The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

September 7, 2011

WVU looks for better blocking against Norfolk State

MORGANTOWN — There are two major challenges, short of the ultimate goal of victory over FBS opponent Norfolk State at 1 p.m. Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium, for West Virginia rookie head coach Dana Holgorsen.

The first is to get his offense running as it should, which means improving the blocking.

The second is avoiding a letdown against an FBS opponent on the heels of the excitement of the season opener against down-state rival Marshall, one that wound up with WVU winning 34-13 in a game called early in the fourth quarter after the third lightning delay.

Of the two, the blocking is the biggest concern, for it really was a downer.

“Probably the biggest disappointment I had offensively was the blocking,” Holgorsen admitted at his Tuesday press briefing. “When you think about blocking, all you think about is the offensive line. That’s not necessarily the truth.”

That is not to say the offensive line was absent of blame. Marshall has a strong pass rush and Holgorsen has gone out of his way since his post-game press conference to credit them for the schemes they set up and the enthusiasm with which they played.

But both in the running game and pass protection, the offensive line had a lot of company with whom to share the blame.

“Some of the running game problems were the running backs not blocking for the other backs,” Holgorsen said. “Some of the running game problems were inside receivers not blocking for the running backs. Their blocking was just as bad as the offensive line’s blocking.”

And that can’t be. No matter how good a coach’s schemes may be, no matter how tricky he presents the X’s and O’s, you have to block someone or the play will be blown up in the backfield or at the line of scrimmage

“The name of the game offensively is blocking,” he said.

A big part of the trouble was the backs blocking for each other and in protection.

“The running back’s blocking was spotty at best,” Holgorsen said. “We’ve got two types of running backs — small guys who carry the ball and the bigger guys who block for them. All of them need to pass protect. All of them need to run block.

“When you play that many backs, they’re always going to be in a position where they’ll have to hold their own. It was subpar.”

Holgorsen admits that some of this problem is coaching, which means it will be addressed hard this week. The rest of it is players wanting to do it and being aggressive.

The psychological factors in this game are intriguing, even though one would assume a WVU team that has moved up to No. 19 in the rankings should have an easy time of it, especially facing a team that runs an offense similar to their own, so the defense will not be taken by surprise.

“You have to be able to read your team every week,” he explained. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing because they all count as a win, and some games obviously are more challenging than others. Some opponents are more challenging than others. Your job as a coach is to get them ready to play every week.”

To do that, Holgorsen tries not to vary the routine.

“We treat every opponent the same. We didn’t make a huge deal last week of being with in-state Marshall. We make a big deal of saying, ‘This is who our opponent is. This is what they do. This is how we’ll prepare for this game. This is the routine of the game week. Let’s worry about ourselves and go out and execute.’

“When the players come in tomorrow, we’ll show them who Norfolk State is, what they do, what situations we need to be prepared for, and then we need to practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and figure out what we need to do, what our job is and get it done.”

Email Bob Hertzel at Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

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