The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

November 18, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN: Line must improve for WVU to be successful

MORGANTOWN — If Dana Holgorsen accomplishes only one thing between the time West Virginia University’s football team last took the field in Cincinnati and takes it against Pitt Panthers on the Friday after Thanksgiving at Milan Puskar Stadium, it has to be fixing what’s wrong with his offensive line.

A football team without an offensive line is like a canoe without a paddle, having no way to move forward when the flow is going against you.

There are reasons to believe he may not be able to fix it, considering that it has been a season-long theme and has been the major factor keeping Holgorsen from putting together the overpowering offensive machines he has produced at Houston and Oklahoma State.

Somehow the Mountaineers were able to get enough offense to beat Cincinnati the last time out, although it must be noted it would not have done it without a defensive touchdown, and whatever offense they had was the product of the work of the Geno Smith and his receivers more than anything the offensive line was able to produce.

“None of them played good enough to win,” Holgorsen admitted this week, not wanting to delve any deeper into the subject. “We’ll leave it at that, but they need to get better.”

In truth, it has become the ugly wart at the end of a witch’s nose.

Against Cincinnati, Smith survived through five sacks … and at no time did anyone offer the alibi of them being “coverage sacks.”

That alone would be a dismal statistic and enough to kill any chance at a big offensive day, but Cincinnati did it mostly by rushing just three linemen, seldom running blitz schemes.

Perhaps the Bearcats did so out of sympathy for Smith, but more because of a belief that they could get to the quarterback and have help covering the likes of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.

At the same time that they were harassing the West Virginia quarterback, they were tearing the running backs apart limb by limb.

West Virginia, a team that under Rich Rodriguez would regularly rush for 300 yards in a game, managed to rush for 32 yards in 32 carries. For those who failed Math 101, that figures out to 1.0 yards per rush.

Put another way, the Mountaineers would need 10 rushes to make a first down, and there are very few plays drawn up in a playbook for ninth down and a yard to go situations.

But here’s the worst part of that. The Mountaineers actually believed they should have and could have run the ball because Cincinnati’s defensive objectives were aimed toward downfield coverage.

“Probably the most discouraging thing I dealt with last Saturday was we had numbers to run the ball and we couldn’t do it, which changes a whole lot of things I do offensively,” Holgorsen said.

Certainly the members of the offensive line understand that things did not go well in the Cincinnati game and that they have never been dominant all season.

“It’s all correctable,” starting guard Tyler Rader said.

And to correct it they will go back to the A-B-Cs.

“In practice we will focus on technique, go back to the first things you learn in camp,” Rader said.

Certainly, Rader said, Cincinnati was responsible for some of the problems.

“Cincinnati was good. They gave it to us. I don’t think that excuses five sacks and 32 yards rushing. We have to do better than that,” he said.

The five sacks were really the key issue for sacks lead to third-and-long situations or, worse yet, injured quarterbacks, and when you can only rush for 32 yards, you don’t want your quarterback to be standing on the sideline on crutches.

“There is no offensive lineman that wants the quarterback to be hit,” Rader admitted. “Any time Geno is hit we hate it. I just hope he still trusts us. I can’t speak for him, but we’re still going to do all we can to see he doesn’t get hit.”

The challenge is to get it right before Pitt, because the Panthers have a strong defensive line that puts a great deal of pressure on quarterbacks.

“It means we need to get better,” Holgorsen said. “We sat in here and dealt with what Syracuse did against us by sending in more guys than we could block, but the opposite happened against Cincinnati. They didn’t bring any pressure, and it was still challenging.

“We’ve got to block better. We’ve got to finish blocks better, or we’ve got to find guys to come in here that are better than the ones we’ve got. We love them, but we want them to get better. We’re going to put them in a position to be successful, but at some point they’ve got to figure out a way to get it done.”

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • Huggins signs junior college guard

    Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
    Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.

    April 17, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Comparing pay of coaches and professors

    Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
    • A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.

    April 17, 2014

  • 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

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