Capitals

Mountaineers' Holgorsen faces former boss Gundy

Mountaineers' Holgorsen faces former boss Gundy

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) Dana Holgorsen's stay at Oklahoma State was brief. His impact was immense.

Between his offense developing into one of the nation's best and his presence allowing Mike Gundy to get out of offensive meetings and focus on the big picture, Holgorsen helped the Cowboys take a big step toward their first Big 12 championship a year ago.

It also served him well, with his 10-month stint in Stillwater providing the platform that helped him get his first head-coaching job at West Virginia.

``I think it worked out good for everybody,'' Holgorsen said.

Holgorsen returns to Oklahoma State on Saturday as an opponent, his Mountaineers (5-3, 2-3 Big 12) trying to break a three-game losing streak against Gundy's Cowboys (5-3, 3-2).

This time, for a change, someone has to walk away a loser.

When Holgorsen arrived at Oklahoma State, the Cowboys were entering what was supposed to be a rebuilding year after starting quarterback Zac Robinson finished the most productive career in school history and Dez Bryant and Russell Okung were picked in the first round of the NFL draft.

Instead of a step back, Oklahoma State took a leap forward with Holgorsen installing the wide-open offense he'd learned from Mike Leach at Texas Tech and used to rack up big numbers at Houston. Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon went from unknowns to first-round picks, even though Holgorsen didn't stick around for their senior years to see it firsthand.

``When we hired Dana, that was a good move,'' Gundy said, stating the obvious at this point. ``Not the most popular at that time but it was a very good move, in my opinion.''

Gundy, who had been the offensive coordinator under Les Miles at OSU, had remained involved with the game-planning until he hired Holgorsen. It wore on him.

``I think Mike wanted to go to where he could be more of a CEO-type head coach as opposed to being in the offensive room for 18 hours a day, trying to get the offense better,'' Holgorsen said. ``I think he's done a tremendous job of that if you just look back at since he made that switch, they've won an awful lot of ball games.''

Indeed, the Cowboys are 28-6 since the switch, including the best season in the program's history last season as Todd Monken picked up where Holgorsen left off. One of Holgorsen's many quirks was that he never used an actual playbook, so Gundy and Monken had to do their best to duplicate it without anything on paper.

``We've just kind of taken it and we've changed some of the routes and some of the ways we do motions and some of the play-action stuff. You've got to make it your own, like he did. Now it's ours and it's Oklahoma State's offense,'' Monken said. ``When I leave, they'll probably hate half the stuff I'm doing and change all of that, too.''

For now, though, there's not much difference between what Geno Smith is running at West Virginia and what Oklahoma State has run with three different quarterbacks this season - with it still up in the air whether Wes Lunt will be able to start or third-stringer Clint Chelf will get the call on Saturday.

``I've watched a couple of their TV copies here, and I can call out about 90 percent of their plays, so I'd assume that's something that is on their mind as well as it is on our mind,'' Holgorsen said. ``We have to be careful what we do from both an offensive standpoint and a defensive standpoint.''

The connection goes beyond just Holgorsen and Gundy. Joe DeForest, who was Oklahoma State's special teams coordinator and a defensive assistant for the past 11 years, now runs the Mountaineers' defense. Holgorsen's running backs coach, Robert Gillespie, served the same role on the Cowboys' staff for two seasons. West Virginia quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital and graduate assistant Andrew McGee also came from OSU.

``They would be much more familiar with us, obviously, than we are with them. They've been here. We only know them. We don't know their players,'' Gundy said. ``But once the game gets going, in most cases you actually forget who's on the other side.''

That might be a bit of an overstatement. No one at Oklahoma State has forgotten the Red Bull-drinking night owl whose fingerprints are all over the program to this date.

``He had his own way he liked to do things, and so what I tried to do was just stay out of his way and let him do his job because what I needed him to do was be productive for us,'' Gundy said. ``There's traditional coach thoughts that we all have. ... Some people do things a certain way because that's the way they've always done it. Well, he goes against a lot of things, and that's OK.''

After all, the Cowboys now have Big 12 championship rings and a Fiesta Bowl trophy they might not have had if not for Holgorsen.

All that matters Saturday is who wins a single game with a bearing on the conference standings and bowl scenarios.

