West Virginia looks for answers on offense
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A shutout loss at Maryland was no fun to watch the second time around for West Virginia’s players.
The Mountaineers are in looking for answers to a several problems on offense with games looming against three straight ranked opponents, starting Saturday against No. 11 Oklahoma State.
Wide receiver K.J. Myers said after seeing the Maryland game film that he’s never been a part of something like the 37-0 loss to the Terps. Nor has he been part of an offense that had only one wide receiver catch a pass.
“We’ve got to switch something up,” Myers said. “We’ve got to do something different with our approach this week and just have to get better.”
If not, the Mountaineers are in for a difficult stretch that also includes tough tests at No. 19 Baylor on Oct. 5 and at home Oct. 19 against No. 24 Texas Tech.
West Virginia (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) was limited to 175 total yards at Maryland and are last in the Big 12 in scoring at 18 points per game.
Oklahoma State (3-0, 0-0) usually scores that many by early in the second quarter.
While there were plenty of faults after the Maryland game, the message from the coaching staff to a retooled offense was aimed at lightening a dull mood.
“The coaches have just been emphasizing on effort and just having fun playing the game we love,” said West Virginia offensive lineman Curtis Feight. “That’s the main thing, just having fun out there.”
That will be difficult if there’s a repeat of the offense’s 175-yard performance that had coach Dana Holgorsen and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson shouldering the blame for not having their players in the right frame of mind and for not adjusting to Maryland’s defensive alignment.
Holgorsen pointed to blocking problems that bogged down the running game at times and kept redshirt freshman quarterback Ford Childress in discomfort. Childress went 11 of 22 for 62 with two interceptions in his second start and Holgorsen said Childress had little opportunity to throw downfield.
“He needs to have a sense of urgency in the pocket,” Holgorsen said. “If he can work around some guys then he can throw the ball down the field.”
It also would help West Virginia to hold onto the football. The Mountaineers have 12 turnovers. Six came against Maryland, including four that led to Terps touchdowns.
If the Mountaineers have something on offense to build around, they can start with the running game.
Charles Sims averaged 6 yards per carry and finished with 74 yards rushing against Maryland. Much of West Virginia’s offense came in the fourth quarter on a 51-yard run by Dreamius Smith and on Wendell Smallwood’s 30-yard run that ended in his fumble at the Maryland 11.
Holgorsen said he watched the Maryland game about eight times and admitted getting motivated after a poor offensive showing can be a challenge.
“Believe it or not, there are some things on that tape that resemble football,” he said. “If we can get a little better, then we can get some confidence. Then hopefully, it will steamroll. And we can start scoring points and winning games. You have to believe it’s going to happen, otherwise it will not happen.”
Oklahoma State’s coaching staff is convinced the Maryland game was an aberration.
“It was just one of those days where it wasn’t working out,” said Cowboys defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer. “They have weapons. Their quarterback can throw the ball. Smith and Sims are two great running backs, and coach Holgorsen does a great job of spreading the field. It will be a test for us to defend all of it. They’ll be back in front of their home crowd, ready to play.”
Despite being a heavy underdog to Oklahoma State, there’s no message of impending doom at West Virginia.
“The mood is like, everyone’s coming together,” Myers said. “And everyone’s just pushing each other knowing we have to work to reach our ultimate goals.
“It’s just going to take everyone as a whole – I mean everyone in this building, not just the players, but everyone, the coaching staff. And I feel like we’re close to where we want to be. It’s just when is it going to happen, and it needs to happen this week.”