The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

October 12, 2011

WVU can’t afford any more slow starts

MORGANTOWN — Coach Dana Holgorsen thinks No. 13-ranked West Virginia (5-1) has shown some semblance of consistency in all three play phases.

That’s certainly encouraging because the Mountaineers will need offense, defense and special teams down the second half of the schedule. All six remaining games are against Big East teams.

With that in mind, WVU might well want to rid itself of the consistency the Mountaineers have showed in slow starts.

They have sputtered for nearly all of the first half in five of the six games to date. The one exception was the road game at Maryland.

And even then West Virginia needed a late interception by Eain Smith to preserve a 37-31 victory. The Terps were close to scoring a touchdown and winning the game 38-37.

WVU had built leads of 13-3 and 27-10 in the first half. But its production trailed off in the final 30 minutes.

West Virginia fell behind Marshall 7-3 at the start of the season’s opener and led by only 20-10 at intermission. They wound up winning 34-13 in the lightning-shortened game.

In Game 2 vs. Norfolk State, a 55-12 blowout, the home team trailed 3-0 at the quarter, and trailed 12-10 at halftime.

No. 1-ranked LSU jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter, zoomed to 27-7 at halftime, and won with a final of 47-21.

The Mountaineers showed more strength at the start in Game 5 vs. Bowling Green. But they trailed by 10-3 before winning in a 55-10 blowout.

In last Saturday’s 43-16 win over Connecticut, WVU was behind by 6-3 before eking out a 10-9 advantage at intermission.

The Mountaineers then needed a spark by Jewone Snow, a freshman linebacker, to ignite the third-quarter rallying burst. Snow plucked a fumble from the air and returned it 83 yards.

That set up a touchdown, and WVU breezed thereafter for a 43-16 victory.

The point of this piece is that West Virginia can’t afford sputtering or slow starts the remainder of the season. If they do fall behind early, a Big East rival might not let them bounce back in the second half.

Surely, the conference has some teams left that are capable of knocking off West Virginia, especially on the road.

Only two of the six remaining games will be met at home — Louisville Nov. 5 and Pitt Nov. 25.

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