The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 29, 2011

Turnovers, penalties chief concerns for Mountaineers

By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald

MORGANTOWN — Turnovers are a chief matter of concern among West Virginia football players, both offensively and defensively, going into Saturday’s homecoming game against Bowling Green (3-1).

That’s certainly understandable though. The No. 22 Mountaineers (3-1) rank last in the Big East in turnover margin and near the bottom nationally.

WVU has committed seven fumbles and interceptions while forcing just three defensively, so that’s a minus-four negative after four games.

Four turnovers — plus a 99-yard touchdown return of a kickoff — weighed heavily in last week’s 47-21 loss to No. 1 - ranked LSU. WVU is seventh in penalties in the Big East with 25 penalties and 241 yards.

In opponent penalties, the Mountaineers rank first in the league (38-332 yards).

West Virginia is second in the conference in total offense (1,837 yards) but is fifth in total defense (534 rushing, 781 passing).

While WVU is No. 1 in passing offense, it is eighth in rushing offense (306 yards).

West Virginia ranks third in scoring offense (36.8 points per game). But it’s No. 7 in scoring defense, giving up 25.8 ppg.

Coach Dana Holgorsen said he and his staff will make sure the players are prepared and ready to go on Saturday. He added that Bowling Green has had some big wins the past 10 years.

Quarterback Geno Smith continues to lead the Big East in most offensive categories. He’s No. 1 in passing with 120 completions in 183 passing attempts for 1,411 yards and nine TDs in total offense (368.27).

He’s averaging 367.8 yards per game. But he’s fourth in pass efficiency with three interceptions.

WVU pass receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey rank second and fourth, respectively, in receptions. Austin has 31 for 423 yards and Bailey 23 for 344 yards and three scores.

Freshman Vance Roberts, WVU’s leading rusher, ranks 10th among league leaders with 121 yards on 41 carries and has three touchdowns.

Placekicker Tyler Bitancurt is third in the conference in field goal and PAT scoring with 39 points on seven FGs and 18 extra points. His 9.8 ppg average also makes him No. 3 in the Big East.

Austin is No. 1 in all-purpose yards with a 228.2 average per game. His total includes yardage on kick and punt returns.

Linebacker Najee Goode is the league’s sixth-leading tackler with 31. Teammates Pat Miller (29), Darwin Cook (28) and Keith Tandy (24) also are listed among Big East leaders.