WVU overcomes sluggish start to destroy Norfolk St.
We've got two choices here, and like many, I'm split on which way to go.
You can either focus on the first 30 minutes of Saturday's game, in which West Virginia was treated like the proverbial red-headed step-child by Norfolk State, or you can look at the second-half outburst that produced the impressive final score of 55-12.
Are you an optimist or pessimist? Do you focus on the end result or the means to the end?
I say do the like the rest of the country will and focus on the final score. Quit booing and be happy with a 2-0 record. (That's not to say the booing wasn't justified at the time. Even Dana Holgorsen admitted as much in this Charleston Gazette article when he told the media, “(Fans) probably had a few good reasons. I'd probably boo too.”)
But the fact is that the Mountaineers won in a blow-out, damnit. It's the most points the team has put up since posting 66 against Connecticut in 2007, and included 45 unanswered points in the second half.
It doesn't matter that the Mountaineers sucked blue chunks in the first two quarters, as all the highlights (which is what motivates the voters) have focused on the seven straight scores, including a 28-point third quarter that took just over 10 minutes to create. WVU moved up four spots to 20th in the Coaches poll simply by the aesthetics of a 43-point win. (For the record, the AP moved the 'Eers up one spot to 18th.)
Dusty wasn't kidding. They completely glaze over the fact that WVU was losing to a D-2 school at halftime.
Holgersen, for one, isn't afraid to point out the bad in the performance, win be damned.
“The film doesn't lie about all three sides of the ball,” he said Sunday during his teleconference. “If we see something that is good and that we like, we are going to bring that up. It is our job as coaches to point stuff like that out.
“There was definitely more negative stuff than positive stuff. As players, if they don't like that, then they need to put more positive stuff on there. The film doesn't lie. Whatever a guy does on Saturday, you are going to able to watch it on Sunday.”
Apparently the offense didn't put much out there; his staff refused to name an offensive champion due in large part to the anemic offensive output.
“Yes, we just couldn't find anybody,” the first-year coach said. “I know that sounds crazy, but we couldn't find anybody that played good enough to get the award.”
I'm making the call to say the first half was a combination of overconfidence and slack-assyiness. (My term.) Yes, it took more than a quarter to get a first down, and yes, the Gold and Blue got nada from the running attack for the second straight game. And yes, yes, yes, the Mountaineers have got two tough opponents coming up in Maryland (on the road) and media darling LSU the week after.
Still, for fans stressing about the slow start, take your antacid and look at what the Mountaineers can do when their collective heads are on straight.
West Virginia held the Spartans to only two first downs in the second half, while scoring at will under the direction of Geno Smith, who impressed for the second straight game. This new offense fits him like a glove, and that's a good thing since it looks like the running back committee and the offensive line still aren't up to snuff.
The ground game stumbled again, managing just 102 combined yards. At one point, WVU's short-yardage woes were so lame they couldn't punch in a 1st-and-goal from the 1 in six plays. (Leading to several profanity-laced entries on the official WMITC Twitter account.)
"Offensively, they were giving us the run all night and we weren't sustaining our blocks," Holgs told the Gazette in this article. “… The run game was not good. Usually, we're targeted right. But we're not finishing blocks. We're just not. Some of it is our running backs who are young and not getting it. It's not what we want right now. We've got to get better.”
But the recipe for success seems to be there. Tavon Austin is only getting more dangerous as a play-maker; five different receivers caught TD passes on Saturday, including a 100-yard performance and a score from Wake Forest transfer Devon Brown. The usual suspects of Austin, Steadman Bailey, Ivan McCartney, Tyler Urban, and even Brad Starks also contributed scores.
Holgersen's crew is going to have no lack of people getting open, though Smith is still holding on to the ball for what seems like ages. The tactic has worked against the first two chumps on the slate, but Geno's gonna have to pick up the pace as the schedule gets tougher.
Holgorsen sounded a little more optimistic in this appearance on ESPN's College Football Live
Tempo in general is a big buzzword around the program after two games.
"We don't understand it. We don't understand it,” Holgs said in his Sunday teleconference, referring to his team's grasping of the importance of a quick pace on offense. “The only way I can get them to line up fast is by yelling at 'em. We don't get it. And we're going to have to get better and improve on that.
“When the play is over we have to hop up and play with some tempo. We have to get lined up and be ready to do something the very next snap. All we do is slug around for about 10 seconds after the play is over. It's frustrating."
The offense obviously snapped into gear after what had to be the ass-chewing of the year in the locker room at the half, with Smith finishing with 371 yards to compliment the total output of 533 yards. But Holgersen said the play-calling remained the same after the break.
"We called the same stuff," he said. "I can assure you it's nothing schematically. I'm not saying we know everything about coaching; it's about being a work in progress."
The defense was wimpy at times, but dug in when it counted, holding it's opponent's offense out of the end zone of the second straight game. Norfolk State was able to move early on, but they could only bend, not break the D. (Granted some of that was their own fault, as they set a new record for a WVU opponent with an insane amount of penalty yards.)
Ditto the WVU defense. In the first half the Mountaineers gave up 242 yards and Norfolk State had four scoring drives (although all were eventually stopped for field goals). In the second half, the Spartans gained 43 yards.
"The defense gave up way too many yards, but part of that is the offense's fault,'' Holgorsen said. "We put them on the field way too much.''
West Virginia (2-0) takes on Maryland (1-0) in College Park Saturday at noon. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
The Terps were off this weekend after their season-opening 32-24 victory against Miami. No word yet on whether their primary tactic will be blinding the Mountaineers with their hideous uniforms.
Oh dear God, make it stop!
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