The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

September 24, 2012

WVU’s season to get tough

MORGANTOWN — The fun is over. Now the games begin for West Virginia University.

The Mountaineers asked to be in the Big 12, paid big money to be in it, and now they’re there, about to play their historic debut game at home against Baylor at noon Saturday at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium.

“It’s a new season. It’s all about the conference,” said quarterback Geno Smith, who understands exactly what’s in store after Maryland came up with a familiar defensive game plan, the same game plan that Big East teams like Syracuse and Connecticut used to slow the Mountaineers.

“They will come with the same game plan Maryland had, I expect, which is to pressure us and try to throw us off.”

The Big 12 Conference, which welcomes both WVU and TCU this season, is a league known for its offense. Indeed, it spits out Heisman Trophy winners and Biletnikoff Trophy winners the way a baseball player spits out the shells of sunflower seeds.

But it is a league that is improving through improvised defenses, a league that can produce a game like last Saturday night’s stunner, a 24-19 upset in Norman, Okla., by Kansas State a year after the Wildcats were torched for 58 points by Oklahoma.

Blitzing — all-out, sell-out blitzes — are becoming a way of life in the Big 12 in response to the ridiculous numbers such passing attacks as Baylor last year with Heisman winner Robert Griffin III and Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden were putting up.

WVU offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson expects more of the same, but he really isn’t sure what to expect, just as Maryland was a huge mystery going it.

“It was a guessing game,” Dawson said of preparation. “They hadn’t played anyone who ran a formation we run.”

And while some conferences have an offensive footprint — throwing the ball being such in the Big 12 — it is not the same on defense.

“Defenses change week to week. No conference has an overall identity,” Dawson said.

Because of that he isn’t quite certain what Baylor will throw at him, but he knows that the Bears have a big advantage.

“Baylor has a long week to prepare,” he noted, referring to them having played this past Thursday. “They will probably throw in some wrinkles that they wouldn’t have in a short week.”

Seeing Maryland confound and confuse WVU at times with blitzes only makes you believe Baylor will follow suit.

“Teams have been doing that my entire life, so we have to prepare for it,” Smith said of the blitzing. “I think that’s a trend against our offense because we have a really good offense, and in order to stop it you have to throw it off really good rhythm.”

Oddly, Maryland’s blitz probably did more to affect the WVU running game, which produced only 25 yards in 25 carries, something even a calculus major can figure out to be 1.0 yards per carry, than it did the passing game.

Smith believes the coaching staff will go to work hard on that before doing anything else.

“We have to find out ways to run it versus the blitz. I’m sure coach Gillespie and (Bill) Bedenbaugh and the offensive line will come up with a plan to counter that,” the quarterback said.

Smith isn’t even sure that Baylor will run much of what it has done in its previous games this season.

“If you come out with the same defense you ran last week against us we’ll find weaknesses and exploit them,” Smith vowed. “The good thing Maryland did ... was mix up the coverages and try to rattle our domes, which they didn’t do.”

What the Terps did do, though, was limit what coach Dana Holgorsen’s offense could do. Smith didn’t have time to pass. They made life miserable for receiver Stedman Bailey and took away the run.

“They mixed it up and made us make disciplined reads,” Smith said.

Seeing that on film, Baylor surely will try to use some of it to its advantage.

The defense is not the only problem, though, for Baylor’s offense is terribly similar to WVU’s, which has to put a burden on the Mountaineers’ defense.

“Baylor does as good a job as anyone on tempo,” explained defensive coordinator Joe DeForest, who faced them during his long tenure at Oklahoma State. “Basically, we are going to face our offense now.

“Our kids have to get ready for it. They see it every day in practice, but there’s a difference. There’s a little more sense of urgency in the game because it’s faster.”

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

Text Only
WVU Sports
  • 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

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU punter turns heads at linebacker

    They call him “Huey the Punter.”
    His real name is Houstin Syvertson. His real position is not punter. Not anymore, anyway.
    To be honest, until Saturday’s spring game, not many people following West Virginia football knew the name or the nickname. They know it now.

    April 13, 2014

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