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WVU Offense Still A Work In Progress

September 5, 2011
By JIM ELLIOTT (elliott@theintelligencer.net) , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

MORGANTOWN - New season, new coach, new offense, and all anybody wanted to talk about was the weather.

Two weather delays, totaling 4 hours and 21 minutes, meant the Friends of Coal were enemies of lightning, as the bolts came as fast and as furious as West Virginia's new offense was supposed to.

It didn't look like a lot - even as quarterback Geno Smith completed 26 of 35 passes for 249 yards and had more by halftime (198) than he had in three different games last season - but it was more than enough.

''We scored on five of the eight drives,'' first-year WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. ''I don't think our offense was terrible by any stretch of the imagination. It's probably not up to your alls standards. We're going to watch the tape and try to get better.''

The offense didn't look complete because there was virtually no running game to speak of. With true freshmen primarily doing the running, it was expected to take time. Averaging 1.2 yards on 26 carries was unexpected.

''It's a work in progress,'' Holgorsen said. ''I thought Vernard Roberts (seven carries, 12 yards and a touchdown) came in gave us a spark in the second and third quarter. It was obvious that they were going to take away the run. They put a lot of people up and they blitzed a lot of people.''

Andrew Buie was the team's leading rusher with 30 yards on 15 carries, but he didn't return from the first delay with 4:59 remaining in the third quarter because of what was referred to as a ''bruised upper extremity.'' Holgorsen later said Buie would be fine.

Of West Virginia's 11 plays of 10 or more yards, 10 of them were pass plays, with Smith taking off on a 15-yard run - on a what was a broken down pass play - and gaining 15 yards on a third-and-13 for the lone rushing first down.

Smith said time will be a great healer for the WVU running game.

''We have some young backs,'' he said. ''It was their first game. I'm sure they were nervous but overall, they did a good job. They didn't put the ball on the ground and they were running hard. Once they gain experience and get a feel for the game, it'll get better.''

In the meantime, Smith is just fine with going to the air early and often.

He completed his passes to nine different receivers, with touchdowns going to Stedman Bailey and Ivan McCartney, who each had five catches.

''You take what the defense gives you,'' Smith said. ''I know that sounds cliche, but it is what it is. If you go out there and try to do things out of character, you're going to lose the game.

''We're nowhere near where we want to be at this point, but I think we understand it's all about progression and we understand learning from our mistakes.''

There weren't a lot of visible mistakes, as the Mountaineers won by three touchdowns, didn't turn the ball over, converted half of their 14 third downs, and were penalized twice for 15 yards.

And the defense, doing its best to impersonate last year's group, didn't give up a touchdown (Marshall's lone touchdown came on a kickoff return), produced four three-and-outs, and yielded 187 yards.

''They played well,'' Holgerson said of the defense. ''It was a very solid defensive performance. I'm proud of (defensive coordinator) Jeff (Casteel) and those guys, and we had some guys step up and play well. I'm proud of them.''

Jim Elliott can be reached at elliott@theintelligencer.net