MORGANTOWN - First-year West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen doesn't know a lot about Saturday's 3:30 p.m. showdown with the Falcons from Bowling Green. But, what he does understand is that his No. 22 Mountaineers (3-1) had better be prepared to get the best shot from their Mid-American Conference foes.
"I've only watched bits and pieces of what they're doing this year," explained Holgorsen. "Coach (Dave) Clawson is a good football coach. He's an offensive guy-he's a quarterbacks guy. The couple of places he was at prior to Bowling Green, he rebuilt and got to the point that they were winning a whole bunch of games. That's why he's moved up the coaching ladder."
The Falcons (3-1, 1-0 MAC) are coming off of a 37-23 win over Miami (OH). Sophomore quarterback Matt Schliz completed 19-of-24 attempts for 183 yards and two touchdowns while freshman running back Anthony Samuel carried the football 16 times for 121 yards-96 coming on a touchdown run with 10:04 left in the game.
Dana Holgorsen, WVU head coach
Dave Clawson, Bowling Green head coach
"He (Clawson) gets them to go where he wants them to go, and he has them make plays," continued WVU's coach. "They're relatively young. They've got 16 freshmen in their two-deep and about 10 sophomores in there, too. They're a team that's rebuilding, which means that they're going to get better. In their first four games, they've gotten better."
Enough to stay on the football field against a Mountaineer squad that was within six points, 27-21, of No. 1 LSU?
"They (WVU) are an excellent football team," explained Clawson. "It all starts with their quarterback Geno Smith. He'll be playing on Sundays some day. It makes for some very difficult matchups for us on defense and we are going to have to tackle well in space."
Something the Falcons were able to accomplish in their 14-point win at Miami.
"A road win over the Red Hawks is big," continued Clawson. "We tackled well in space. Their quarterback is an excellent player. He makes plays with his feet as well as his arm and their defense is very good."
Smith is coming off of a career performance against the Tigers as the junior signal-caller completed 38-of-65 attempts for 463 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions. WVU fell victim to its own mistakes as four turnovers, 10 penalties and a number of special teams breakdowns proved to be more than the Mountaineers could overcome.
"It will be our biggest challenge of the year," added the Falcons' coach. "We will have to play our best football if we want to keep the game close."
And run the football.
The Tigers rushed the football 41 times for 186 yards as West Virginia's 3-3-5 stack alignment surrendered more than 180 yards in a game for the second straight outing. The Falcons ran 38 times for 127 yards in their win over Miami.
"Since we've been here we said we wanted to run the football," said Clawson. "There are times in the game where you are going to have to run the football."
Conversely, WVU's running attack has yet to produce a 100-yard rusher in a game and freshman Vernard Roberts is the only Mountaineers with more than 100 yards (121) on the ground after the team's first four games.
"It depends on if you have three freshmen or if you have an All-American back out there," said Holgorsen. "We're searching for guys that are every-down backs, which we don't have yet. Dustin (Garrison) came in last week and gave us a half of really good football. His production in one half of football was as good of a performance as we've had in one half this year."
But will that be enough against the Falcons?
Mountaineer fans will have to wait until the end of Saturday's game to find out the answer to that question.