The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

October 3, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN - WVU finds balance it had lacked

MORGANTOWN — It wasn’t about what went on Saturday, not about scoring 55 points or rushing for 360 yards, Geno Smith, the West Virginia University quarterback, was telling the mob of 30 or so microphones and tape recorders that were being pressed closer and closer to his face.

Winning that game and getting rid of the sour aftertaste the season’s first loss to LSU had left was only the immediate goal, not the long-term goal. It was simply a step along the way, this discovery of a running game to complement the Mountaineers’ passing game.

See, there is an ultimate goal in Smith’s mind, one he undoubtedly has gotten form his head coach, Dana Holgorsen.

“We’re working toward becoming one of the best offenses ever,” Smith finally said.

You have to remember that the 55 points and 643 total yards came about in the fifth game in which this radical new offense has been employed. Some players, like Dustin Garrison, the overnight sensation of a running back who rushed for 291 yards against Bowling Green, have not yet started their second game in the offense.

Holgorsen is still playing mostly with players recruited by another coach for another reason in another season.

Yet there they were, one week breaking the school record for passing yards, the next week putting on display a true freshman who would rush for more yards than anyone but one player in the storied history of WVU football, a history that had been written mostly on the ground.

Suddenly, Dustin Garrison’s name was right there with Amos Zereoue and Avon Cobourne and Quincy Wilson and Steve Slaton and Patrick White and Kerry Marbury, whose 291-yard effort against Temple 40 years earlier he had matched, and Kay-Jay Harris, whose 337 yards against East Carolina may never be matched.

Until this unexpected outburst of running the football, WVU had been putting up big numbers through the air while the ground game was virtually non-existent with a maligned line and a group of faceless, nameless running backs.

You would never be able to beat a good team being so pass-heavy, as proven in the LSU defeat, when all the yards added up to nothing beyond statistics, certainly not points.

But now, all of a sudden, you couldn’t put just three in the box and dare WVU to run, dropping eight to cover the pass. Now there is thunder to go with the lightning, and it was a huge step forward toward the ultimate goal.

“It gives us another dimension,” Smith admitted to the faceless microphones and cameras. “We’re going to continue to work on that running game. We’re never going to give up on it. Today showed what we’re capable of. It’s a building block toward the future.”

It is difficult to understand that the running game is far more complicated than the passing game and takes longer to install. Quarterbacks and receivers work together endlessly on a daily basis. They work on route running, which is intricate, and timing, which must be precise.

They can do it without the offensive line. They can even do it one-on-one, just quarterback and wide receiver off on some grassy field between classes, if they want.

They become as one, the quarterback knowing where the receiver will be at any moment and where he will be three seconds later.

The running game, though, is far harder to coordinate, so different are the skills the backs work on and the linemen in their separate time. A center can work on snapping the ball to a quarterback, but he can’t work on blocking for that quarterback until it becomes team drills and it’s all put together.

So it’s no surprise that this pass-first team took almost half a season to get the coordination and the timing into the running game, nor is it a surprise that it took this long to shake loose a starter and define roles for the running backs because, in truth, they had not had much of a chance to show what they had.

The more WVU passes, the less they carried, and without precision blocking and holes opening, the less chance they had of gaining yards or earning the confidence of the coach.

Now it seems to have come together and the ultimate offense becomes visible, a team that can throw and run, a team with a breakaway threat at running back while Stedman Bailey and Ivan McCartney offer steady receivers on the outside and Tavon Austin scampers across the middle as a slot receiver.

How many now do you put in the box? Three or five or eight? Do you stop the run and hope the passing game doesn’t work? Do you sell out to stop the pass, running exotic blitzes that are vulnerable to breakaway runs?

It’s like boxing a fighter who can knock you out equally with his left or right hand. The knockout punch can come from anywhere.

And when you have that, perhaps Smith and Holgorsen will have collaborated on creating “one of the best offenses ever.”

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

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Must WVU defense carry offense in ’14?

    The other day the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a story under the following headline:
    “In a year of change, must the Steelers’ offense carry the defense this year?”
    Reading that turned on a light.

    July 31, 2014

  • WVU takes first step today

    Perhaps the most used — and least factual — cliché in sports is as follows:
    “There’s no tomorrow.”
    Around these parts, however, tomorrow is what they are clinging to, while putting a new twist on the cliché, turning it to, “There’s no yesterday.”

    July 31, 2014

  • WVU takes first step Thursday

    Perhaps the most used – and least factual – cliché in sports is as follows:
    “There’s no tomorrow.”
     

    July 30, 2014

  • Must WVU defense carry offense in ’14?

    The other day the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a story under the following headline:
     

    July 30, 2014

  • smallwood-wendell(1)-2.jpg Charges against Smallwood dropped

     West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood took to Twitter mid-afternoon Tuesday to express his feelings after charges of witness intimidation against him were dropped by the state of Delaware.
    It took him only three words to say what was on his mind: “God is Good.” Smallwood is now free to return to West Virginia and rejoin his Mountaineer teammates when they open camp for the 2014 season Thursday.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Charges against Smallwood dropped

    West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood took to Twitter mid-afternoon Tuesday to express his feelings after charges of witness intimidation against him were dropped by the state of Delaware.

    July 29, 2014

  • Were Bowlsby’s fears about college athletics’ future justified?

    I have never met or even talked to Bob Bowlsby, commissioner of the Big 12 Conference.
    But I did read a lengthy story on his 45-minute address to reporters last week on Media Day in Dallas, Texas. Among other things, Bowlsby forecast a startling change threatening the existence of intercollegiate athletics as we have known for these many, many years.

    July 28, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides plenty of optimism

    This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.
    This is a time of year when no one has lost a game, not even Charlie Weis at Kansas, and it’s a time of year when opinions are more plentiful than tattoos in an NFL locker room.

    July 27, 2014

  • Seider's brother commits to WVU

    West Virginia University’s football team has received a commitment from one of its own.

    July 26, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides much optimism heading into 2014 season

    This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.

    July 26, 2014

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