Back to the roots for WVU

After West Virginia University’s baffling 2012 campaign, head coach Dana Holgorsen is probably asking himself what he needs to do to get his program back on track.

The first thing that is needed is a monumental defensive improvement from last year.

That improvement should not be too hard to come by as last year’s defense ranked in the bottom of the FBS in almost all categories.

The second thing Holgorsen should plan on doing this year is running the football.

To drive home the second point, WVU fans’ mantra should become “Run, Dana, Run” (my apologies to Forrest Gump fans). Those three words should be chanted before every game at Mountaineer Field this year. Why, you ask?

The Mountaineers have a great track record of winning football games and posting winning seasons when they have at least one 1,000-yard rusher in a single season.

The Mountaineers are an amazing 138-60 in seasons where they have at least one 1,000 yard rusher in the past 20 years.

In other words, when the Mountaineers run the football, mathematics says they will win 70 percent of the time. When WVU has two 1,000-yard rushers in a season, it is 22-4. That happened in 2006 and 2007 when Steve Slaton and Pat White both had back-to-back seasons of 1,000 rushing yards in consecutive 11-2 campaigns.

It nearly happened a third time – in 2005 – when the old gold and blue went 11-1 and saw Slaton run for 1,128 yards, while White fell just 48 yards short of 1,000.

In seasons where the leading rusher was within 250 yards of 1,000, a winning record still was posted, albeit not as many wins as WVU teams who had a player achieve 1,000 yards.

Another aspect to becoming run oriented this year is the added benefit of keeping the improved but still much-maligned defense off the field.

You eat up clock and take the ball out of the profilic hands of the offenses of the Big XII. WVU always has been a stong running team and passing always has come secondary in Morgantown.

It is time to return to the hard smash mouth run-it-up-the-gut football that put WVU on the map. Players like Amos Zereoue, Cobourne, Slaton and White all have proven that it is a much better time at WVU when the team is running the ball and putting points on the board.

It would be a shame to waste Houston running back transfer Charles Sims only year with the Mountaineers by not utilizing him to the fullest extent.

It is no secret for those who study trends that the key to the Mountaineers’ success lies in running the football.

It is as deeply ingrained in state history as coal mining is and it might save Dana Holgorsen his job this season.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com