The Times West Virginian

September 10, 2013

FURFARI COLUMN- What happened to Mountaineers’ offense?

By Mickey Furfari
For the Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — Whatever happened to that highly productive football offense Dana Holgorsen brought to West Virginia University a couple years ago?

It struggled on occasion after last season’s great 5-0 start and No. 5 national ranking, and the Mountaineers suffered the worse sudden slump in memory. You may recall that they lost six of their final eight games and finished with a sad 7-6 record.

In last Saturday night’s 16-7 loss to 16th-ranked Oklahoma (2-0), the West Virginia (1-1) offense was so inept that the team managed a mere 387 yards in total offense. The breakdown was 169 rushing and 218 passing yards.

That’s West Virginia’s lowest offensive output since 2011 and the worst in third-year head coach Holgorsen’s career here.

Could it be a case of the more experienced Big 12 coaches poking holes in WVU’s current offense?

Oklahoma wasn’t much more impressive offensively. The Sooners had 495 yards in total offense and nearly 10 minutes more than West Virginia in vital possession time.

Like the Mountaineers, however, the Sooners scored just one touchdown in the contest and were forced into kicking — and making — three of four field goal attempts.

The 16-7 score was a far-cry contrast to the two schools’ 50-49 game in Oklahoma’s visit to Morgantown a year ago. Isn’t that the kind of scoring scraps most fans love to see?

Generally, I thought WVU was ho-hum in this second season’s opener in the Big 12 Conference. It certainly seems to still need to iron out numerous kinks in what Holgorsen likes to call “all three sides of the ball.”

I did think the defensive unit showed definite improvement, especially in forcing four turnovers. That is one more than its goal per game.

However, it was disappointing that part of the special teams made mistakes to give up 10 of the Sooners’ 16 points.

While Oklahoma’s defense obviously performed well and also came up with four turnovers, that team looked somewhat overrated and possibly undeserving of a No. 16 national ranking. The Sooners have now jumped to No. 14 in The Associated Press poll and No. 13 in the USA Today coaches’ poll.

I was surprised that West Virginia did not run the ball more against the Sooners. It rushed only 24 times for a net of 169 yards, of which 75 came on Dreamius Smith’s run for the team’s only touchdown. He’s a junior from Wichita, Kan.

In the season’s opening struggle against William & Mary, WVU ran the ball 44 times for 204 yards.

Senior Charles Sims, a transfer from Houston, led the way with 23 carries and a net of 120 yards and one TD in that shaky 24-17 win at home.

However, Sims rushed just 11 times against Oklahoma for a mere 57 yards.

It could be very unlikely to see anything really meaningful to Mountaineer fans in this Saturday’s home game against Georgia State, which became a FBS team this fall and is 0-2.

West Virginia has been installed as a 37 1/2-point favorite. The kickoff is set for noon.