Not Perfect Yet

Well, West Virginia's offense didn't show it was ready for primetime just yet.

On Saturday, it was able to pull out a 31-21 victory over Maryland, but it wasn't as pretty as we've all become accustomed to over the last nine months.

No. 8 WVU struggled at times like it hadn't since last December.

It was so disappointing for head coach Dana Holgorsen that at one point in the third quarter he threw his headset to the ground and even paced about 200 yards during a T.V. timeout in which he berated his offensive line.

"We've got to get better," Holgorsen said. "We didn't play our best game on any side of the ball, but we found a way to win. Good teams do that."

Quarterback Geno Smith looked rattled at times, and that's not exactly what you're looking for from a Heisman-type player.

Sure, he didn't do anything that necessarily hurt the Mountaineers and made his fair share of plays, but Smith wasn't his usual self (at least his usual self as of January).

"He was a bit off. He got hit early. They were pressuring him, they got to him and it rattled him a bit," Holgorsen said.

Some of that definitely can be put on other facets of the offense, particularly the offensive line and running backs, which played their worst game of the season by far.

The line was being pushed back, particularly in points of the third quarter, that Smith was obviously uncomfortable. At one point, Holgorsen was so upset with the line that he went over prior to position coach Bill Bedenbaugh and had some choice words for the players. He went back to them a few minutes later for more.

The running backs were basically non-existent. With Shawne Alston hobbled by a minor hamstring strain, Andrew Buie handled most of the carries. He was ineffective.

WVU failed to score in the third quarter, the first time it has been held without points in a quarter this season. The Mountaineers hadn't had a scoreless quarter since back in December of last year.

"We pressed a little bit, and it slowed us down," said offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. "The good thing is that we scored a little bit more than they did."

The rushing game netted just 25 yards. The passing game was much more effective, but outside of Tavon Austin who had 179 yards and three touchdowns on 13 catches, the position struggled.

It wasn't until the 8:18 mark of the fourth quarter that it looked as if Maryland wouldn't have enough.

Then the Terrapins scored again to make it a 10-point game. Following that score, the WVU offense went backwards, and Smith almost threw a pick-six on third and long with more than five minutes to play.

Efficient it was not on Saturday.

On third-and-long, Smith found Austin over the middle of the field for 34 yards and a score to go up 31-14 with 8:18 to play. It looked as if Smith changed the play at the line, as well.

Honestly, if it wasn't for Smith and Austin in this game, the Mountaineers may have been in some major trouble; think of what that means for years to come.

WVU is going to have to become a bit less predictable down the road, as I'm sure it will be.

It was obvious at times whether WVU would run or pass. If fullback Ryan Clarke was in the backfield, it was likely for pass-blocking situations. If tight end Cody Clay came in on the line, it was probably a running play – particularly in the first half.

Maryland seemed to key on certain things that allowed them to have more success than any team this year on West Virginia.

Perhaps it was the talent that Maryland has that Marshall and James Madison do not. But, think about this: How many Big 12 Conference teams are better than Maryland? How many Big 12 defenses are better than the Terrapins?

To me it's eight and four, and that should be a scary proposition for the rest of the season.

Still, despite the less effective offensive performance, WVU managed to secure a victory. There was real adversity on Saturday, and the Mountaineers found a way to prevail.


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