The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

September 12, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN - Hard to forget bad first half

MORGANTOWN — This is about that West Virginia-to-the-SEC talk, about facing teams like Auburn and Alabama and Tennessee and Florida on a regular basis.

Maybe first the Mountaineers ought to make sure they can beat FCS teams like Norfolk State.

Oh, we all know the final score at Mountaineer Field on Saturday afternoon was 55-12, which would make you believe this was a laugher.

Well, be assured that as the Mountaineers headed to the locker room at halftime, boos from 51,911 of their fans raining down upon them the way lightning had the Sunday before, there wasn’t a laugh to be heard ... unless it was someone laughing at the Mountaineers.

The story the scoreboard told was one that could have been written by Edgar Allen Poe, such a tale of horror it was. Norfolk State had 12 points, West Virginia had 10.

The natives were restless.

“I would have booed, too,” Coach Dana Holgorsen admitted.

It is difficult to imagine just how putrid his offense was. Perhaps the best way to wrap it up, without boring you to death with statistics, is to move to a moment early in the second quarter when WVU was just starting to find itself.

They put together their first two first downs of the game, the second one coming on a marvelous 45-yard connection from Geno Smith to Tavon Austin, bringing the ball to the Norfolk State 1.

Surely these big, muscular WVU linemen would be able to open a hole to run the ball in, but you will not believe the sequence of events that followed. Rather than running behind the line and two fullbacks in an effort to gain a yard, Holgorsen called a pass.

Incomplete.

He then called a run. No gain.

Another pass was incomplete but a flag was thrown for interference in the end zone on Norfolk, one of a record 19 penalties they would incur, giving WVU new life on the 2.

Here we go again. Roberts ran for no gain.

Geno Smith completed a pass to Ivan McCartney ... for no gain.

Smith threw incomplete to Austin.

They had run three passes, completing one of them, two runs and still had not gained an inch. They had to settle for a field goal.

“It’s flat-out embarrassing. Embarrassing,” Holgorsen said. “I don’t have an answer for you. If you want to say it’s scheme, it’s scheme. But we run the same stuff all the time.”

The fact of the matter is this scheme, or these players, has not shown any ability to run the ball.

Not in the game and not in the film watched by Pete Adrian, the Norfolk coach.

“We didn’t think they could run on us, which they couldn’t,” Adrian said.

Talk about embarrassing, a coach from an FCS school saying this SEC wannabe couldn’t run the ball on them and proved it, holding them to 102 rushing yards, 3.1 yards a carry. That equates to about minus-105 rushing yards against Alabama or Auburn.

And not being able to do it on the goal line hurts everything about a football team, especially its testosterone-powered ego.

“Being able to kick the other team in the mouth is a big thing for us,” Geno Smith admitted. “But it doesn’t always go as you planned. You don’t know what the rest of the season holds. We might be the best goal line team ever.”

I would not hold my breath, at least not until Holgorsen discovers that you are legally allowed to run someone who weighs more than 180 pounds into the line.

So it was that at halftime the Mountaineers trailed, only to have Holgorsen offer a rather steamy fireside chat that he preferred not to repeat word-for-word and to have Smith gather his forces around and take them by the throat and convince them that it might not be in their best interests to continue playing like Girl Scout Troop 149.

The combination of renewed zeal on the part of the Mountaineers and a outmanned team whose Adrenalin had been drained led to a second-half onslaught unlike many seen in Mountaineer Field, WVU scoring six touchdowns and a field goal.

By then the fans had forgotten the first-half blues and were rocking and rolling the way a WVU crowd does. But Holgorsen could not forget.

“I’m not pleased with anyone right now,” Holgorsen said.

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

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