MORGANTOWN - Three games into the season and poor tackling and the lack of a consistent rushing attack continue to haunt head coach Dana Holgorsen as he prepares to lead his No. 8 West Virginia University Mountaineers into Big 12 conference play this Saturday against the Baylor Bears.
"We are still young in the season, so there is plenty to work on," Holgorsen said following his team's 31-21 win over Maryland on Saturday. "We'll get back to work this week after watching tape on all three sides of the ball. But, there is plenty of room for improvement."
There were signs of improvement.
The punting game, which entered the contest with a horrific 14.5 yards per net punt, saw senior Corey Smith average 44.6 yards on his seven attempts with a long of 54 yards and placing two inside the Terrapins' 20.
WVU failed to turn over the ball compared to forcing three turnovers from the Terps -turning the first one into a 51-yard fumble return for a touchdown by junior linebacker Doug Rigg.
And, both the kickoff and punt coverage units performed better than they had in previous outings. The longest return of the day for Maryland (2-2) was an Albert Reid kickoff return that covered 28 yards.
There were just as many negatives.
First, the unavailability of senior Shawne Alston had a definite impact on the Mountaineers' running game. Sophomore Andrew Buie was not the answer and last year's leading rusher, Dustin Garrison, showed that he is no where close to the level he played at as a freshman.
That inability to field a running attack had a direct impact on the passing game. Senior quarterback Geno Smith was sacked twice for a loss of 16 yards, but was hurried, harassed and hit enough times that even wide open receivers became an adventure to find.
Granted Maryland's senior dominated defense, which came into the Terps' fourth game of the season, ranked No. 8 against the pass, had a lot to do with it and the strategy of blitzing on nearly every down proved to be effective against a team that became more and more one-dimensional as the game wore on.
Defensively, the Mountaineers had some bright spots -Rigg's fumble return for six points, Wes Tonkery's first career interception as a Mountaineer, five quarterback sacks and holding the Terrapins to a mere 46 rushing yards on 35 rushes.
But, poor tackling continues to haunt the unit.
"Overall, I think our kids played well," co-defensive coordinator Joe DeForest sad. "Without looking at the tape. I thought we tackled better except for that one occasion.
"The two scores they had was poor tackling. Other than that, I thought we executed the game plan."
A game plan that will have to change dramatically when West Virginia plays host to Baylor in the school's first-ever Big 12 game at noon on Saturday.
The Bears improved to 3-0 on the season with a 47-42 win over a Louisiana-Monroe on Friday night. Louisiana-Monroe was coming off an upset win over Arkansas.