This has felt like the longest off-season I have ever experienced as a UH fan and it’s all because we stepped up to hire Dana Holgorsen.
The hype for me hasn’t let up since then. Dana and his staff have spent the entire offseason upgrading the roster. Yeah, we lost a man yesterday to suspension but even still, the roster talent is significantly better than it was when Major was fired.
On the offensive side, my thirst for this season has pushed me to go back and re-watch everything I could from the 2008 and 2009 seasons. I’ve also watched as much as I can find on WVU from the last few seasons just to see how the offense has matured.
That film study reinforced what I knew from day one: Dana’s playcalling will continually highlight our team’s strengths and, perhaps more importantly, it will mask our weaknesses. The difference in Kendal Briles last year and Dana this year is simple schematic maturity. I liked Kendal as our OC but Dana is more in-tune with the burden that a hyper-fast offense puts on a struggling defense and will use his offense to lighten their load.
UH ended the year 128th in time of possession last year, second-to-last nationally, but ran the 7th-most plays in the country. The Cougars ran a play every 19.3 seconds of game time – by far the fastest team in the country. UH also finished 120th in scoring defense. And go figure: when you go faster than anyone in the country, you set your defense up to fail.
The teams that finished closest to UH in offensive time-per-play: Wake Forest (102nd scoring defense), Oklahoma State (97th), and ECU (120), and Texas Tech (86th). When you include Major, three of those 5 coaches were fired by the end of the year while the other two went 7-6.
Kendal was proud that we were going so fast and likely thought he needed to do so to help the defense. But he was oblivious to the fact that it was at least part of the reason for that unit’s failure. He and Major never thought to slow it down to let the defense rest or to limit their number of drives. The UH defense finished last in FBS in defensive snaps at 84/game.
That will never happen under Holgorsen.
Since leaving UH, Dana has matured into a different kind of play-caller. Much of that comes from his enthusiasm at taking advantage of the talent and situations available to him. He fits his system to the players on his roster instead of forcing them to adapt to him.
Dana’s WVU offense snapped it every 23.9 seconds of game time last year – taking 5 seconds longer per snap than UH. Over the course of UH’s 1010 plays, that could have added 84 more minutes of possession time. To put it in perspective: with 84 minutes more TOP, the Cougars would have gone from 128th to 33rd in TOP. That doesn’t matter much offensively but would have made a big difference on the defensive side.
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