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Mirror, mirror on the wall ...

MORGANTOWN - As West Virginia's football team divided up and spent much of Tuesday morning in video study of Oklahoma State, the same notion kept arising no matter what the meeting room.

"One of the things that keeps coming up is that it's like we're looking in a mirror,'' coach Dana Holgorsen said. "What they do offensively, what they do defensively, what they do from a special teams standpoint, there's a lot of crossover from the coaching staffs.''

OK, so that's a given. After all, consider coaching trails. Before installing his version of the Air Raid offense at West Virginia, Holgorsen did exactly that in his one year as offensive coordinator. And given the success he enjoyed during that 2010 season, the Cowboys haven't changed much since he left.

Consider, too, that first-year West Virginia defensive coordinator Joe DeForest spent the previous 11 years as the safeties coach at OSU. Not only that, he was in charge of special teams in Stillwater and has influenced those units here, too. There's bound to be a lot of similarities.

Then throw in running backs coach Robert Gillespie (two years at OSU) and quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital (one as a graduate assistant) and it's easy to see how the philosophies would be similar.

The question is, how does that affect Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game between the Mountaineers (5-3, 2-3 Big 12) and the Cowboys (5-3, 3-2) at Boone Pickens Stadium? Or does it at all?

Well, it does, but more so in practice this week than in the game on Saturday.

For instance, neither staff is going to have to spend nearly as much time teaching scout teams how to replicate the opposing offense or defense. They are basically the ones they've already been taught to execute.

But the time saved there might well be spent changing some things that are far too familiar to opponents.

Like sideline signals and audibles.

"We do it every week anyway, but they're in the same boat,'' Holgorsen said Tuesday. "I've watched a couple of their [games on TV] here and I can call out about 90 percent of their plays. So I'd assume that's something that's on their mind as well as it is on our mind. We've got to be careful what we do from both an offensive standpoint and a defensive standpoint.''

Changing signals, though, is no big deal. Most teams go into a game with multiple ways of signaling and calling things and can - and sometimes do - change during games. This time, though, neither team can revert to an old set of signals, but instead will have to come up with something new.

That's in stark contrast to that other issue, which is preparing and running scout teams. In many ways, both teams could almost do without scout teams this week, although neither will. West Virginia, for instance, could simply run its No. 1 offense against its starting or second-team defense and its defense against the starters or backups on offense and still get a good feel for what Oklahoma State will do.

And some of that will go on this week, probably on both campuses. But they won't just line up good against good and let them have at it for two or three days.

"We will, but not exclusively,'' Holgorsen said of practicing the starting units against one another. "There are always going to be slight differences. And we can't just sit here and pound on each other, either, for a whole week. ... We will go good-on-good some, one because it makes sense and two because we're able to.''

BRIEFLY: Holgorsen seemed to indicate Tuesday that Ivan McCartney's spot in the starting lineup in place of Stedman Bailey last weekend against Texas Christian was not because of any lingering injury to Bailey.

"He played better all week,'' Holgorsen said.

Bailey didn't make an appearance on offense until several series had passed and ended up with two catches for 30 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown in overtime. He now has 61 catches for 830 yards and 15 touchdowns, putting him among the national leaders in all those categories. McCartney, meanwhile, caught one pass for 10 yards to boost his season totals to nine catches for 112 yards and no scores.

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.

 


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