``I think there's always a competitive nature. I think anybody that says that there's not a competitive nature, they're crazy,'' Gundy said. ``But you end up coaching against guys you know all the time. ... Now, Dana's a little different because he was here. But once the game gets going on, you forget who's over there and you certainly can't do anything any more or any less.''

Quick Links

Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

usatsi_10635504.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

The mood in the Capitals locker room following a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday was one of frustration. Forty minutes of strong play from Washington amounted to nothing because of a disastrous opening first period in which the Lightning jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

No one in the locker room was more frustrated than Braden Holtby.

"Obviously you don't want to go down three," he told reporters after the game. "That's on no one else but me. The third goal, especially the third, fourth goal, that's the difference in the game. I thought we played a really strong game against a really good team. We should have got a better result and that's on me why we didn't."

Tampa scored three goals in the first off of only eight shots. For the game, the Lightning managed to pierce Holtby four times off of only 19 shots.

RELATED: WHY THE CAPS LOST TO THE LIGHTNING

Frustration seemed to boil over on the fourth goal when a normally stoic Holtby was visibly upset after allowing Nikita Kucherov to beat him on a breakaway in a play similar to what we saw in the All-Star Game.

See for yourself:

"The key to getting better is learning from your mistakes and obviously I didn't do that," Holtby said. "I was just trying to play it patient. I wasn't trying to cheat towards that move and he came at it a different way. That's on me for not recognizing it. That's not a goal I can give up in that situation after our team battled the way they did, especially in the third."

The frustration Holtby feels likely is not the result of one goal, but the culmination of a recent slump that continues to plague the Vezina winner.

Holtby has lost four straight starts and has given up at least four goals in each of those games.

While Holtby was quick to take the blame for Tuesday's loss, head coach Barry Trotz was quick to defend his netminder.

"No one takes the loss," he said. "We all take a loss. I take a loss, the group takes a loss and Braden's part of the group. ... He's had a little tough stretch. It's no different than, we've got guys that haven't scored in 15, 20 games. It's no different than a player."

The challenge now is overcoming that slump.

For a slumping skater, Trotz could try different line combinations or play someone in different situations over the course of the game. Getting a starting goalie out of a slump, however, is more difficult. Most of the work has to be done in practice with the hope that it will carry over into the next game.

"You analyze how the goals are going in, what you're doing differently," Holtby said. "There's always some stuff that you can't control and stuff that you can and it's focusing on those contrallables that you can make a difference at. Like the first goal in Chicago, the last two goals here, those are goals that I could and should stop. You get to practice the next day and you focus on that and work hard until you figure it out so you don't do it again."

MORE CAPITALS: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-LIGHTNING

Part of the problem in Washington is that team defense is the Caps' biggest weakness. For most of the season, and even in years past, Holtby has made up for much of the team's mistakes on the backend. Now that he is slumping those mistakes become much more glaring and costly.

"The goaltenders in this league are erasers," Trotz said.

Lately, Holtby has not been able to erase those mistakes.

But the team has already moved to address the defense. Brian MacLellan added a puck-moving defenseman in Michal Kempny to help the team get the puck out of the defensive zone more quickly. Waiving Taylor Chorney could also signify another move may be coming before Monday's trade deadline.

As for Trotz, even during the slump, he made clear his confidence in Holtby has not wavered.

"He has been a rock since the day I've been here the last four years and he's been an elite goaltender and I look at him that way."

Quick Links

2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

usa-chez-usat.png
USA Today Sports

2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Pavel Francouz stopped all five shooters and Petr Kouka scored the shootout winner as the Czech Republic eliminated the United States with a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

Jan Kovar and Tomas Kundratek scored in regulation for the Czech Republic, which was fresher after winning its group and getting a bye into the quarterfinals. The U.S. looked fatigued after facing Slovakia in the qualification round and was outshot 29-20.

Ryan Donato and Jim Slater scored for the U.S, which again was led by its youngest players, including speedster Troy Terry. U.S. goaltender Ryan Zapolski allowed three goals on 29 shots and one in the shotoout, while Francouz stopped 18 in regulation and overtime.

Koukal was the only player to score in overtime. Chris Bourque, Ryan Donato, Marc Arcobello, Terry and Bobby Butler couldn't beat Francouz.

RELATED: OVECHKIN HAS LITTLE DESIRE TO WATCH 2018 WINTER OLYMPICS