When Jake Spavital was hired by Dana Holgorsen to be the offensive coordinator for West Virginia this past offseason, many fans were encouraged.
Spavital had a brief stint at WVU previously, before making a name for himself as an assistant at Texas A&m, guiding Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Following a semi-successful job at UCLA, Spavital was able to join Holgorsen and come back to the Mountaineers.
Two offensive gurus together — Dana Holgorsen and Jake Spavital — could have made West Virginia one of the most dynamic offenses in the country. That was partially true as the Mountaineers put up some of the best passing numbers of any school in the country.
Even when quarterback Will Grier was healthy, the offense just didn’t seem like it reached its full potential. On two occasions, though both wins, the offense failed to score a touchdown in a full half. On any level, that is unacceptable, but when one of the best offenses in the country can’t reach the end zone, something has to be fundamentally wrong.
Ultimately, the blame comes down on Spavital. Dana Holgorsen brought on someone he can trust to run the offense so play calling and other duties could be ran through someone else. Holgorsen is the CEO of this football program, but for the past five years he chose to run the offense the way he wanted.
Again, that was kind of stubborn of him because the Mountaineers didn’t really continue the momentum from putting up 70 points in the Orange Bowl and another 70 against Baylor in the Big 12 opener in 2012.
Against Texas, a 28-14 loss this season, it seemed to be the last straw for Holgorsen. He felt he put too much trust in Spavital. Maybe Spavital was being too stubborn, much like Holgorsen has been in the past. Following the Texas game, Holgorsen practically blamed Spavital for Grier’s injury, through a quote in a story by BlueGoldNews.com.
"“It’s second and one on the one. Why do you have to have the quarterback run all the way around the edge? When quarterbacks run the ball, bad things happen. Hand the ball off. It’s second and one. Hand it off. I gotta make sure that happens.”"
It seems as if Dana Holgorsen sat down with his protege extensively in the days leading up to the Oklahoma game. It was a hefty defeat to the Sooners, but Holgorsen changed his tone on how the offense performed. In fact, Holgorsen went out of his way to compliment Spavital, according to WVUsports.com.
"“I thought Jake did a good job. We weren’t happy with how we did things (against Texas). I downplayed Will injury, but you can’t use that as an excuse. When things like this happen, you have to have a plan to be able to step up and try and make it work. I thought the staff did a great job. I thought Jake did a great job. He called it great and put our guys into position to be able to have some success. I thought Kennedy (McKoy) took it and ran with it. The plan was good; they bought into it and that helped us move the ball.”"
McKoy did have a great game against Oklahoma, going for 137 yards, to lead all rushers, and three touchdowns. Between McKoy and Justin Crawford, maybe they should’ve had more carries this year instead of having Grier throw more than 35 times most games.
The offense didn’t reach its full potential this season and ultimately that comes down on both Jake Spavital and Dana Holgorsen. There were some points left on the field and wins were there for the taking that instead went down as losses.
Still, Dana Holgorsen is still developing as a head coach and Jake Spavital is developing as an offensive coordinator. If the two stay loyal and committed to each other and the Mountaineers, better things could come in the future.