Cooling the Mike London, Dana Holgorsen Hot Seat Talk


Impressive Week 3 wins for Virginia and West Virginia should turn down the dial on Mike London and Dana Holgorsen hot seat talk.

London and Holgorsen were regulars on virtually any hot seat list published this offseason. London’s Virginia team nose-dived after an 8-win 2011 season, going winless in ACC play each of the subsequent two seasons; Holgorsen’s West Virginia team fell apart down the stretch in 2012, which carried over into a trying 2013.

The pressure under which both entered the 2014 season is indicative of the prevailing attitudes throughout college football. Holgorsen is in just his fourth season as the Mountaineers’ head coach, with just the one losing campaign,

Virginia afforded London more leeway than is common in the current landscape. Credit to UVa: Most athletic departments would have cut ties with a head coach after a second straight season in the conference cellar.

Maybe the school’s athletic leadership had confidence in London. Perhaps it was the approximately $11 million in buyouts it would have had to pay for firing London and his staff.

Either way, Virginia brass’ patience could be paying dividends. The Cavaliers won their first ACC game since stunning Florida State in November 2011, this time stunning league newcomer Louisville, 23-21.

Virginia’s defense completely manhandled Bobby Petrino’s offense. At one point, the Cavaliers had allowed just one third-down conversion over a 2 1/2-quarter span.

The Virginia offense showed just enough life to get the job done and improve the Cavaliers to 2-1. They’ve matched last season’s win total, and even impressed in their one loss, a 28-20 defensive slugfest against then-seventh ranked UCLA.

Bruins head coach Jim Mora sang the praises of the Virginia defense following that Week 1 meeting. Yes, a coach has incentive to play up an opponent, particularly in Mora’s case. UCLA was heavily criticized for winning in Charlottesville.

AP Poll voters had so little faith in the Cavaliers, UCLA was docked four spots in the Week 2 rankings. For context, Wisconsin slid as far in a loss.

But with the benefit of hindsight, the Bruins’ win looks quite a bit better. This Cavaliers defense is for real, and could be enough to make them dark horses in the wide-open ACC Coastal.

It was plainly evident how much Saturday’s win meant to London. In his postgame interview, he fought back tears and said, “I’m speechless.”

But the emotion spoke volumes. London has recruited well in the last few years, but the results on the field have been sparse. Rarely does a coach stockpiling talent but losing on Saturdays get an opportunity to see it come to fruition.

Similar to Virginia in the ACC, West Virginia is fast becoming a team to watch in the Big 12. The Mountaineers may not be a candidate to win the conference’s championship–Oklahoma and Baylor look like College Football Playoff contenders–but Holgorsen’s team could play spoiler to someone’s title aspirations.

Just ask Alabama. The Crimson Tide had to sweat out their Week 1 defeat of the Mountaineers.

Holgorsen’s version of the air raid was grounded a season ago, which was never more evident than in a 37-0 beat-down against Maryland.

But after a year in the system, quarterback Clint Trickett is finding his rhythm. He threw for 511 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Mountaineers to a measure of revenge over the Terrapins, 40-37 in College Station.

Maryland is a team like West Virginia that we’ll learn much more about come conference play, but this should prove to be a quality win for Holgorsen’s bunch later down the road.

The margin for error a coaching staff has when implementing a system is thin, as the Dana Holgorsen hot seat talk of this offseason shows. But West Virginia appears to be operating on schedule through the first few weeks of the 2014 campaign.