The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

October 26, 2011

Rutgers hopes to duplicate ’Cuse success against WVU

MORGANTOWN — You’ve all seen it happen. Elvis Presley comes along wearing long sideburns and before you know it there isn’t a kid in America who doesn’t have long sideburns.

The Beatles come along with their mop-top hair and teenagers are all mop-tops.

Twiggy shows up in magazines waif thin and America becomes anorexic.

It really isn’t any different in football. Something shows up on film and before you know it, it is catching on everywhere ... the wishbone, the spread, whatever the flavor of the day is.

Not a bad thing, you say?

Well, something went on film last week that I have a hunch is about to catch on as soon as the film makes the rounds, and that is teams blitzing West Virginia the way Syracuse did.

Dana Holgorsen, the Mountaineer coach, said Syracuse blitzed 75 percent of the time, which was more than he had ever experienced from an opposing team as a coach, and they got away with it, overpowering the Mountaineers to win, 49-23.

The film from that has made its way into the football offices at Rutgers and rest assured the Scarlet Knights, a quick, hard-hitting defensive team that leads the nation in takeaways, will be coming out of the stands to blitz the Mountaineers this weekend when the two teams meet in Piscataway, N.J., at 3:30 p.m.

Rutgers’ coach Greg Schiano is something of a defensive specialist, which makes this matchup intriguing as he goes against the offensive guru in Holgorsen. Asked how Syracuse was able to stop WVU’s high-flying offense, Schiano didn’t hesitate to point out what was obvious to anyone who saw the game or the film.

“They effectively put pressure on Smith,” he said, referring to quarterback Geno Smith. “They hit him a lot.”

It was a bloody mess, and that’s not using the term bloody like an Englishman.

Holgorsen and his staff spent 16 hours Monday analyzing what happened, although it really wasn’t any different than what they knew when they got on the plane in Syracuse to head home.

“They were smart about how they did it,” Holgorsen explained at his weekly press conference Tuesday. “They keep a lid on it over the top, which means our job is just to put the ball in play. We didn’t do a good job. Some of it was so unsound that we could have seen it.”

It came down to three things, really.

First, WVU did not attack it with the run.

“Geno could have done a better job attacking it with the ground game. We’ll put that on our shoulders as offensive coaches.”

Second, the receivers didn’t effectively cut short their routes so that Smith could get rid of the ball quickly or make plays on fade routes designed to burn the blitz.

“We didn’t sight adjust routes well and we didn’t win on fade routes. Just because they put a lid on it didn’t mean we couldn’t get behind them, but we were pushed out of bounds 90 percent of the time.”

And finally, West Virginia did not block the blitz.

“If you’re not able to attack the blitz with runs, if we’re not able to sight adjust, you have to be able to hold up when they bring people. That always ends up in a one-on-one matchup with an O-lineman and a D-lineman, and we weren’t able to handle that very well and we weren’t able to win on the outside, which causes some serious problems offensively,” Holgorsen said.

To be honest, the first two aspects would seem to be correctable. Remember, WVU had played only six games in this offense up to the Syracuse encounter.

The third, though, is troubling. The linemen had seen blitzes before. What they do isn’t terribly different and they didn’t get beat because they were technically doing things wrong.

They were beat because they weren’t tough enough.

“One of the biggest problems was when they brought pressure our O-line just got whipped. It was evident to me on tape that they were playing much, much harder than our O-line, which is disturbing,” Holgorsen admitted.

Rest assured they will be tested again this week. But there is something of a bright side to this picture, for the Mountaineers have some tape of their own to view. See Rutgers, which had been racking up the sacks, did not get one against Louisville.

“They got rid of the ball, a lot of 3-step drops and fades; they connected on a few of them. They were not going to allow themselves to get sacked. I thought it was an excellent plan,” Schiano said.

Good enough that WVU can learn from it?

If they are willing to.

But Holgorsen remains sold on his offense as it is, to the point that he honestly believes his team could have won that game by outscoring the 49 put up by Syracuse.

“If we do a good job handling the blitz, we could have very easily scored more than 49 points,” he said. “We sat in here as an offense and went through every play and said here’s how you attack it, if you guys would have done that you guys would have scored more than 49 points and won the game.”

And he isn’t kidding about that. In fact, he says he’s been on teams that handle the blitz and that blitzing is exactly what they want to face.

“I’ve been on a lot of teams that handle blitzes better and you make them pay for it,” he said. “That’s our goal offensively, to make them blitz. That means there’s less space behind the line of scrimmage. You handle the blitz, they stop blitzing.”

And so the gauntlet has been laid down. Stopping the blitz is going to be crucial this week.

Email Bob Hertzel at

Text Only
WVU Sports
  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete

    The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
    Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.

    April 16, 2014

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

    From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

    April 15, 2014

  • WVU signs guard; Adrian arrested for DUI

    There was something good and something bad for West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins this past weekend as Kansas junior college player Tarik Phillip committed to play for the Mountaineers but rising sophomore Nathan Adrian was charged with Under 21 DUI after he was stopped at 1:20 a.m. Sunday for an expired registration sticker.

    April 15, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN- Most plays good, some not so good in Gold-Blue scrimmage

    There appeared to be a fine mixture of plays, most good with some not so good, in last Saturday’s West Virginia University’s Gold-Blue football scrimmage.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Garrison still proving he can carry the ball

    The running back raves from the West Virginia coaching this spring have been directly mostly toward Wendell Smallwood, and rest assured he earned every one of them with his versatility, but it was a reborn running back who well may have taken the biggest jump up the depth chart.

    April 14, 2014

  • WVU baseball drops seventh straight game

    One’s athletic skills are tested on a daily basis but every so often other aspects of an athlete’s makeup are tested, often far more important aspects in the game of life.

    April 14, 2014

  • Gold-Blue Game answers few questions at quarterback

    Dana Holgorsen finds himself in a quarterback quandary.
    He’s looking to have one quarterback and has five of them as spring practice ends, and nothing about the spring session has done anything to straighten out the situation.

    April 13, 2014

  • Moore ‘back at home’ under center

    There are a couple of ways to look at what Logan Moore did this spring after being moved back to quarterback and given a chance to compete for what is a wide open job, as wide open at the end of the spring as it was coming in.
    The first is to say that he didn’t wow Dana Holgorsen to the point that he’s willing to say he’s the leader going into summer drills, but that would be shortsighted considering from where Moore came.

    April 13, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos