The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

September 27, 2010

One long night

WVU mistakes, misses add up to ‘tough’ loss

MORGANTOWN — Moments after West Virginia had given away its chances for an undefeated season with a 20-14 loss at LSU, Coach Bill Stewart was not in a very good mood.

“That was a tough one to lose and it’s going to stick with me a long time. It’s going to stick with our staff and, more importantly, it’s going to stick with our seniors,” Stewart said. “I do compliment LSU, but I do not like two missed field goals. I do not like giving up a punt return. I do not like us not being able to handle pressure, and I do not like being able to capitalize and trading touchdowns for turnovers.

“That’s not funny to me.”

It was a long, difficult, trying night for West Virginia as it fell to 3-1, as much because it shot itself in its own foot as it was due in part to Noel Devine having injured his foot when hit illegally out of bounds by an LSU defender.

To paraphrase Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the Victorian romance poet who once asked “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways”, let us say “How did WVU lose this game? Let me count the ways.”

The Mountaineers gave LSU 17 consecutive points on three possessions in which the Tiger offense gained only 16 yards.

There was a fumble by Ryan Clarke that led to a touchdown from the 7, an interception of quarterback Geno Smith that led to a touchdown from the 9 and then a 60-yard punt return by the elusive Patrick Peterson.

“You can’t turn the ball over like that and expect to win. You just can’t do it, especially on the road in a place like this,” Smith said.

You also can’t talk all week about Peterson’s greatness, talk about him being the best kick returner in the college game, do everything but enshrine him in the College Football Hall of Fame, then punt the ball to him the first chance you get.

Had Peterson not become dizzy, requiring an IV, and stopped returning kicks, who knows how many kicks he might have brought back?

So that gets the count up to three.

Then there were those missed two field goals, the first very makeable by the normally unflappable Tyler Bitancurt. This one was blocked, just as was one against Marshall, with the breakdown coming in the same area.

So we’re talking special teams … a punt return for touchdown and two missed field goals.

We’re talking turnovers, a fumble and an interception leading to 10 points.

And we’re talking offensive line.

Count the ways the line failed:

1. WVU rushed for just 58 yards. True, Devine had his toe issue, which obviously slowed him down, but there just weren’t many holes.

2. Smith was under constant pressure from a blitzing defense that kept flowing into the backfield, making him hurry. To Smith’s credit, they never sacked him. To the line’s discredit, they almost did 10 or so times.

“LSU is a team that we knew coming into the game one of their big things is getting pressure on the quarterback,” said Smith, who finished with 14 of 29 passes for 119 yards. “They sent a lot of blitzes. They have good athletes in the secondary, but it was something we were prepared for. I thought we should have done a better job.”

Then there was an inability to break a big play.

WVU never had a play gain 20 yards, even with the likes of Devine, Tavon Austin, Jock Sanders and Stedman Bailey. They gained only 177 total yards, less than Devine has rushed for alone four times in his career.

You do not win many football games with an inability to run the ball, yet each week it seems the Mountaineers are more aerial minded without getting the points to justify it.

A full off week should held get things back together for WVU, heal up Devine and guard Josh Jenkins’ injury, a chance to re-evaluate an offense averaging only 25 points a game and to sooth hurt feelings as the Mountaineers await UNLV to come town for an Oct. 9 game, the final non-conference game of the season.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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