Dana Holgorsen

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Josh Jackson shines as No. 21 Virginia Tech wins thriller against Will Grier and No. 22 West Virginia

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After playing one half of defensive football, No. 21 Virginia Tech (1-0) and No. 22 West Virginia (0-1) opened up the offenses in the second half and traded touchdowns for the last 30 minutes. In the end, the Hokies held on for a nail-biter of a win, 31-24 thanks to a brilliant debut from quarterback Josh Jackson.

The freshman had some rough moments but still turned in an admirable effort against a West Virginia team that can play some decent defense as well. Jackson passed for 235 yards and a touchdown and rushed for a team-high 101 yards and another score. Justin Fuente needed his young quarterback to shine in a back-and-forth game like this on the big stage, and he got it. Jackson emerged as a star in his first game, and the Hokies overall look once again to be a top contender in the ACC Coastal Divison, and they could even be ready to make a run at the conference crown if they play like this all season long.

Not to be overlooked in the loss is the play of West Virginia quarterback Will Grier. In his first start since 2015 with the Florida Gators, Grier passed for 371 yards and three touchdowns with an interception. Grier also put together 52 hard-earned yards on the ground, highlighted by a hurdle to keep a drive moving on the final drive of the game. Grier put the Mountaineers into position to tie the game, but a couple of last-ditch efforts were unable to get in the endzone.

West Virginia running back Justin Crawford also turned in a 106-yard performance, and both teams went for over 200 yards on the ground. The teams also combined for 50 first downs and had just one turnover in the game. An interception thrown by Grier led to nothing more than a Virginia Tech punt three plays later.

It was a toss-up game from start to finish, and ended with both teams having chances to grab a win. Virginia Tech just managed to find a few more plays.

There are few games you witness and feel good about both teams heading forward this early in the season. Both West Virginia and Virginia Tech look as though they will be able to have strong seasons if Sunday night was any indication of what to expect from each this fall. Both the Big 12 and ACC should be put on alert about these two teams.

West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen cost his team some yardage in the second half when he crossed the line and stepped on the field. This season, officials are being more strict with coaches stepping on the playing field. Moments after chasing down a ref over a call he didn’t like, Holgorsen had a flag thrown on him for stepping on the field while West Virginia was being called for a holding penalty. The 15-yard penalty to Holgorsen helped turn a 3rd and 1 into a 3rd and 26, moving the ball from the Virginia Tech 23-yard line back to the Tech 48-yard line.

Virginia Tech will open up their home schedule next week against Delaware. West Virginia will also play at home next week, as they host East Carolina (who just lost to the top-ranked FCS team, James Madison).

No more Red Bull for Dana Holgorsen as he is obligated to drink Monster

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Football coaches consuming as much Red Bull as possible has been well-documented in recent years with a handful of coaches packing away multiple cans of the energy drink into their system at a startling level. One coach riding the energy drink wave has been West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen, but you will no longer find him downing a Red Bull.

According to West Virginia reporter Sean Manning of The Dominion Post in Morgantown, Holgorsen is contractually obligated to consume Monster, which is due to West Virginia having a school-wide contract with Monster’s parent company of Coca-Cola.

Remember, Holgorsen and his love for Red Bull has been consistent during his time as West Virginia’s head coach. In 2015, he just so happened to walk away with two cans of Red Bull as free samples were being handed out at Big 12 media days.

And just last season, as West Virginia was playing Texas Tech, Holgorsen was seen chugging Red Bull on the sideline. But that will no longer be the case, as it appears Holgorsen will be switching up the brands. It’s a brilliant strategy for any energy drink company to align themselves with the growing number of head coaches that don’t hide from their love of a good energy drink boost. There are others out there that could just as easily sign such deals, like Larry Fedora at UNC and Ed Orgeron at LSU.

CFT Previews: Russell Athletic Bowl

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WHO: No. 16 West Virginia (10-2) vs. Miami (8-4)
WHAT: The 27th Russell Athletic Bowl
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL
THE SKINNY: It may be difficult to comprehend the idea of the Miami Hurricanes have gone a decade without celebrating a postseason bowl victory, but that is the monkey on the shoulders of the once-proud Hurricanes today. New head coach Mark Richt can start to turn the program around and bring his first campaign as the head coach to a happy ending that has long since been missing heading into the offseason.

Richt can have faith in his defense and quarterback Brad Kaaya to some degree, although Kaaya has far from perfect on the biggest of stages Miami has taken during his tenure. Could that change in the bowl game this year

Miami will be reunited with former Big East rival West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The two programs have not faced each other since 2003, before Miami left the Big East for the ACC. The Mountaineers are coming off their most successful season since moving into the Big 12 (also abandoning the Big East in the process) and is looking to put together the most wins in a single season under head coach Dana Holgorsen and the most wins since 2007.

