LUBBOCK, Texas -- Don't expect Dana Holgorsen to get choked up when he walks the sideline Saturday afternoon at AT&T Jones Stadium, hair a little wild, a flood of memories bringing him back to the year 2000, long before he was the hotshot coach of the hottest offense in college football.
After all, he's not the most sentimental guy.
"No," said former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, breaking out in laughter. "No, he is not."
But once upon a time, here in the West Texas plains, Holgorsen was a young assistant for Leach, on his way up because of the way he saw the game.
- Matchup: West Virginia (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) vs. Texas Tech (4-1, 1-1), 3:30 p.m. today, Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, Texas. Mountaineers favored by 3 1/2.
- TV, Radio, Internet: WTAE, Mountaineer Sports Network, Sirius Channel 85, XM 85.
- West Virginia: Homecoming of sorts for coach Dana Holgorsen, who spent seven years at Texas Tech. ... QB Geno Smith is averaging 399.2 passing yards a game and has not thrown an interception in 204 attempts. ... RB Andrew Buie rushed for 207 yards and two touchdowns at Texas. ... Defense has allowed 460 yards a game, second worst in the Big 12.
- Texas Tech: Seth Doege is the third-ranked QB in the Big 12, with a 69.4 completion percentage and average of 278.4 passing yards per game. ... Have No. 2-ranked defense in the nation (210 ypg), No. 1-ranked passing defense (117.4 ypg), and No. 12 rushing defense (92.6 ypg).
- Hidden stat: West Virginia is 5 for 9 on fourth-down conversions this season -- all five successes against Texas last week. One was for a touchdown.
He returns to face the Red Raiders with undefeated and No. 5 West Virginia at 3:30 p.m. -- to the scene of one of the most significant stops in his career.
Holgorsen started as the receivers coach, was promoted to co-offensive coordinator and eventually to offensive coordinator before leaving after the '07 season. Those around the program said it was clear early how much Leach respected Holgorsen's opinion.
"He was on the headsets with Leach during the game and was the eye in the sky [those first years]," said former Texas Tech quarterback Sonny Cumbie, now the Red Raiders' inside receivers coach. "We'd come in at halftime, and Dana would be the first one to talk.
"If you're around football a lot, to let the inside receivers coach talk to the quarterbacks very first thing at halftime ... That spoke of Leach's respect and understanding of how Dana saw things. That's very unusual."
Leach had worked with Holgorsen before and coached him when he was a player at tiny Iowa Wesleyan.
"As soon as I could hire him again, I did," said Leach. "I got a little resistance because he came from a small school. But I always planned to get Dana on board."
During Holgorsen's time in Lubbock, the Red Raiders offense gained 200 more yards a game running Leach's air raid, shooting up from an average of 324 yards a game to 529 and change. Star quarterback Graham Harrell led Division I-A in total offense and receiver Michael Crabtree led in receptions.
"Dana was very, very intelligent. The more I saw of him during ballgames the more I became aware of why we were so successful," said Tommy McVay, the white-haired director of football operations who has survived three coaching staffs. "Though it was Mike's offense, Dana knew it well. And watching him work at halftime on the board, I'd think 'Gee, if he's our eye in the sky, I understand why we're so good.'"
Leach, now the head coach at Washington State, said he can watch West Virginia play now and know what Holgorsen will do.
"I can call every play he runs," said Leach. "He was always sharp. At our place [at Texas Tech], the truth of the matter is I was in the middle of calling plays. But we're very similar."
He said one of Holgorsen's greatest qualities is the ability to assess what his offense is good at and go with it.
"He features the abilities you have," said Leach. "They got a tough quarterback and two really explosive receivers. You stick with the things that work and don't do a bunch of the flavor-of-the-month stuff. You know what works."
Players take to his laid-back style, note the flip flops, the Red Bull and listen when the fiery side comes out replete with the occasional headset-throw.
Current Texas Tech cornerback Cornelius Douglas recalls meeting Holgorsen his freshman year, shaking his hand, and described him like this: "He was like a little surfer dude. Laid back. Real cool."
Not much has changed.
Thursday night in Morgantown, W.Va., on his radio show "The Dana Holgorsen Sportsline" he had listeners cracking up over his description of Lubbock as a place with very few trees.
"I hope it's rowdy. I hope it's fun and energetic. I hope they have 60,000 people screaming," he told MetroNews. "They can even throw tortillas at us if they want. That's a Texas Tech tradition. But I doubt they'll hurt."
The stands, made of light brown brick and jutting up in the heart of the city, can seat as many 60,454, and are expected to be brimming.
The Buddy Holly Center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 Saturdays, but trust the Tech-West Virginia game to be the biggest ticket in town.
"You can't tell me as long as he's been here, he doesn't have a little feeling for this place," said Scott Harrison, a former Red Raiders defensive lineman who works for the Lubbock Sports Authority and was a friend of Holgorsen. "He's got to. Anybody has to. There's something in the back [of your mind] that you'll always have.
"I think there's something in his heart for here."
As for Holgorsen ...
Remember, he's no sentimental fool.
"I'm over that," said Holgorsen. "I had eight great years there, but I faced Texas Tech when I was at Houston in a road game and when I was at Oklahoma State in a road game. It's nothing new to me.
"I'm five years removed from that and I've been to three different places since then. All the feelings and emotions were gone a long time ago."
First Published October 13, 2012 4:00 AM