As WVU’s loss at Iowa State unfolded into certainty, I couldn’t help but flash back to January of 1989.
And to dearly departed scribe Mickey Furfari.
At the time, he was my boss as the sports editor at the Dominion Post in Morgantown. We, along with a few others from the newspaper, were sent to cover the Sunkist Fiesta Bowl, aka the national championship between West Virginia and Notre Dame.
I remember Mickey because after covering the team all those years, after waiting for just such a moment, the Dean’s computer went on the fritz. He had to dash back to the hotel (for, yes, he was prepared, bringing another). When he’d returned, though, the game had all but been decided. He’d missed it.
Major Harris’ arm had already been ground into the soggy turf. Tony Rice had already struck. Rocket Ismail had already struck. The game was, for all intents and purposes, over. And Mickey missed it, not returning until halftime.
I bring that up because I’d been thinking maybe, just maybe, this might be that special year for WVU. Will Grier found his way to Morgantown. A fine receiving corps is on hand. There are a pair of nice offensive tackles. On the other side, defensive linemen Kenny Bigelow and Jabril Robinson transferred in to help linebacker David Long and company.
Maybe, I thought, I’d see what Mickey never did. I just had this hunch. WVU has Oklahoma at home this season and, well, if not this year, when?
Then came Saturday night’s mauling at the hands of ISU. One hundred yards passing. One-of-10 on third downs. Seven sacks.
It has me wondering. God bless ya, Mick, but, hey, am I ever going to see it?
I know. Perhaps there’s still time this season, if Dana Holgorsen can pull a Bob Huggins and “fix it.” He seems to have confidence. And he does have an off week.
“There’s a lot we didn’t do [against Iowa State], but I know this group has it in them,” said Holgorsen on Monday. “I’ve seen it. It’s my job to take as much time as we have to get these guys ready to go. We could use a few extra days, certainly.”
During Holgorsen’s Big 12 conference call on Monday, he was asked about the extraordinarily rough outing by Grier. And check out where he used emphasis within his answer.
“It’s really frustrating,” said Holgorsen. “That’s part of being the quarterback. Everybody is going to blame the quarterback, the play caller and the head coach. And all that needs to come my way, there’s no question. It’s not fair to point the finger at him 100 percent. The expectations he has on himself and we have on him – and the whole country has on him – can be unrealistic at times.
“We need to do a better job of blocking up front. We need to do a better job of running the ball to take some pressure off the passing game. We need to do a much better job of running routes and getting open. And then we have to trust what we’re doing and let ‘er rip. We’ve got a little work to do here.”
Catch that? WVU needs to do a “MUCH better job of running routes and getting open.”
So while folks were screaming for Grier to throw the ball on Saturday, maybe, just maybe, there was more going on than the TV showed.
The headline from Holgorsen’s conference call appearance had to do with Iowa State’s postgame fan management.
Or what he perceived as a lack thereof.
The Mountaineer coach was asked about getting his team off the field as thousands swarmed Jack Trice Stadium.
“Yeah, it was very unprofessional,” said Holgorsen. “Our job is to keep student-athletes in a safe place. And when you have thousands of people coming at you, it’s not good. There are league rules and league bans against that for a reason. Our job is to keep players safe. We didn’t have time to get them off the field. So that was not good.”
Holgorsen did say no Mountaineers were hurt.
“It was dicey there for a while,” said Holgorsen. “We rushed a few of the main guys off and the rest were kind of on their own. Luckily, we got out of there without anyone getting hurt.”
Oh, and no, the Mountaineer coach didn’t have a chance to shake the hand of ISU coach Matt Campbell.
Holgorsen was asked if the quarterback turnover within the Big 12 had to do with low scores on Saturday or if league defenses have improved. Five the eight teams playing last week failed to hit 20 points.
“The defenses have been playing well,” said Holgorsen. “Our defense has been playing pretty good holding people down. Texas Tech’s defense has improved. Kliff [Kingsbury] is doing well at that. Coach [Bill] Snyder’s [Kansas State] defense, I thought, was outstanding when it came [to Morgantown]. And then obviously Iowa State did as good a job against us as anybody ever has.
“I think we’re doing a good job in this league defensively. It’s always been known for offense, but I’d say at this point defenses have been doing well as well.”