The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 8, 2011

Can the Mountaineers win another game this year?

By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald

MORGANTOWN — Can West Virginia University’s football team win another game this season?

That was what many fans were wondering after last Saturday’s deeply disappointing, 38-35 defeat at home to Louisville, a 14-point underdog.

The Mountaineers, 6-3 overall and 2-2 in the Big East standings, have remaining games at Cincinnati next Saturday, Pitt at home the day after Thanksgiving and at South Florida Dec. 1 in the regular-season finale.

All three probably possess the potential to knock off the struggling Mountaineers, who are no longer ranked. Cincinnati is 7-1 and 3-0, Pitt 4-5 and 2-2 and USF 4-5 and 0-4.

You may recall that the Mountaineers were picked in the coaches’ preseason poll to win the Big East Conference championship. But they would need a heap of help to do so now.

West Virginia has been piling up the yards in head coach Dana Holgorsen’s high-tempo offense. But the team is proving that it requires defense and special teams units as well as offense to win games.

The Mountaineers simply have yet to attain consistency in all three play phases. And they have been making too many costly mistakes.

Holgorsen thought his charges played hard all four quarters against Louisville. And WVU had 533 yards while limiting the Cardinals to 351. First downs were 28-15.

But this cannot be considered as a good team any way you look at it after nine games.

“This one was hard to figure out,” Holgorsen reasoned. “You come in and play, you lose the turnover battle (2-1) and you’re 0-2 in field goals. That’s the difference in the game.”

Louisville blocked the second field goal attempt, and the Cardinal who blocked it raced 82 yards for a touchdown.

Holgorsen thought the Cardinals played a little better in the red zone than WVU did.

But when the home team needed a stop in a crucial situation, it didn’t get one. Holgorsen noted that the 10-point swing on the blocked field goal is what cost his team the game.

“Offensively and defensively, we played good in spurts,” Holgorsen admitted. “But we didn’t dominate in any area.”

You’ve got to give Louisville credit, though. It obviously had improved after losing to Marshall and Florida International.

West Virginia has lacked steady improvement, though.

The Mountaineers are bowl-eligible, with their six victories. But scouts from the Champs Sports Bowl are the only ones who have been here for every game.

WVU lost to North Carolina State 23-7 in that postseason event last Dec. 28 in Orlando, Fla. If that bowl takes someone else, the Belk Bowl in Charlotte might be interested.