Some WVU questions answered

Like so many Mountaineer fans on Saturday, I made the trek to Milan Puskar Stadium with the hopes of discovering some answers to questions that had lingered over the program since last year’s 7-6 debacle.

Following the opening 30 minutes of action, I found myself with more questions than answers as William and Mary (a FCS school that struggled to win two games in the CAA last season), took a 17-7 lead to the locker rooms at the intermission.

After looking like it might put up 69 points – the number tallied in last year’s season opener against Marshall – following an 8-play, 67-yard drive that culminated in an 11-yard scoring run by University of Houston transfer Charles Sims, the WVU offense was unable to sustain a drive while the defense displayed far too many similarities to the unit that surrendered an appalling 38.1 points per game last season.

But, football is played in two halves. And, the second 30 minutes belonged to the players in old gold and blue.

“We have a long way to go on all three sides of the ball,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Shout out to (WVI punter) Nick O’Toole – we talk about flipping the field. He averaged over 50 yards a punt which, when you are talking about hidden yardage, our defense was in great position the whole day.

“One turnover on offense put them in a little bit of a bad situation, but we held them to a field goal there.”

And, it was the defense that made the biggest turnaround during the half as the unit, which had surrendered 201 yards and 17 points in the first two quarters, pitched a shutout, even overcoming a couple of spectacular plays by the Tribe’s Tre McBride.

“He (McBride) is as good as a receiver as we will see this year,” safeties coach Tony Gibson said. “We got burned three times on the double fake, but Darwin (Cook) finally sat down on one of them and got that big pick late in the game to put us in the driver’s seat.”

McBride finished with three catches for 108 yards, but only one in the second half as WVU’s prevent unit limited the visitors to five first downs.

“The first half was just a matter of nerves,” defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. “We had busted assignments that resulted in big plays for them.

“The second half the kids were more comfortable and began making plays, which is what we were wanting to see them do.”

Something the unit will have to do a lot more of if the Mountaineers want to come out of next Saturday unbeaten as WVU travels to Norman, Oklahoma to take on the Sooners.

“Where do you want me to start,” Holgorsen said. “We are going to a place that is incredibly, incredibly hard to play.

“I have a lot of concerns about our player on both sides of the ball. We have lots of work to do this week.”

So do we fans.

Contact Jim Butta at jbutta@newsandsentinel.com