The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 14, 2013

WVU hopes to learn something new against underdog Panthers


Sports Editor

— In a 24-17 season-opening win over Football Championship Subdivision opponent William & Mary, West Virginia learned that it didn’t have nearly the offensive firepower that it put on the field in 2012 when guys like Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey were sporting gold and blue.

Last week, in a 16-7 loss on the road at No. 16 Oklahoma, the Mountaineers found out their defense has the potential to be much better than last year’s group, which was statistically the worst in the school’s history.

What will WVU learn today when it hosts Georgia State for a noon matchup at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, which will air live on ROOT Sports? That’s a difficult question, especially considering the Mountaineers will be going up against a group of Panthers, widely considered the worst team in all of Football Bowl Subdivision football.

“They’re a young program,” admitted WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen, now in his third year with the Mountaineers. “They’ve been playing (football) for seven years.

“In the (Colonial Athletic Association) last year (GSU’s only year at the FCS level), they didn’t have a tremendous record, but they played a lot of good teams. I’ve talked about the CAA to our team, and we know what they’re all about with William & Mary and what Towson has been doing and James Madison. So, they play good football. I think (GSU) will continue to get better.”

Holgorsen, though, will admittedly be focused more on his own team — specifically, trying to find a way to score points. Totaling 31 points in eight quarters of football is nowhere near characteristic of a Holgorsen-led offense. If the Mountaineers hope to be competitive in their second Big 12 season, they have to find a way to spend some time in the end zone.

To try to find a spark, Holgorsen announced Thursday night that he’ll give redshirt-freshman quarterback Ford Childress his first start in today’s game, and he’s switched up starters at receiver and on the offensive line, as well.

“If a guy is not playing well, and we evaluate a change needs to be made, then a change will be made,” said WVU offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. “We do not have a guy with a lot of banked hours of doing it right, so, with that being said, we have capable guys in the room and we will get other guys opportunities. We are going to find out who wants to play and doesn’t want to play.”

GSU is coming off losses to Samford and Chattanooga during the first two weeks of the season, and the Panthers had two of their most experienced offensive linemen quit the team this week. Still, first-year head coach Trent Miles, who rebuilt the program at Indiana State before taking the GSU job, knows it’s a process and has goals in mind for his team’s trip to Milan Puskar Stadium.

“I want to see how they react, how we approach it as a business trip,” he said. “We’re not going there for fun. We’re not going there to take pictures or be wowed by a crowd.”

WVU, which trailed 17-7 at halftime to William & Mary in its only previous home game, also promises to be ready to give the home fans what they paid to see.

“You can never take a team lightly,” said sophomore defensive lineman Kyle Rose. “Anybody, nowadays, can beat anybody.

“You’re not supposed to take any play for granted. You play every play to the best of your ability. We look forward to every game we play. You only have so many games in a season, so nothing is taken for granted.”

— E-mail: chuffman

@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.