Terps’ Diggs has Mountaineers attention

MORGANTOWN – A year ago the most explosive weapon on the field belonged to the Mountaineers from West Virginia and its name was Tavon Austin.

The first-round pick of the NFL’s St. Louis Rams finished with 13 catches as WVU won for the seventh consecutive time in a series dating back to 1919.

This time around, however, the most dangerous player on the field will be wearing the colors of the Maryland Terrapins. His name is Stefon Diggs and he has already drawn the attention of WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen, his staff and players.

“Tavon (Austin) and Diggs are pretty similar,” Holgorsen said. “They’re both from Baltimore and receivers and returners. He’s proven to have big play potential.

“He’s probably a little better at downfield play than Tavon. Tavon didn’t have just the downfield potential. His thing was to get the ball and go score.”

Something this year’s offense has had trouble accomplishing on a regular basis as the unit is averaging a mere 24-points per game after wins over William & Mary (24-17) and Georgia State (41-7) and a loss at Big 12 rival Oklahoma (16-7).

“Coach (Randy) Edsall emphasizes defense,” continued the coach. “They stopped us last year. They got a lot of new bodies from last year, but they did a tremendous job stopping us last time.

“It wasn’t one of our better performances of last season. We struggled to get first downs and score. It’s the same scheme. They’ve got depth and players who started a lot of games last year.”

And, the Mountaineers will have a redshirt freshman at quarterback – Ford Childress.

In his first career state for the old gold and blue the Houston native performed admirably, completing 25-of-41 attempts for 359 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.

Solid numbers, but not so solid that talk of a quarterback battle in Morgantown has faded into history.

“He (Childress) needs to improve on his sense of urgency,” Holgorsen said. “He’s night and day better right now than he was a year ago. That said, his sense of urgency needs to pick up because the speed of the game is going to increase.

“Maryland has great team speed. He needs to make reads quicker and his footwork and release need to be quicker. That’s just experience. You can’t duplicate game experience. We put him in a lot of different situations, but that game was different from what he’d ever done. This week will be different from what he’s ever done.”

What could make Childress’ job easier is a running attack that has become a four-headed monster for the Mountaineers.

University of Houston transfer Charles Sims leads a balanced group with 293 yards and two touchdowns on 52 carries. Junior college transfer Dreamius Smith has 177 yards and a pair of scores on 27 carries while Wendall Smallwood and Dustin Garrison have combined for 138 yards and one touchdown on 21 totes of the pigskin.

“We’re doing it (running) more effectively. There were times last year that we were running the ball 50 percent of the time. If we had this rushing impact throughout the hard part of our schedule last year, things might have turned out a little bit different.

“We’re happy with that and will keep working hard at that. We’ve got tremendous confidence in our backs and their ability to break tackles, and the O-line can get some push.”

The third-year leader of the Mountaineers isn’t so happy with this year’s receiving corps, however.

“I’m not happy with them yet. I specifically said ‘I’m going to start these three guys because they show big play potential.’

“Did we see that out of those guys? Not out of all of them, so that’s why I said I’m going to start getting K.J. (Myers), Daikiel (Shorts), and Ivan (McCartney) in there more. I’m proud of them. K.J. came in and was Mr. Consistency. They’re all going to play. How much they play will depend on their efficiency and productivity on the field.”

Defensively, the Mountaineers’ head coach is hoping the unit is prepared to face its second big test of the season.

“We haven’t faced the passing attempt like this yet. Do we feel better about where we are defensively? Yes, absolutely. Do we have it all figured out? No. Maryland is going to bring some bigger challenges.

“They have the ability. Oklahoma State and Baylor, our next two opponents, are also going to have a lot of ability. So this will be the game where we see where we are at.”

  • West Virginia is 166-191-8 against current members of the ACC, including a 29-18 record since 2002.
  • The Mountaineers have won 19 of their last 27 games against teams which currently hail from the ACC.
  • Since 1980, the Mountaineers hold a 28-19 mark in stadiums that also house a professional football team at the same time.
  • Currently, WVU is riding a five-game winning streak in pro stadiums and is 4-0 under Dana Holgorsen in professional venues.
  • Charles Sims is ranked No. 28 nationally, and No. 3 in the Big 12, in rushing yards and No. 5 in the Big 12 in all-purpose yardage.
  • Dreamius Smith is ranked No. 9 in the Big 12 in rushing yards and rushing yards per game.
  • Ronald Carswell is ranked No. 10 in the Big 12 in receiving yards. No. 11 in yards per game and No. 25 in catches per game.
  • Parkersburg South’s Michael Molinari is averaging 63 yards on 15 kickoffs with five touchbacks.