Film Review Nets Positives For West Virginia

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The most striking aspect of West Virginia’s opening victory is that head coach Dana Holgorsen speaks only in the vaguest of terms about what needs fixed.

The translation: Not much. Holgorsen was asked after Sunday’s film review what issues most emerged via the tape, and his answers amounted to a rough approximation of the most basic of ideals.

“There’s all kinds of things,” Holgorsen said. “The basics of blocking and tackling. I thought we tackled pretty well, but there’s things we need to do better with technique. We got the second team guys in (to play) and we looked at what they need to do. We did some good things blocking-wise and we need to improve upon that. Special teams guys, we ended up playing 61 guys, and a lot of guys need to improve with technique.”

A read between the lines indicates that, frankly, there simply wasn’t much to fret about. The Mountaineers didn’t finish well in the scoring zone in the opening half, then tidied that nicely over the third and fourth quarters. Skyler Howard acknowledged some issues with accuracy and touch, and seemed to manage much better in both in the second half. The other concerns entering were tackling and how WVU’s young offensive players would respond to game action, and both were answered nicely.

“I wanted to see it in a live setting,” Holgorsen said. “Georgia Southern was a good opponent for us. They brought a lot of challenges. They came in here and thought they could win, came in and played hard and were well-coached and we met the challenge. I thought we were pretty good defensively and that showed. Our offensive guys needed to make plays down the field and we did that. We needed Skyler (Howard) to handle the game well and he did.”

Howard threw for 359 yards, including two 57-yard strikes to Shelton Gibson and Jovon Durante. He also saw the field in the manner coached, and was able to efficiently operate the offense while protecting the ball and allowing a stout defense to control the contest. Now, heading into week two and a home game with and FCS foe, the Mountaineers are primarily in stay-the-course mode.

Liberty, 1-0 after a dominating 32-13 win over Delaware State, showed offensive balance in amassing 229 yards rushing and 188 passing in its opener. The 14th-ranked Flames totaled 26 first downs (15 rush, 9 via pass, 2 on penalties) and were a solid nine of 16 converting third and fourth downs combined. Quarterback Josh Woodrum hit on 19 of 32 passes for 188 yards, two scores and an interception, while a pair of wideouts caught at least six passes each. Defensively, Liberty held DSU to 269 yards in winning its seventh game in the last nine, the two defeats coming by a combined total of nine points.

The Flames are a seasoned program, with experience on offense, defense and special teams. And while they aren’t as talented as some past FCS foes like James Madison and Eastern Washington, Liberty is dangerous enough that a lack mental and physical effort is enough to make the game close.

“It doesn’t matter who you play, in week two we are searching for improvement,” Holgorsen said. “Liberty is a good football team. We are going to respect our opponent, and our guys did that last year versus Towson in week two. Liberty went to the FCS playoffs last year and got on a roll and won a lot of games.

“We know who Liberty is. They have a lot of returning seniors from a really good offense last year. They’re physical, good up front. They got a couple receivers and a running back, the quarterback’s been there a long time and is getting NFL looks. Our guys are excited after going against option for a couple weeks, this is more pro style. It’ll be interesting to see what they are going to do. That’ something we won’t know until the game. Have to get into it to figure out what their plan is going to be and we will adjust from there.”

  • Holgorsen also touched on the senior leadership of safety Karl Joseph, who leads the nation in interceptions after picking off three passes against Georgia Southern.

    “Karl is one of the best inspirational leaders I have ever been around,” Holgorsen said. “It means a lot to him and he approaches the game the same way every week. It’s been fun watching him mature. He’s already moved on to Liberty. He did that in the locker room prior to wrapping things up. I gave him a game ball and he said all that’s fine and good but we are moving on to next opponent in Liberty.”

  • Holgorsen also again detailed Howard’s desire to prove himself, saying said he “played well. He managed the game, kept his eyes where we wanted him to. He’s a real smart kid. He graduated from junior college in a semester, and he’s already graduated from West Virginia and he’s only been here a year and a half. He understands the game.”

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