STILLWATER — Whenever Todd Monken has moved jobs along the coaching trail, he usually leaves each stop believing in that particular offensive system.
At LSU, it was running the ball and play action. At Louisiana Tech, it was running the no-huddle.
But when Monken was hired to be Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator following the 2010 season, he wasn't bringing his own offense to Stillwater. Or the one run by his last employer, the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was going to continue on with the high-powered spread system that Dana Holgorsen had installed the previous season.
Sure, Monken has implemented his own tweaks in his two seasons at OSU. But the base philosophy is still the same as the Cowboys prepare to face Holgorsen's new team, West Virginia, Saturday afternoon at Boone Pickens Stadium.
Which means Holgorsen's next challenge as a head coach is to stop the offense he built to be unstoppable. And this season in particular has shown just how resilient the system can be.
The Cowboys lost two first-round draft picks in quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon. They've had three quarterbacks take meaningful snaps because of injury, and playmakers at wide receiver have also been dinged up.
And yet, OSU has still rolled on that side of the ball, ranking second in the nation in total offense (575.88 yards per game) and eighth in scoring offense (42.5 points per game).
What worked with Weeden and Blackmon is working with Wes Lunt and Tracy Moore. Or J.W. Walsh and Josh Stewart. Or Clint Chelf and Charlie Moore.
Monken said he has always been intrigued by the Air Raid, throw-it-around system. But he was impressed that Holgorsen's version featured more of a running game, more play action, more motion before the snap and more diversity overall.
It's also run with a bit of an attitude.
“There was an absence of fear and a confidence in his system or his style and not to waver,” Monken said. “I think those are two critical things in having success. This is what we do, and we're going to do it better than they can defend it.”
Assistant Doug Meacham, who has worked under both Holgorsen and Monken, agrees. He calls the system simple. Execution, speed and repetition are more important than scheming for each opponent.
“It's about being really good at what you do and understanding where you go against certain coverages and certain defenses within the plays that you have,” he said. “Not trying to reinvent the wheel from week to week.”
In Monken's two seasons, several routes have been changed and plays are called differently.
And Holgorsen's offense at West Virginia looks a bit different than at OSU, Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said. Quarterback Geno Smith is a bigger threat to run than Weeden, of course, and the Mountaineers sometimes line up under center.
But, ultimately, there are more similarities than differences. Holgorsen told reporters in Morgantown earlier this week that when he watches OSU on film, the offense “hasn't changed much at all.”
It should make for an interesting Saturday in Stillwater. And Holgorsen agrees these teams won't out-scheme each other.
“It comes down to the effort being there,” Holgorsen said. “They play with tremendous effort, so we have to play with tremendous effort.”