WVU football: Offensive line wants to be better
MORGANTOWN -- West Virginia's offensive line blocked for the second 300-yard rushing game since winning the 2008 Fiesta Bowl and helped Shawne Alston, Andrew Buie, Tavon Austin and two quarterbacks combine to average 9.5 yards per carry.
Only once before had a Mountaineers team ever gained more than the 655 yards accumulated against Marshall and a lot of that damage was done by quarterback Geno Smith, who wasn't sacked and often had enough protection to do whatever he chose.
Yet WVU's linemen came away from the game upset about one stat that never showed up in the box score:
"Geno got hit once," offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh said. "The guys were ticked about it, which they should be. There's an expectation and a pride that goes along with protecting the quarterback and that's what I like about this group. All the good things they did, that's something they'd like to get back. You don't ever like to see your quarterback get hit."
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WVU's coaching staff goes into great detail reviewing film of a game. The coaches watch every offensive, defensive and special team snap 11 times - once for every player on the field. That meant 2,365 plays to revisit after the Marshall game for WVU's 74 offensive plays, 101 defensive plays, 11 kickoffs, seven kickoff returns, 10 extra points, four extra point blocks, two field goal blocks, two punts and four punt returns.
Marshall's 101 plays matched the most WVU had defended in school history. Penn State had the same number of snaps in 1966. Defensive coordinator Joe DeForest had plenty of footage to explain how his group surrendered 545 yards, most by the Mountaineers since 1999 win against Miami (Ohio).
"I make them explain it to me," DeForest said. " 'What were you doing there?' I think the most important thing about coaching is not you telling them what they did wrong, but them explaining to you what they did and then figuring out what they were thinking.
"You can change his thinking. You could yell at him and say, 'Hey, you were wrong,' but you're better off finding out why they did it. Maybe they were thinking right, but looking at the wrong key."
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Coach Dana Holgorsen said last week the coaching staff considered naming right guard Jeff Braun the team's offensive player of the game, due in large part to his eight knockdowns. Left tackle Quinton Spain was another candidate with 10 1/2 knockdowns - and consider that center Joe Madsen led the team with 4.2 per game and 55 total last season.
Bedenbaugh was impressed by another player, though. Nick Kindler relieved Spain late in the game - meaning Spain didn't even play the whole game and still had double-digit knockdowns.
"The guy that I was impressed with the most was Kindler," Bedenbaugh said. "He's a guy that, when he got in there, did a heck of a job. I'm hoping he gets more reps. One of the things that happened was we were going so good that I didn't want to mess with the continuity and have something bad happen.
"It's a matter of me trusting guys and letting them get out there and play. When he did get out there, he did some good things. He's got to continue to do that in practice and if he does that, we'll give him more reps."
Jenkins, Madsen and Braun played every snap and Jenkins, in his first game since the 2010 Champs Sports Bowl, had 51/2 knockdowns. Kindler and backup right guard Curtis Feigt played later in the second half with Feigt replacing Pat Eger.
"It's just like any other position," Bedenbaugh said. "When a guy's hot, you want to keep giving him the ball. We were playing so well out there that I didn't really want to mess that up. But it wasn't like they were out there for a long time, either. Our drives were fast."
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Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato's 413 passing yards was the sixth-highest total ever by a WVU opponent. His 38 completions were most by an opponent and the 54 attempts were two shy of the most.
Mountaineers cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts said his players could have done better and not made things quite as easy.
"Laziness," Roberts said. "Some of the technique needs to get fixed, which is my job, but there were some times we were too greedy. There were times big plays came up in the passing game because we didn't have disciplined eyes.
"When we're in man-to-man coverage, our eyes need to be on the receiver. They shouldn't be on the quarterback or in the backfield. If the assignment is to cover a receiver, his eyes should be on the receiver to put him in position to get to the ball. We got caught because we were looking and then reacting."
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The Mountaineers are 12-0 all-time against FCS teams, including last season's 55-12 against Norfolk State. WVU trailed 12-10 at the half in that game. All 12 games have been at Mountaineer Field, including a 45-10 win against James Madison in 2004.
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WVU has won four straight games in NFL Stadiums, including wins in the Orange Bowl and against South Florida and Cincinnati last season. FedEx Field, site of Saturday's game, has a natural grass surface, on which the Mountaineers are just 21-19 since 2001. WVU has won its past three games on natural grass, all last season in the NFL stadiums.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.