West Virginia has been playing some of the best defense found in the Big 12, where defense often tends to be optional, but the Mountaineers are also ranked 80th in the nation in total defense. Regardless, the school gave a three-year contract extension to defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, who will be tasked with scheming against Brad Kaaya. On offense, West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard is coming off a season with 3,194 passing yards and 26 touchdowns, and Howard had a massive bowl game a year ago. If West Virginia can keep in sync on offense and cause Kaaya to make some mistakes, then West Virginia could gain an advantage unless Miami suddenly resurrects its running game.

THE PREDICTION: West Virginia 27, Miami 24

Saban, Harbaugh, Meyer among Maxwell Football Club coach of the year semifinalists

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Alabama head coach Nick Saban, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer are among 16 remaining candidates for the George Munger Collegiate Coach of the Year Award presented by the Maxwell Football Club.

Saban is the only coach from the SEC listed as a semifinalist, and he has never won the award that was first presented in 1989 to Michigan’s Bo Schembechler. Gene Stallings is the only Alabama coach to win the award, doing so in 1992. Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen was the first SEC coach since 1998 (Tennessee’s Philip Fulmer) to win the award, in 2014.

Meyer and Mike Leach are the only semifinalists to previously win the award. Meyer won the award in 2004 at Utah and Leach took the award in 2008 with Texas Tech. Penn State’s James Franklin could become the third Penn State coach to win the award, joining Joe Paterno (1990, 2005) and Bill O’Brien (2012).

The remaining semifinalists for the award are Mike MacIntyre (Colorado), Bobby Petrino (Louisville), Neal Brown (Troy), Ken Niumatalolo (Navy), Scott Frost (UCF), Kyle Whittingham (Utah), Justin Fuente (Virginia Tech), Chris Petersen (Washington), Dana Holgorsen (West Virginia), P.J. Fleck (Western Michigan) and Paul Chryst (Wisconsin).

Finalists for the award will be announced on December 12 and a winner will be named on December 29. The winner will be presented with the award on March 10, 2017 in Atlantic City, New Jersey at the annual Maxwell Football Club Awards Banquet.

Todd Graham takes blame for Arizona State’s mismanagement in Cactus Bowl

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For those who stayed up late enough to experience Pac-12 bowl action after dark on Saturday night and into the early Sunday hours, you were witness to some poor game management by Arizona State and head coach Todd Graham. Arizona State (6-7) lost to West Virginia (8-5) in the Cactus Bowl in Phoenix, 43-42, in part because Graham opted to kick an extra point to build a late six-point lead. Given the offensive trends in the game and the timing of the situation, going for two points was an easy call, and Graham blew it.

It’s my fault,” Graham said, accepting blame for the kicking of an extra-point instead of opting for a two-point conversion attempt with 4:56 to play. “We have a chart in the (coaches) box that we go by. We’re supposed to be going for two. We didn’t. Mismanagement on my part. That’s my responsibility.”

“Ball was snapped, kicked the extra point, tried to call a timeout. We had several things like that today. Not much to say about that—just mismanagement.”

There was more mismanagement, as Graham calls it, in the fourth quarter that resulted in a burned timeout. Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez kicked a 48-yard field goal to pull the Sun Devils to within one point of the Mountaineers in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. Before the ensuing kickoff, Graham called for a timeout because Graham wanted to attempt an onsides kick but the wrong kickoff team was on the field.

“We were fixing to do an onside kick and we didn’t have the right personnel on the field,” he said. “Another mismanagement deal.”

That was quite a blunder of its own. The mistakes were there all night for Graham and the Sun Devils, such as a delay of game penalty on the first play of a drive, a false start penalty on third down that likely killed another drive that ended in a missed 40-yard field goal, and the list goes on.

Of course, you knew it wouldn’t be Arizona State’s night when plays like this were happening for West Virginia…

You can blame Graham for much more than those mental and coaching blunders (and one Arizona outlet is already calling it the lowest point of Graham’s career at Arizona State). Arizona State’s defense was ripped to shreds by Dana Holgorsen‘s West Virginia offense. The Mountaineers totaled 676 yards of offense, including 532 yards through the air by Skyler Howard (five touchdowns as well) with receivers Shelton Gibson and Ka’Raun White each going off for 100-yard nights 29 first downs.

It gets tiring watching coaches getting paid big money make such silly mistakes the way Graham made them last night.