By Cam Huffman
On Dreamius Smith’s first carry on the road last Saturday against No. 16 Oklahoma, the Butler Community College transfer took the handoff from quarterback Paul Millard, ran right into the teeth of the Sooner defense and gained just one yard.
On his second carry — during the Mountaineers’ second drive of the game — he got the ball from Millard, broke through four OU tackles, sprinted to the Mountaineer sideline and raced past a pair of Sooner defensive backs into the end zone. The 75-yard jaunt gave underdog WVU a 7-0 lead and plenty of momentum
“The offensive line did a great job of opening up a hole, and I stuck my foot in the ground and got vertical to make the play,” said Smith, who rushed for 984 yards and 17 touchdowns last year for Butler, which fell one win short of an NJCAA national championship. “It was a blessing to get (into the end zone) my first time at West Virginia, and I just wanted to celebrate and let them know it was the first touchdown.”
In a move that shocked — and angered — many Mountaineer fans, Smith touched the ball just one more time the rest of the game. As WVU struggled to find any offense in a tight contest, Smith spent much of the game on the sidelines as Charles Sims and Wendell Smallwood got most of the rushes the few times the Mountaineers did decide to run the ball.
“I do not know what the game plan was behind that,” said Smith. “I just go with the game plan, though, and keep working.”
Head coach Dana Holgorsen had a couple of explanations for Smith’s lack of action the rest of the night. The first was Oklahoma’s insistence on stopping the run.
“It all depends on what the defense does,” said the third-year Mountaineer leader. “We ran it so much more against William & Mary (in a 24-17 win in the opener), because we had the numbers to do so. Oklahoma had one more guy in the box every time we snapped the ball. So how much sense would it make to run it against unblocked people?
“Dreamius’ one run was great, but he also ran over two people. You aren’t going to continuously run over people.”
Perhaps that explains why WVU ran the ball just 24 times while throwing it 41, but why did Smith get just three of those carries while Sims, Smallwood and Dustin Garrison got the others?
According to Holgorsen, it was because of the junior’s play when he didn’t have the ball.
“If Dreamius gets out there and he whiffs three times (on blocks) like he did, he’s coming out of the game, and he knows that,” said Holgorsen. “His one run was spectacular, but you can’t turn around and miss a block and get the quarterback hit and have a turnover. You have to do the little things, and blocking is more important than running people over.”
Smith, Holgorsen said, will be on the field more when he becomes a better blocker. Even then, he’s not likely to carry the ball 25 to 30 times a game.
Sims, a Houston transfer, is the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. Smallwood is a freshman full of potential, and Garrison is a veteran who had one of the best rushing performances in the history of Mountaineer Field as a freshman, when he rushed for 291 yards against Bowling Green.
“We are rotating guys to get fresh bodies out there,” Holgorsen explained. “I rarely rotate them and call plays based on who is in the game. I just call plays, because I have confidence in all those guys carrying the ball.”
WVU (1-1) will face Georgia State (0-2) Saturday in Morgantown for a noon kickoff. The Panthers gave up 506 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns in their first two games against Samford and Chattanooga.
— E-mail: chuffman
@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.