Unlike his relationships with several coaches in the Big 12, Dana Holgorsen shares no bloodlines or coaching trees with Charlie Strong.
But the West Virginia coach and his Texas counterpart still have a connection: the Big East.
The Mountaineers’ last season in the Big East, 2011, was Holgorsen’s first as coach. Strong at the time was turning Louisville into a Big East power that would join the ACC in 2013. He parlayed his success into the Texas job, replacing Mack Brown during the offseason.
“I’m very familiar with him, obviously,” Holgorsen said. “We’re pretty familiar with how he runs his program — very disciplined. He’s a no-nonsense guy. I’ve got a ton of respect for that.”
Strong dismissed nine players in September for a variety of infractions. Shortly thereafter, beleaguered NFL commissioner Roger Goodell met with Strong to get his thoughts on player discipline. The aptly named Strong likes to work out and pump iron and has yelled at his players, “Don’t let this 53-year-old man outwork you.”
The offense-oriented Holgorsen and Strong, a Lou Holtz disciple known as a defensive guru, faced off once in the Big East, on Nov. 5, 2011, in Morgantown, W.Va.
Louisville won 35-31 as quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who now starts for the Minnesota Vikings, completed 21 of 26 passes for 246 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The biggest star, however, was WVU quarterback Geno Smith, who formerly started for the New York Jets. Smith was 31 of 44 for 410 yards and three TDs and no picks.
After the game, the Louisville players were heard singing “Country Roads,” WVU’s unofficial theme song, in the visitor’s locker room.
The loss led to WVU finishing 5-2 in the Big East, the same as Louisville and Cincinnati. Even though Louisville beat the Mountaineers, it could not beat Pitt, and a three-way tie breaker sent WVU to the Orange Bowl.
Strong’s Cardinals finished 7-6 in 2011 and went a combined 23-3 the next two seasons, beating Florida in the Sugar Bowl in January 2013.
Brown stuck around for 16 years, but the program had slipped, especially recruiting. Strong, with his forceful personality, is addressing that.
But this has been a bumpy season, starting with the dismissals. On the other hand, the Longhorns might be coming to life, especially their defense.
Said Holgorsen, “It’s a very good, quality team that’s improving on a week-to-week basis.”
Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected].