Still Searching

In a loss to Oklahoma two weeks ago, the West Virginia football team continually shot itself in the foot multiple times en route to a 16-7 loss that was difficult for the team to swallow.

Saturday against Maryland, once again, it was the little mistakes that again came back to bite the Mountaineers.

But, unlike the Sooners did in the close loss, the Terrapins took advantage of WVU's many miscues and cruised to a 37-0 win Saturday.

As it has many times this season, the early struggles started on special teams. While West Virginia failed to score on the first two drives of the game, the offense seemed to be starting to find some kind of rhythm, and the defense forced the Maryland offense into two frustrating three-and-outs to begin the game.

Then the first domino fell, as Ronald Carswell muffed a punt – which was recovered by Maryland's A.J. Hendy and put the Terrapins in great field position to set up a three-play scoring drive capped off by a C.J. Brown touchdown pass to Dave Stinebaugh.

Hendy struck again just a few plays later when he intercepted a Ford Childress pass and returned it 28 yards to give Maryland the 14-0 lead.

From there it was an uphill climb that the Mountaineers just weren't able to get back from.

In a game that many looked at as a litmus test for the way the rest of the season could go.

And if Saturday was any indication, it's not going to be pretty.

In an amazing turn of events after the way last season went, the defense has been the one thing WVU has been able to depend on to be fairly consistent for the most part. The Mountaineers gave up 330 yards to Maryland Saturday, but some of those drives started after errors on special teams or by the offense put the defense deep in its territory.

Until the Mountaineer offense finds some kind of consistency at all, WVU will struggle to win games against anyone in the Big 12 Conference outside of the bottom-tier teams like Kansas and Iowa State.

Although it's probably a little too early to say that Childress isn't going to be a long-term solution for West Virginia at quarterback, but it did look like he wasn't very comfortable at times against Maryland. Part of that could be thanks to some very subpar offensive line play. You can attribute part of it to Childress' inexperience, as well as the fact that the Mountaineers are still looking for consistent contributors at receiver.

But all of that culminates into the biggest problem with this offense through four games.

The 2013 version of the West Virginia offense is still searching for its identity.

Much like it did in 2010 when the stagnant offense helped WVU limp its way to a respectable 9-3 season before getting carved up in the Champ Sports Bowl in Geno Smith's first season as a starter, this year's Mountaineers haven't really seemed to get on track at all in the first four games.

Where this team has been able to have a steady passing attack to lean on for Dana Holgorsen in his first two seasons, this was expected to be a pivotal year for the program because it was going to be a true test of whether it was Holgorsen's system that was successful, or if it was the group of talented skill players who could make plays that helped the offense be as good as it was.

At this point, that answer looks fairly obvious.

Saturday, Childress completed 11 of his 22 passes for 62 yards – the fewest yards for any WVU quarterback who attempted that many passes in school history And of those completions, only one was to wide receiver – all of the rest went to running backs on screen passes.

Many people anticipated Saturday's game against Maryland to answer a number of questions about West Virginia's offense and what could happen the rest of the year – which it did.

But they weren't the answers the Mountaineers were hoping to find, and with Big 12 play and the two best teams in the conference breathing down their neck the next few weeks, there might not be much time left to turn things around.


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