MORGANTOWN- West Virginia (6-2, 2-1 Big East) faces another big challenge in Saturday's home game against Louisville (4-4, 2-1)
Coach Dana Holgorsen, proud of the 24th-rated Mountaineers gutty 41-31 comeback conquest in the game at Rutgers, expects a similarly tough task from the Cardinals.
"The Big East is challenging, and Louisville is coming to town with a two-game win streak. They've done something that we haven't done this year," Holgorsen said.
Louisville defeated Syracuse and Rutgers back-to-back with a young team that's hitting its stride.
"The Cardinals are big and they're strong," Holgorsen noted. "They're talented, athletic and they'll come in here ready to go."
The Mountaineer mentor thinks it's difficult to win in the Big East every week, regardless which team you're playing.
But he believes if anyone can seem to snag momentum right now, WVU should after what it endured a week ago in Piscataway, N.J. The Mountaineers rallied from a 31-21 halftime deficit, with a strong showing in all three play phases.
"We have everything out there in front of us," Holgorsen said. "We're 6-2 and have a chance to finish strong."
He doubts that this gives the Mountaineers an advantage. But the players have been learning more and improving each week.
One thing is that a team must play well and hard all four quarters, regardless of what the score happens to be.
The Cardinals are averaging only 17.6 points and 206.2 yards per game compared to WVU's 38.6 points and 482.1 yards per game.
But Louisville leads the conference in defense. It is allowing only 16.2 points and 295.6 yards, while the Mountaineers are giving up an average of 26.1 points and 329.5 yards per game.
The two teams are almost even in third down conversions, 46 to 45. Defensively, it's a tie at 47-47.
While quarterback Geno Smith is No. 1 in the Big East in passing stats and total offense and three wide receivers rank among the top 10 pass-catchers, WVU's running backs are enjoying a strong season's stretch drive.
Robert Gillispie, who coaches the running backs, said it doesn't really matter who starts at tailback or fullback.
He noted that Shawne Alston, who rushed 14 times for 110 yards in the win at Rutgers, is a junior who has played in a lot of games and has maturity.
Dustin Garrison also is a proven performer. He's a freshman who has rushed 83 times for 517 yards and 5 touchdowns, making him WVU's leading rusher.
"We'll rotate guys in and out," Gillispie said. "Hopefully, the other younger guys will build more confidence."
Saturday's game will start at noon and will be televised regionally.