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FRIDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK: WVU largely inept in loss to Maryland

Midway through the second quarter Saturday West Virginia had just stopped Maryland on downs at the WVU 42. The Mountaineers were leading 21-17, had scored on their last possession, and the momentum was in their favor. The defense appeared to have made adjustments after a poor first quarter.

From that point forward it was two and one half quarters of ineptitude. On the very next play Quarterback Jarret Doege made an ill advised throw resulting in an interception. That was followed by a fumbled punt, but the defense held strong and somehow West Virginia went to the locker room with a 21-10 lead. Mountaineer fans were relieved that their team had survived a bad stretch and were still optimistic that the second half would lead to a victory.

But the Mountaineer offense was not finished in assuring those hopes were to be dashed. For the entire third quarter WVU had excellent field position but was unable to take advantage. A successful play would soon be followed by a negative one, with one drive ending on yet another turnover.

Yet with all the third quarter futility the Mountaineers still trailed by only 23-21, and the opportunity to win the game was still in place. Beginning again in good field position near midfield after another good kickoff return by Winston Wright, Doege made a nice 39 yard throw to Sam James to the Maryland 13, and West Virginia was again poised to take the lead. But Doege was intercepted in the end zone on the next play, taking away even an opportunity for a field goal. A discouraged defense, which had played well since the first quarter, had a communication breakdown according to head coach Neal Brown resulting in a 60 yard Maryland touchdown to a wide open receiver. The Terps had a two score lead which they never relinquished.

All the deficiencies on offense that Mountaineer fans hoped would be fixed were still glaringly evident. WVU could not run the football, handing the ball off to Leddie Brown 17 times for pnly 73 yards. Pass protection was often shaky. But most of all the quarterback turned the ball over at crucial times in the game and was unable to make enough positive plays to overcome those mistakes.

From the midpoint of the second quarter West Virginia scored all of 3 points against a defense that past history would tell us is average at best. College football games cannot be won with that lack of point production no matter how well a defense plays. Although we should never make too much of one game, the performance Saturday has shaken the confidence of Mountaineer fans. A very good Virginia Tech team comes to Morgantown in two weeks, followed by a Big 12 conference slate with five road games.

The problems on offense will need to get fixed, and one wonders whether Doege continuing at the quarterback position is the answer. We have had parts of three seasons as a sample size and the results are not inspiring. In fairness the issues on offense are not all his fault, but with an offense that struggles to run the ball a quarterback with mobility may be necessary to turn things around.

THIS SATURDAY: The home season opens with a visit from 1-AA Long Island University, which began its season losing 48-10 to Florida International. So at least for now WVU fans will be able to enjoy their evening and that looks like a good score to repeat. WEST VIRGINIA 48, LONG ISLAND 10.

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