The Times West Virginian

September 9, 2013

WVU struggling to make plays

By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University scored one touchdown against Oklahoma on Saturday in a 16-7 loss.

The Mountaineers could have scored more.

In fact, they should have scored more.

The tendency is to blame quarterback Paul Millard, who did not have a good game, but he is not alone.

“We had to make plays in opportunity situations. Against a defense like OU you can’t sit there and continually miss opportunities with open guys and expect to win,” offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson admitted.

Where does the blame lie, with Millard or with the receivers?

“I’d have a hard time saying right now,” Dawson said right after the game. “I’d have to go back and watch the film. If I had to make a comment on that it would be more that it was both at times. There were times when it was a bad throw. There were times when it was bad on the receiver’s part. We have to get together.”

There was, for example, a time when Ivan McCartney made a beautiful stop-and-go move and broke wide open for what would have been a touchdown, but he couldn’t handle the pass. Another time Daikiell Shorts went deep and was slightly underthrown by Millard but did not adjust back for the ball and had it tip off his fingertips.

There were other times when Millard overthrew receivers, finishing with 21 of 41 completions for 218 yards in what could have been much more.

“We let the defense down as great as they played tonight,” Millard admitted. “I missed throws. There’s a lot of things that are going to be hard to watch (on the tape).”

It does no good, of course, to play the blame game.

“A lot of the blame goes around. I mean, you get that many opportunities against a good defense, you have to make plays,” Dawson said. “We had about four or five today where we had open guys with opportunities and either we didn’t make a good throw or if we did make a good throw we didn’t make a play.”

For the second straight week there wasn’t much gain after the catch.

“I was on the guys about picking up their feet and getting some yards after catch and yards after contact,” coach Dana Holgorsen admitted.

One guy who showed up big time was Kevin White, playing his first game after missing the opener with a foot injury, yet even he had an untimely fumble trying to make a big play that cost a scoring opportunity.

“You know Kevin White finally started doing some things,” Holgorsen said. “He had the fumble, which was devastating, but he did catch the ball and slip a tackle here and there. We need more of that.”

Four turnovers killed the offense, leading someone to check in with Dawson on how to eliminate the turnovers.

“You stress it every single day. We stress it. We stress it,” he said, repeating for effect. “We watch film and point out good ball security, bad ball security. We do ball-security drills. I don’t know any other way to do. It has to mean something to them.

“For the last two games we haven’t done a good job of protecting the football, so we’re going to continue to stress it until we get what we want.

“We have talented kids,” Dawson continued. “They’re just inexperienced and young. You go into an environment like this, and you don’t know how those kids are going to respond. Obviously, we didn’t respond very well today. We had opportunities to win the football game. We were in the game. That’s a positive thing.

“Now these guys got to grow up and start making plays. We have to grow a tough skin and get tougher.”

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.