The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

September 20, 2011

LSU speed a major concern to Holgorsen

As the news of conference expansion exploded, and it was announced that ESPN’s College GameDay is going to be live at the Mountainlair Saturday, Dana Holgorsen said his focus was completely on No. 2 LSU.

No. 16 West Virginia (3-0) hosts LSU (3-0) at 8 p.m.  Saturday. ABC will televise the action nationally.

“I don’t have an opinion (on conference expansion),” Holgorsen said Monday when asked about it. “We’re in the capable hands of (athletic director) Oliver Luck and Dr. (James) Clements (WVU president). I’m going to worry about Xs and Os.”

And those Xs and Os are enough to keep the coach awake at night.

“They are as fast as any football team out there, on all three sides of the ball,” Holgorsen said. “They’ve got guys who can really run. They’re extremely well coached on all three sides of the ball. It looks to me like they are highly motivated; they’re playing with a lot of energy. They’ve already been in some big games this year and they’ve got guys who can rise to the occasion. And they are a physical football team. We’re going to have to play fast and play hard.

“Their defense is as good as anything I’ve seen on tape.”

Getting pressure on quarterback Jarrett Lee (40 of 59 passing for 44 yards and three touchdowns) is key, and West Virginia has not recorded a sack since Bruce Irvin had one against Marshall in the season opener.

“We knew going into the Maryland game that they didn’t hold on to the ball,” Holgorsen said of Saturday’s sackless game. “In (Maryland’s) first game, about 95 percent of their passes were out of that quarterback’s hand before the D-line had a chance to get there if they weren’t blocked.

“When those situations arise when the quarterback hangs on to it, we just have to do a better job. We feel like we have a couple guys that know how to rush the passer. It’s just about taking advantage of the opportunities when you get it.”

LSU has seven sacks on the season, led by Kendrick Adams’ 1 1/2, and has allowed just three.

Likewise, protecting quarterback Geno Smith, who was sacked twice in the Mountaineers’ 37-31 win over Maryland, will be key.

“We played better up front (against Maryland) and that was good to see,” Holgorsen said of the offensive line. “They proved our point that they are capable of holding their blocks and springing the running backs free and giving some pretty good pass protection.

“It’s definitely going to be a challenge this week. LSU does have as good a D-line as there is in the country and they’ve got about eight, nine guys they can roll in there which all look the same to me. We know we aren’t going to be able to wear them down because of their depth. We’re just going to have to execute and do our best to hold on.”

Smith was named the Big East offensive player of the week, after throwing for a career-high 388 yards against Maryland, a game WVU led 34-10 at one point.

Holgorsen said the quarterback, who is 82 of 118 passing for 1,008 yards and seven touchdowns, can get better.

“He’s still at the point where he’s got to totally understand what the system is and trust the system and not think about having to do too much,” Holgorsen said. “There are some instances out there that he really didn’t trust what we were telling him. That needs to be a constant. He needs to trust what we tell him and not think that he’s got a better way of doing things.

“Not that that’s an every down issue. He is very talented, he’s a smart football player, he studies the game, and studies the opponent and studies the game plan. It just gets to a point where it reverts back to sometimes he think he has to do a little too much.”

Kicker Tyler Bitancurt, who had three field goals and four extra points, was named the conference special teams player of the week.

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ESPN confirmed Monday that the College GameDay Built by Home Depot will go live from Mountainlair Plaza on the Downtown Campus at the corner of North High Street and Prospect Saturday.

The show will be broadcast on ESPNU from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and ESPN from 10 a.m. to noon.

 — E-mail: demorrison@

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