By Cam Huffman
West Virginia’s trip to M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore to meet up with old rival Maryland on Saturday made history for all the wrong reasons for the Mountaineers.
In the 37-0 loss, WVU (2-2) was shut out for the first time since a 35-0 loss to No. 6 Virginia Tech in 2001, Rich Rodriguez’s first season as the Mountaineer coach. The 37-point margin of defeat was the largest since a 55-14 loss to Kansas State in Morgantown last October and the most lopsided loss to the Terrapins since a 54-7 defeat in College Park, Md., in 1951.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Ford Childress completed just 11 of 22 passes and tossed two interceptions. His 62 passing yards were the fewest by a WVU quarterback who attempted at least 20 passes in a game. WVU, considered one of the most dynamic offenses in the country at this time last year, managed just six first downs and 175 offensive yards.
It was a pathetic all-around performance in a game most labeled as one of the biggest of the season for the Mountaineers, who had won seven straight against Maryland. On Monday, third-year head coach Dana Holgorsen was willing to take it all on his shoulders.
“There’s plenty of blame to go around, but the one that can be blamed more than anybody is me,” he said during Monday’s weekly Big 12 media teleconference. “The bigger issue is me. I’ve got to do a better job of getting these guys prepared to play, calling plays and getting these guys motivated and ready to play. It meant something to us and it meant something to Maryland. We just didn’t get it done.”
Now 19-11 as the Mountaineer head coach, Holgorsen has led his team to just four wins in the last 12 games. The victories came against the bottom two teams in the Big 12 — Iowa State and Kansas — at the end of the 2012 regular season and against Football Championship Subdivision opponent William & Mary in this year’s opener and first-year Football Bowl Subdivision member Georgia State two weeks later. The futile stretch has included losses to Syracuse and Maryland, two old rivals that have had some major struggles in recent seasons.
“I like where our team is. We’ve just got to get out there and do a little bit better job,” said Holgorsen, refusing to throw in the towel. “What each and every one of these guys have to do is go to work every day, and they’ve got to try to be a little better than they were yesterday. That’s all we can ask them to do, and that’s what we need to do.”
It doesn’t appear as though he’s ready to try anything drastic. Holgorsen said he’s sticking with Childress at quarterback instead of going back to junior Paul Millard, who started the first two games of 2013, or giving Florida State transfer Clint Trickett a shot. Trickett, widely considered the favorite to win the starting job before the season began, has been on the field for just six plays all season — two series in the William & Mary game.
“(Ford’s) a hard worker,” said Holgorsen. “He’s going to try to get better at improving his craft, which is distributing the ball as well as he can, getting us in the right run checks and handling the leadership, which I think will get better every game.”
And the coach, known as an offensive guru upon his arrival in Morgantown, plans on sticking to his formula for success.
“Our offensive philosophy has remained the same for about 15 straight years, so I doubt that’s going to change any more than it has,” he said. “There’s always an evolution of what you’re trying to get accomplished on offense.”
Holgorsen said he’s been pleased, for the most part, with the run game, which has been a major emphasis this season, but WVU has to get better at throwing the football. A season after Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey rewrote the WVU offensive record books, Ronald Carswell was the only Mountaineer receiver to catch a pass Saturday against the Terps, and he caught only one. Running back Charles Sims caught eight, fullback Cody Clay hauled in one and running back Wendell Smallwood grabbed the other.
“It would be nice to get receivers the ball,” said Holgorsen with frustration evident in his voice. “That’s why they call them receivers, so they can catch a ball every now and then. We’re pretty inept at that.”
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WVU’s home game with No. 11 Oklahoma State this Saturday will begin at noon and air on ESPN. The Mountaineers’ game at No. 19 Baylor on Oct. 5 will begin at 8 p.m. and air on Fox Sports 1.
— E-mail: chuffman@
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