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WVU football: Holgorsen wants more offensive consistency

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia Coach Dana Holgorsen combats the suggestion his team had slow starts in 2011.

However, the numbers tell another story as the Mountaineers were outscored 115-82 in the first quarter.

It was easily their lowest point total in any quarter. In fact, the Mountaineers outscored foes by 174 in the final three quarters.

No. 8 WVU (2-0), which trailed eight times after the first quarter last season, has turned it around early this season and is outscoring teams 34-0 in the first quarter with touchdowns in all but one drive that started in the first quarter.

"We've done a good job of starting fast, but we need to start faster in the second half and we need to finish people," Holgorsen said. "We haven't done a good job of that. We let Marshall keep playing. We let James Madison keep playing and score late. Last year against Maryland, we let them keep playing and they scored a bunch in the second half and almost beat us in the end.

"I'm pleased with how we're starting and I'm pleased with our tempo, but we need to do a better job of starting fast in the second half and do a better job of finishing people off."

Of the 45 points scored against the Mountaineers, 32 have come in the second half. WVU is even with its opponents in the fourth quarter. James Madison had the ball 9 minutes, 15 seconds in the third quarter and ran 18 plays for 108 yards.

"Soft. Soft and not ready to play," Holgorsen said. "They were clearly playing harder than us. Other than the four snaps at the goal line, the defense started slow. We gave up two drives all the way to the goal line. Yes, I'm happy with the goal-line stands, they were tremendous, but we were really soft in the first two drives.

"Offensively, we looked like crap on the third-and-one. We went for it (on fourth down) and were soft. We got the ball on the goal line and we were soft. We were soft up front. We ran soft. It was just soft. They played with more effort and played harder than us for approximately half of the third quarter."

Holgorsen was bubbling over and with purpose. In addition to JMU's second-half success, Marshall had the ball 10:29 in the fourth quarter and had 33 plays for 183 yards.  Last season, WVU scored 24 unanswered points and led Maryland 27-10 at the half, but held on for a 37-31 win when the Terrapins threw an interception deep in WVU territory on their final drive.

The Mountaineers play host to the Terrapins (2-1) at noon Saturday at Mountaineer Field in a game televised by FX.

WVU's first-team offense has played basically three quarters the first two games and the defense has similarly subbed frequently and worked on various combinations, but Holgorsen wasn't allowing that as an explanation, let alone an excuse.

"Our young kids are not doing a good job finishing the game," Holgorsen said.

"We gave up a touchdown at the end last week where we missed like six tackles. It's the second game in a row we didn't score in the fourth quarter with the younger guys, but it's not all younger guys. It's experienced guys out there as well.

"I don't care who's out there. It's their job to move the ball or tackle people. It's a lot of guys on special teams or guys who are backups on offense or defense getting snaps. They've got to be able to play. We need it to look better than it has the past two fourth quarters."

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HOLGORSEN APPLIED the "soft" label elsewhere, and surprisingly he used it on the most impressive part of the win against Marshall. He said the offensive line had bad moments and some players - like guards Josh Jenkins and Jeff Braun and center Joe Madsen - had shaky performances against JMU.

"Those three guys have been playing together for a long time and we put a lot on those three guys and they didn't play too good this past week," Holgorsen sad. "They were relatively soft and their communication wasn't very good. We're going to challenge them to get better."

The Mountaineers had 121 yards rushing Saturday, which was 210 fewer yards than what they had against Marshall. There were five negative yardage runs, including a safety where the JMU defensive front pushed Braun deep into the end zone. JMU also hurried quarterback Geno Smith and had hands on him several times.

"We were really excited about all five of those guys playing really well together and they're still going to," Holgorsen said. "I'm not going to say they took a step backwards, but they didn't play very good."

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MARYLAND IS one of the younger teams in the country. The Terrapins already have played 12 true freshmen this season, which is the ninth-highest total in the FBS. TCU and LSU lead the country with 15 freshmen and Maryland could get close because two others are in the two-deep, but haven't played yet.

For comparison, Maryland has just 17 seniors on the roster.  

The team's 2012 recruiting class was ranked No. 35 by Rivals.com, No. 36 by Scout.com and fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference by both, so the Terrapins figured they had players who could play.

Many have had to play this season. Maryland had 13 players out injured in the season opener and 14 a week later. Seven were projected starters, though two returned against Connecticut last week and all-ACC linebacker Kenny Tate could play against WVU.

Last season, Maryland had injured players miss an FBS-high 59 starts. The team is already at 20 this season.  

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.


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