WVU needs to change gameplan

MORGANTOWN – Coming off its first shutout loss since 2001, West Virginia understands that it must make some drastic changes before entertaining No. 11 Oklahoma State (3-0, 0-0 Big 12) at noon on Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium.

And it begins with third-year head coach Dana Holgorsen.

“I have to change my mentality, if they (the players) are going to change their mentality,” Holgorsen said on Tuesday. “I’m going to expect good things to happen. I’m going to be excited about going to practice. I’m going to go out and not be worried about calling the perfect play.

“If you sit there and worry about calling a different play, then you are going to call a bad one.”

Something that happened all too often in a 37-0 loss to border state rival Maryland last Saturday.

“That mentality needs to go away,” said Holgorsen. “We need to relax, and we need to expect good things to happen, because right now offensively, that is not going to happen. We practice staying motivated, but we were not the most-excited team to play Saturday.

“Were we prepared to play? Not as well as Maryland. All that stuff falls on me. I need to get us better prepared and more excited about playing. We went over to Maryland and played a team that was excited to play. They played with more excitement, and with more passion than our guys did. When that happens, that’s on me.”

The former offensive coordinator at OSU also needs to find the playmakers in this year’s offensive attack.

University of Houston transfer Charles Sims has displayed signs that he might be one. He leads the team with 328 yards and two touchdowns on 60 carries. Junior college transfer Dreamius Smith (39-251. 2 TDs) might be another.

But it all starts with the quarterback position, where WVU has received less-than-stellar play from junior Paul Millard and redshirt freshman Ford Childress through an up-and-down opening to the season. Millard, who started the first two games, has completed 40-of-66 attempts for 455 yards and one touchdown while Childress has made good on 36-of-63 passes for 421 yards and three scores as the Mountaineers’ starter in the last two contests.

“We have to put them in better situations,” Holgorsen said. “There’s a lot of blame to go around. Maybe we are not practicing enough the situations that they are being put in. I’m just asking those guys to get a little better. If our quarterbacks play better, if our line and player block better, then we will get better on offense.”

The unit will be facing an OSU defense that is surrendering 13.7 points and 360.7 yards per game (122.3 rushing, 238.3 passing).

“It starts with us, the coaches,” WVU offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. “You have to have a contagious personality that is worth catching. If I am uptight and all the coaches are uptight, then the players are going to probably be uptight. We just need to go out there and play ball.”

And maybe find a few receivers who can make plays.

In their most recent setback, the Mountaineers received two catches from players not in the backfield – Ronald Carswell and Cody Clay.

“When teams are dropping into coverage, we are going to run the football and throw more screens to those guys,” continued Dawson. “That is one way you can get them involved. I will give the receivers a lot of credit, because that was a frustrating game against Maryland.

“It was a frustrating game for them and for us. They were not getting any touches, but their effort blocking on the edges was really, really good. It was impressive to watch them continue to block. Those guys never quit. We are just fighting and clawing to get it to where it is clicking some.”

When the signal-callers have been able to get the ball to the wideouts, freshman Daikiel Shorts has displayed the most consistency, having latched onto 12 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns. Carswell is next with nine for 196 yards and one score.

Making all of their efforts easier is an offensive front that is still looking for the right combination of players.

“Everyone, individually, has to get better at what they need to do,” WVU senior offensive lineman Pat Eger said. “If we get better at that, we will come together and be fine. We just need to get better at everything.”

And quickly as the Cowboys’ defense ranks fourth in the Big 12 in scoring (13.7), total yards (360.7) and rushing (122.3) and second in passing efficiency (162.4). The unit has also recorded seven sacks for 39 yards in losses.

“Assignment issues have contributed,” WVU senior offensive lineman Curtis Feigt said. “Mainly, it was effort though. I think (Tuesday) was one of our best practices of the year. Very intense, very focused, very energetic, We went out there and had fun and that’s something we’ve been missing.”

Something the fans will hope to see on Saturday.

  • Saturday’s game will be televised live on ESPN with Bob Wischusen doing the play-by-play, Rod Gilmore the analysis and Quint Kessenich roaming the sidelines.
  • There are 29 Mountaineers who have seen their first action this season. A total of 14 have earned their first career start.
  • Beginning with a 27-0 loss to Fordham in 1941, WVU has played 135 games against nationally-ranked teams. Since 2001, WVU has posted 15 victories over ranked teams.
  • WVU is 2-2 against Oklahoma State, including last year’s 55-34 setback.
  • Versus Maryland, the Mountaineers were held scoreless for the first time in 151 games, dating back to a 35-0 loss to Virginia Tech in 2001.
  • Charles Sims is ranked No. 5 in the Big 12 Conference in rushing yards per game, No. 11 in all-purpose yardage and No. 18 in total offense.