The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 9, 2013

Holgorsen sees hope for WVU offense

WVU coach believes improvement could come as season progresses

By Cam Huffman
Sports Editor

— Some drop-off in offensive production had to be expected for the 2013 West Virginia University football team. A team just doesn’t lose three NFL talents like Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey and pick up right where it left off the following season.

After finishing 10th in the country with 502 yards of offense per game, and ninth in scoring with 39.46 points per game, the Mountaineers expected to be a little more average.

At this point, though, average would be more than welcome.

Six games into the 2013 season, WVU (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) ranks 79th out of 123 Football Bowl Subdivision teams with 392.8 yards per game and even worse in scoring offense at 94th in the land, averaging just 24 points per outing.

It’s unfamiliar territory for head coach Dana Holgorsen, —known for his dynamic offenses as an offensive coordinator at Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State, as well as in his first two seasons as head coach in Morgantown — but it hasn’t come as a complete surprise.

“I knew we were going to be a work in progress,” said Holgorsen, whose team will have a bye week Saturday before welcoming No. 20 Texas Tech to Morgantown on Oct. 19. “I knew it, and everybody knew it. I wanted it to come together quicker. I wish I was sitting here after six games saying that we know who we are, where we’re at and where we’re going. That’s not the current situation, and it’s not anyone’s fault.

“We’ve played some pretty good teams. We have a lot of inexperience and we have some injuries. We’re dealing with a lot of stuff that teams across the country are dealing with.”

Holgorsen said there are a number of factors contributing to the frustration.

New center Pat Eger is still trying to learn the art of the snap. Holgorsen said he’s been a little off, at times, which impacts the timing of running plays. Clint Trickett, who has assumed the role of starting quarterback for the last two games, has only been in Morgantown since the summer, after transferring from Florida State, and is still developing a connection with his receivers.

“We’ve got a quarterback trying to throw a post route to five different guys that he’s never thrown that to,” Holgorsen explained. “Based on how fast the receivers are and the relationship between the quarterback and that specific receiver, the ball needs to be thrown accordingly. This is stuff that happens in the course of a second.

“Last year, it was Geno Smith to Stedman Bailey. That was easier, because they’ve been doing it for eight years (as high school teammates at Miramar High School in Florida, before playing together at WVU).”

While patience is rarely a strong quality of a college football coach, Holgorsen said he has been encouraged by some of what he’s seen on offense recently.

After being shut out in a 37-0 trouncing at Maryland, WVU scored 30 points — although the defense was largely responsible for at least 10 of those — in a 30-21 upset win over No. 11 Oklahoma State the next week.

Even in a 73-42 pounding at No. 17 Baylor last Saturday, WVU managed to score 42 points and showed some positive signs.

“You can see some things happening that show improvement,” said Holgorsen. “Whether you want to believe that or not, you can see some things. We need to improve so we can win some games.

“We got some to (deep balls complete to) Kevin White. That looked good. We got (running back) Charles Sims loose down the field. We think good things are going to happen. We have to keep improving and getting better.

“The guys are playing with effort. They care. They are trying.”

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The WVU women’s basketball team was selected third in the Big 12 Women’s Basketball Preseason Poll, selected by the league’s head coaches and released Wednesday.

Oklahoma received five first place votes  and 74 points and was picked as the preseason favorite for the fourth time in league history. Baylor was picked second with three first place votes and 70 points. WVU and Oklahoma State tied for third with 63 points, but the Mountaineers picked up the remaining two first-place votes.

Texas came in fifth, followed by Iowa State, Kansas and TCU.

The Mountaineers finished 17-14 last year, their first in the Big 12. WVU lost in the Big 12 Championship quarterfinal against Oklahoma and then was eliminated with an NCAA Tournament opening-round loss to Delaware.

Head coach Mike Carey’s team will open up the 2013-14 season with a home exhibition against Concord on Nov. 1 before the regular season opener at home against Ohio State on Nov. 8.

— E-mail: chuffman

@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.