors of Miles’ imminent demise have grown in recent days.

As for LSU?  Be careful what you wish for.  That grass that looks greener on a replacement’s lawn may turn out to be nearly a decade’s worth of fool’s gold — just ask Tennessee.

No. 24 Toledo’s loss hands MAC West to N. Illinois

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One of the biggest winners in college football this Black Friday didn’t even have to step foot on the field to become one.

At a cold and rainy Glass Bowl Friday afternoon, Western Michigan took the lead in the middle of the second quarter and never trailed again, dropping host Toledo by the score of 35-30.  The loss drops the 24th-ranked Rockets to 9-2 overall and 6-2 in Mid-American Conference play.

With the loss, UT and Northern Illinois, which lost to Ohio Tuesday night, are now tied atop the MAC West.  However, because of the Rockets’ 34-27 home loss to the Huskies Nov. 3, it’ll be NIU facing Bowling Green in the conference championship game next weekend.

This is the seventh consecutive season NIU has either won outright or shared the West division title.  This will also be NIU’s sixth straight appearance in the league title game, with the Huskies winning in 2011, 2012 and 2014.

Even more to the point, it will be an NIU-BGSU MAC championship game each of the past three seasons.

One final note: not that there was much doubt before, but the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bowl bid will almost certainly go to the AAC.  The winner of that conference will be determined next week in Houston, with UH hosting either Temple (if it beats UConn) or USF (if Temple loses).