Failing to Finish

While the West Virginia offense's issues with slow starts that existed a season ago have largely become a thing of the past, wide receiver Alric Arnett said that the unit now has to work on finishing games as well as it has been beginning them.

Arnett and the rest of the Mountaineer playmakers have gotten out of the gates in a hurry, as WVU has scored on its first possession in six of its eight games thus far this season.

The only exceptions were in wins over East Carolina and Marshall.

In his team's 30-19 loss to South Florida last Friday, Arnett and company once again started fast.

West Virginia's game-opening possession was perhaps its most impressive of the season, as the team drove 80 yards in 11 plays before quarterback Jarrett Brown ran in from three yards out to give his team a 7-0 lead.

That drive, which featured three completions from Brown to Arnett, was impressive enough to cause USF head coach Jim Leavitt to feel compelled to go for a fourth-and-1 play near midfield on his team's ensuing drive.

Leavitt said afterwards that he worried that going three-and-out offensively after WVU's strong start may have proven to be too large of a hole to dig out of in terms of momentum, as there were questions as to whether his defense could slow down the Mountaineers' attack.

"As an offense, you always want to come out and strike first to set the tempo of the game," said Arnett. "We have to finish the games now. That is the thing for us. We have come out with good starts. We just have to finish."

In the end, that was the problem for West Virginia against the Bulls.

After driving 80 yards on that impressive first drive, it would take five more possessions for the offense to add another 80 yards to its total. In the interim, the team went three-and-out, four-and-out, threw an interception and went three-and-out again.

"I'm pretty sure that they made good adjustments," Arnett said. "Their players made plays. It was just little mental things and maybe a little more effort in the plays we had missed plays on. It was a game of inches. It seemed like we were just an inch or two from making a big play."

While it was a sluggish finish after a quick start that plagued the offense against USF, the same could also be said for the season in general.

Offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen's unit started the season off in impressive fashion, scoring 30 or more points in the first five games of the season.

Production has tapered since then, with scoring totals of 24, 21 (removing Tavon Austin's kickoff return touchdown against Connecticut) and 17 points (removing the defense's safety against USF) in the last three contests.

Arnett said that was the by-product of facing better teams that had the chance to study more film of WVU's offense, and thus, knew what to expect.

"We have played eight games, so [opponents] know what we are going to do," the former junior college transfer said. "It is just a matter of who gets to point ‘A' first. We have to go out and execute each and every weekend."

Arnett and company are looking to this weekend's contest against Louisville as a chance at redemption and the start of a four-game stretch run where they can still accomplish all of their major goals for the season.

"We just want to go out and get some of that sour taste out of our mouth and have a great game -- not just a good game, but a great game," he said. "We want to set the tempo and let everybody know that we are back and we are going to keep fighting."

"We know that we still have something to play for this season. Everything is still there to be played for. It is just up to us. There are four more games. It is up to us to go play those games."

The offense may have a chance to get back on track against a Cardinals defense that has struggled at times. In U of L's five losses, the team has allowed an average of 35 points per contest.

Before winning against Arkansas State this past Saturday, the team had given up 41 points to Cincinnati. The week previous, it had allowed 38 to Connecticut.

"They have given up a lot of points and a lot of big plays, but they have a lot of athletic guys that can make big plays," Arnett said of the Cardinals. "They have a lot of guys in the secondary that can run pretty well. Their defense is going to give us their best shot."

While the struggling Louisville squad may not be the toughest opponent WVU has faced this season, Arnett said that he will not be overlooking the Cards when they get set to kick off at Milan Puskar Stadium at noon on Saturday.

Another one of those quick starts for the offense -- with a better finish -- could help the Mountaineers move to 7-2 before a big showdown with Cincinnati.

"We just have to come out and jump out on these guys fast," said Arnett.

"Each and every Saturday, anything can happen. If you look around college football this year, there have been a lot of big upsets. We just have to come out and play Mountaineer football and everything will take care of itself."

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