The Times West Virginian


November 15, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU close to running on empty

MORGANTOWN — Andrew Buie dodged the question as if it were one of those red-clad Oklahoma linebackers who will be chasing him on Saturday night.

And while it was clearly a totally proper question and one that has been on the mind of nearly every West Virginia University football fan, it was asked rather straight-forward and bluntly by a gentleman who has reached such an age that he has neither time nor patience to beat around the bush.

“Why do you think the running game has not been more productive?” he asked, standing in a group behind the WVU running back’s right shoulder.

Buie looked straight ahead, a number of thoughts clearly racing through his mind, none of which he properly wanted to verbalize.

After a pregnant pause, Buie simply said, “No comment.”

Which not only is right, but in truth how could anyone expect him to have an answer to that when the offensive minds which have devised the offense don’t have an answer?

West Virginia started the season with an ability to put up yardage on the ground as well as through the air, which helped account for that 5-0 start and the gaudy numbers that twinkled on the scoreboard.

If Maryland did expose a problem in Game No. 3, the first game in which Shawne Alston, the power back, was derailed with injury, by holding WVU to just 25 rushing yards, the Mountaineers seemed to have the problem solved by coming back with games of 151, 192 and 140 yards.

Considering that the 192 came against Texas, one had no worries about the running game at that point, but the deterioration of the running game has been obvious over the last three games in which WVU ran for 88, 78 and 78 yards.

This, of course, led for a similar question to be asked of coach Dana Holgorsen during his afternoon press conference on Tuesday, whether or not the lack of rushing yardage has become an issue within the offense.

Holgorsen was willing to take that linebacker of a question head on.

“It is a huge issue, and we are going to work hard on it this week,” he said.

As for why the running game hasn’t been productive, as was asked Buie, Holgorsen had an answer, not exactly one he would like to give on every question of that sort.

“We did a poor job of establishing the line of scrimmage. Look at all our third-and-shorts. We have no push. We had none. We were garbage on third-and-short, fourth-and-short, when we handed the ball off,” he said.

Garbage was his word.

The indictment was clear, though. This wasn’t a running back problem, not even a problem of having Alston barely back and Dustin Garrison not much further along as he fights back from knee surgery.

No, to Holgorsen, West Virginia was not running the ball effectively because his offensive line was … well, as Holgorsen thought about it, he realized the offensive line was not alone in this.

“That is combination of just not controlling the line of scrim-

mage up front and not having good enough running backs to be able to get the yards that we need,” he said. “You can blame it on what you want to. Shawne (Alston) is hurt. It is not what people want to hear, but he is hurt. That is why he is not playing.

“Dustin (Garrison) is still six months out from being where he was last year, which means we put it in the hands of Andrew Buie, who is averaging almost five yards a rush, but you give it to him 20 times a game, he is going to wear down.”

Indeed, we’re not talking about Owen Schmitt here.

“He is not that type of guy who can handle that many carries,” Holgorsen said. “We are working extremely hard to recruit about five or six running backs who can come in here and give us help and until that happens, it is what it is.”

The truth is, Holgorsen does have on his roster one of the greatest running backs in high school history in Tavon Austin, whose credentials are chronicled in the WVU media guide in this sentence:

“Set Maryland records for career points (790), touchdowns (123), total offensive yards (9,258) and rushing yards (7,962).

The problem is that Austin is not a big man, either, and has found a home at slot receiver and kick returner, although Holgorsen did give him the ball more in this past loss to Oklahoma State as a runner than he had all year.

“I wish we could clone him and put three of him out there,” Holgorsen said. “We have obviously felt like he is a pretty good inside receiver, and it has always been the thing on what can we do to get the ball in his hands. And you want to get it into his hands as much as we can.

“With that said, his trade has been being an inside receiver for four years now. We will continue to try and come up with creative ways to get him the ball, because he is dynamic as it comes in college football, when it comes to him having the ball in his hands.”

Unable to run has changed so much this year, for the Mountaineers can’t force the safeties to respect the run, which has cut down on big plays, and because they can’t make short-yardage plays, it has kept them playing any kind of ball control and keeping their last-ranked defense off the field.

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

Text Only
  • FURFARI COLUMN: Bobby Bowden won the bad-and-good battle with rival Lou Holtz

    The recent announcement that West Virginia University is resuming a football relationship with North Carolina State triggered a most memorable bad-news, good-news battle.

    July 31, 2014

  • Post 17 stays alive in American Legion state tournament

    After a rather sloppy Area tournament, Post 17 Fairmont managed to turn things around Thursday afternoon at Hawley Filed in Morgantown, staying alive with a 4-2 win over Elkins in the American Legion state baseball tournament.

    July 31, 2014

  • WVU men’s basketball non-conference schedule announced

    West Virginia University Director of Athletics Oliver Luck has announced the 2014-15 men’s basketball non-conference schedule.

    July 31, 2014

  • Post 17 #18-Post 1 #2  run copy.jpg Wheeling holds off Post 17 rally in state tournament opener: PHOTOS

    Wheeling Post 1 pitcher Mo Felt nearly went the distance in a 7-6 victory over Fairmont Post 17 on Tuesday afternoon at the West Virginia American Legion Baseball State Tournament at Hawley Field.
    Felt struck out seven in 8.1 innings of work in the team’s first-round victory over Fairmont.

    July 31, 2014 9 Photos

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Must WVU defense carry offense in ’14?

    The other day the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a story under the following headline:
    “In a year of change, must the Steelers’ offense carry the defense this year?”
    Reading that turned on a light.

    July 31, 2014

  • WVU takes first step today

    Perhaps the most used — and least factual — cliché in sports is as follows:
    “There’s no tomorrow.”
    Around these parts, however, tomorrow is what they are clinging to, while putting a new twist on the cliché, turning it to, “There’s no yesterday.”

    July 31, 2014

  • Pirates’ gaffe on bases proves costly

    Clint Hurdle says he and a pal often marvel over how there’s always something new to see at a baseball game.
    Too bad for Hurdle, what we watched Wednesday wrecked the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 7-5 loss.
    A timely, heads-up glance by reliever Jean Machi helped San Francisco take advantage of a gaffe on the bases by Pittsburgh, and the Giants tagged out of two runners who wandered away on the same play grab momentum and end a six-game losing streak.

    July 31, 2014

  • Speedy Shazier making quick impression

    Ryan Shazier grew up the football equivalent of a Rorschach test.
    Some coaches looked at Shazier’s 6-foot-1 frame with plenty of room to grow and saw a defensive end. Others focused on his blazing speed and saw a safety.
    Not Shazier.

    July 31, 2014

  • Wheeling holds off Post 17 rally in state tourney opener

    Wheeling Post 1 pitcher Mo Felt nearly went the distance in a 7-6 victory over Fairmont Post 17 on Tuesday afternoon at the West Virginia American Legion Baseball State Tournament at Hawley Field.

    July 30, 2014

  • Big ‘I’ golf coming to Pete Dye

    The Trusted Choice Big “I” National Championship will make its first trip to West Virginia when Pete Dye Golf Club hosts the 46th annual installment of the event Aug. 5-8.
    The Pete Dye course, ranked No. 45 on Golf Digest’s ranking of America’s 100 Greatest Courses and No. 9 on Golfweek’s ranking of Best Modern Courses, will host 160 of the best junior golfers from 40 states during the 72-hole stroke play event.

    July 30, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Sports
House Ads
Auto Racing Breaking News
Auto Racing Standings