Commentary: WVU's Offense a Work in Progress

Well, it wasn't pretty. At least, it wasn't as pretty as many West Virginia fans would've liked.

But, the Mountaineers came away with a 34-13 victory over in-state rival Marshall on Sunday at Milan Puskar Stadium in the first game of head coach Dana Holgorsen's head coaching career.

Holgorsen's prolific offense was nothing of the sort through much of the game, as it racked up just 291 yards and 34 points – something that puts his numbers at Oklahoma State to shame.

The game, a rain soaked battle for state supremacy, included two lengthy rain delay that made the fast-paced offense seem even slower.

I heed caution to all of you that are already questioning WVU's head coach; it's Game One – and there are kinks to work out for sure.

There are issues on offense that need to be resolved; and those were hard to point out when the media wasn't allowed to watch much of fall camp.

But, as expected, it seems the offensive line is going to be an issue – particularly in the running game.

Prior to the field conditions worsening after a rain delay, the Mountaineers rushed 19 times for just 30 yards. WVU had a number of negative rushing plays, as well, adding up to a -29 total.

Starting running back Andrew Buie struggled to find open running lanes for the most part. He carried the ball 15 times for 30 yards prior to the rainfall.

The team struggled on the ground so much in the first half, it didn't run a play on the ground in the 10:01 that ran off the third-quarter clock before the delay.

"It's a work in progress," Holgorsen said of the running game. "It's obvious that (Marshall) wanted to take away the run."

Don't fret, though. Holgorsen's offense has had off days in the past.

Last year, for example, his offense at Oklahoma State put up 351 yards of offense against Texas A&M in the team's fourth game of the year.

It happens, and I'm sure it will happen again.

While it makes sense for fans to look at this negatively, because they've waited so long to see some fireworks, there are positives to take away from this performance.

  • Last season, WVU scored 20 points in the first just three times – and only once against a team with a winning record.

    The Mountaineers did that on Sunday, and they did it while looking fairly average.

  • The offensive line, much-maligned as it may be, did a fairly admirable job against Marshall's defensive front. Star end Vinny Curry was basically nonexistent for much of the game, as WVU pass blocked well.

    Senior tackle Don Barclay was the best of the group, constantly taking on a single defensive lineman and turning him away from Smith.

  • The offense, when it moved at its fastest pace, was strong.

    The final drive of the first half, in which the Mountaineers were able to grab a field goal, made Marshall's defense look tired and slow.

    I would expect that WVU would turn up the tempo in bigger games against better competition. But, there really was no need to do that on Sunday.

  • Despite all the chaos, West Virginia was able to score a touchdown when it came out of after the longest rain delay. That was something that Marshall was unable to do.

    There were moments in Sunday's game that showed just how much potential this offense has in 2011. It wasn't every play like fans would've hoped in Game One, but it showed there's hope … and more of it than you could say a year ago.

    "Everybody knows this," Holgorsen said, "that teams make their most improvement in their first three games, so it's important for us to watch tape … and get better on all three sides of the ball."

    I know it's not the season opener that you might have wanted.

    But, it was a win – and it didn't take overtime this year, either.


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