About halfway through the second quarter West Virginia football fans were having a difficult time finding a weakness about which to worry last Saturday, as the Mountaineers had scored on their first four possessions to take a 28-0 lead over outmanned James Madison.
Of course as we all know that is never the case when it comes to athletics. No team (OK, maybe Alabama) is infallible, and I am sure head coach Dana Holgorsen would agree the Mountaineers did have some issues Saturday.
West Virginia has only punted three times in two games. But those have been a real adventure. One was blocked by Marshall and the sole effort by the Mountaineers Saturday was a 24 yard shank. We saw a lot of those last year. Meanwhile, our opponents have averaged 46 net yards per punt in two games. WVU apparently seeks not to return punts, electing to fair catch them all. Over a season the difference in field position will make a difference in close games.
Now some of you are probably thinking I am reaching a bit here to find something less than positive to say, and that my first cup of coffee must have been a real bad one before I sat down to write this column. And perhaps you are right. But as good as the West Virginia offense is there will be occasions that it will be stopped and when it comes time to punt it sure would be nice to see one of those long, high booming spirals,
But the coffee is tasting better so let's move on to things more positive.
Geno Smith was 34 of 39 for 411 yards and five touchdowns. In two games Smith has an incredible 66 completions in 75 attempts. You can't get much better than that. It is clear that any opponent that wishes to contain the Mountaineers will need to get pressure on our quarterback. In two games the offensive line has prevented that from happening, and if Geno has the time he will deliver the football where it needs to be.
Another couple of games like the first two and we will start hearing about a certain trophy presentation made in New York following the end of the season and whether Smith should be in the picture. But I'm not going to mention the trophy name or address it again in this column until the season is over. This is a team sport. Let's worry about wins and the rest will take care of itself.
The jury is still out on the West Virginia defense, and indeed the deliberations on that issue may continue through much of the season. Few conclusions can be reached in a game like last Saturday, but it was encouraging to see that Mountaineer defense make a couple of stops near the goal line. There also were again a number of players who saw action on the defensive side of the ball as coaches try to build depth and evaluate how players perform in game action.
By the way, the Mountaineer mascot looked much crisper in doing those pushups. Obviously he took advantage of the week off and hit the weight room. I'm glad he heeded my advice.
THIS SATURDAY: Fans are anxiously pointing to the opening of the Big 12 conference schedule but there still remains one more non-conference opponent as the Maryland Terrapins come to Morgantown. Last season the Mountaineers built an early lead and then had to hang on for a 37-31 win. Maryland is 2-1 but has been inconsistent in putting points on the board. To beat WVU a team needs to light up the scoreboard, and the Terps won't have quite enough of that. WEST VIRGINIA 42 MARYLAND 20.