Mountaineer offense still sputtering

Two games is still a small sample size but from what we have seen the first two weeks of the football season, it appears that the West Virginia Mountaineers have come full circle.

In 2012, WVU had one of the nation’s most explosive offenses, but still lost five regular season games due to a defense that couldn’t stop any opponent. Now, in 2013, it appears that the defense has improved but the Mountaineers have problems offensively, particularly at the quarterback position. The result on Saturday was a frustrating 16-7 loss at Oklahoma. Last season, that much scoring would have occurred in half a quarter.

West Virginia was its own worst enemy. Having taken an unexpected 7-0 lead on a brilliant 75-yard touchdown run by Dreamius Smith, the Mountaineers frittered it away with two special teams miscues -a roughing the kicker penalty and a fumbled fair catch on a punt – directly leading to 10 Sooner points.

But the mistakes kept coming. Penalties were committed that stalled offensive possessions. And the best drive of the game to possibly take a lead in the third quarter ended with a Kevin White fumble at the Oklahoma 15. That play was preceded by a wasted timeout because the Mountaineers couldn’t get a play off in time followed by another wasted timeout by the defense on the succeeding play. Thus, West Virginia was out of timeouts in a close game before the third quarter ended. It is not unreasonable to expect a well paid coaching staff to find ways for similar issues to be avoided in the future.

Quarterback Paul Millard had some good moments but on several occasions missed open receivers. It will be interesting to watch how matters progress at the quarterback position, as transfer Clint Trickett is still in the picture and hasn’t yet been afforded a reasonable opportunity to show what he can do. The running backs are impressive and the young receivers are talented, but in college football without quality play at the quarterback position, a team will not consistently be successful scoring points.

The West Virginia defense hung in there well on Saturday. The Sooners had the ball inside the WVU 30 eight times yet managed only 16 points. Four turnovers were created and several times when it looked like the momentum was turning against WVU, the defense managed to hold on. But a word of caution: the success of the Mountaineers defense was in part because the Sooners also have serious quarterback problems which was a factor in their inability to put points on the board. Upcoming opponents Maryland, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech do not have such concerns.

I suppose we should be reminded that many were predicting a blowout loss Saturday and West Virginia played the Sooners physically much better than expected. That was encouraging. But it is also disappointing the Mountaineers were close enough to pull off a major upset and couldn’t get it done as much due to their own mistakes as anything else. Moral victories don’t count for much.

This Saturday: Georgia State is officially a Division 1-A FBS school, but doesn’t have the talent to compete at that level. This is only the fourth year the Panthers have even played football and it has showed. They have lost both of their home games to FCS schools, falling behind last Saturday to Chattanooga 42-0 before even scoring in the fourth quarter. The Mountaineers should have a field day because of the talent differential, but there will be no easy Saturdays after this week. West Virginia 55, Georgia State 14.