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WVU football notebook: Holgorsen wants balanced attack in early Big 12 game

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia's second game of the season Saturday is the first game of Big 12 play, the earliest the Mountaineers have started conference competition since opening the 2005 season with a win at Syracuse.

WVU takes on No. 16 Oklahoma at 7 p.m. at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., to satisfy the league's television partners, who had an opening to showcase on Fox.

"I've been asked a lot about, 'Are you excited to play Oklahoma in week two? Would you rather play them in week 12?'" Coach Dana Holgorsen said. "The truth of the matter is I'd like to play them never because they're pretty good. I don't know if it really matters, to be honest with you."

HOLGORSEN'S TEAMS have attempted more than 30 passes 24 of the 27 times he's coached the Mountaineers. The three exceptions have come in the past three games. Four games ago, WVU attempted 31 passes, which is even with two other games from the 2011 season as the fourth-fewest attempts.

"I'd like to throw the ball a lot more than what we did," Holgorsen said. "You're talking about throwing the ball about 30 percent of the time. That's embarrassing. We'll try to correct that, that's for certain. I say I don't care much about stats, but we've got to be a little more balanced.

"What the heck's going on here? I'm talking about balance, and everybody says it's an Air Raid and we throw the ball 80 or 90 percent of the time. I'm talking about balance because we can't get the ball in the air 50 percent of the time." There are explanations for calling 44 runs and 17 fewer passes, the most obvious being the talent available in the backfield and how it trumped what the Mountaineers have at quarterback and receiver. Another is that the Mountaineers didn't necessarily intend for 44 run plays. Sometimes the decision was left to quarterback Paul Millard.

"One thing he did a great job of was getting out of bad plays," offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Shannon Dawson said. "There were a lot more pass plays called that he checked out of, which is a credit to him. Not many quarterbacks want to check out of pass plays, but getting in and out of stuff, he did a really good job."

IT WOULD seem defensive coordinator Keith Patterson has been affected greatly by the season-ending injuries to linebackers Dozie Ezemma and Shaq Petteway and cornerback Nana Kyeremeh. Each was a regular who played in a nonstarting role last season and they projected to be no less important this season.

Special teams coordinator Joe DeForest has been hit just as hard. Petteway was one of only three players on the punt, punt return, kickoff and kickoff return teams (linebacker Wes Tonkery and safety Rick Rumph are the others) while Ezemma and Kyeremeh played on three of the four teams.

DeForest said he can't possibly have one person replace each of the injured players.

"One injury can affect 12 different moves," he said.

DeForest said he's used four players to replace Petteway and two each for Ezemma and Kyeremeh, but it goes deeper than that.

"Let's just take Nana," De-Forest said. "Maybe one of Nana's backups was a starter on offense or defense. You're not going to put that starter on more than one unit. Now you plug someone else in. Well, he could have been a backup somewhere else. Now you've got to plug a new guy into a backup spot now that that other backup is starting."

DEFOREST DEFENDED the decision to let Josh Lambert attempt a 55-yard field goal for his first career kick. He said the redshirt freshman made a pair of kicks from 57 yards and others from 54 and 52 during camp. The first-quarter attempt fell short and wide of the goal posts.

"It all boiled down to his plant foot was all wrong - his plant foot was too close to the ball," DeForest said. "The guy can make it from 65. I hated it being his first field goal attempt, but I'm almost glad because I've said this before to other kickers: I'm almost glad if you miss one in the first game.

"I had a kicker miss none the first 11 games and the pressure became ungodly to him. Now you can take a deep breath and say, 'OK, I'm not perfect. Let's go.' I feel good that he can make them. If you're 50 percent from 50 and out, that's good. I think from 50 and in he'll be close to 70 percent."

WVU HAD one of the most memorable offensive days in school history in last season's 50-49 loss to the Sooners. Tavon Austin rushed for 344 yards and the Mountaineers finished with 778 yards of offense.

"I'm not going to go into specifics, but we have not watched that tape," Holgorsen said. "And we won't."

It wouldn't do WVU much good. After giving up more yards to WVU than to any other opponent in school history, allowing 490 yards and 48 points to Oklahoma State and then 633 yards and 41 points to Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, the Sooners made changes.

Oklahoma's starting lineup in last week's 34-0 win against offensively capable and creative Louisiana-Monroe had three defensive linemen, two linebackers and six defensive backs. They allowed just 166 yards.

"I didn't put players in good enough positions as a coach to make plays (against WVU) and that's frustrating,'' defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "It was a long, difficult night. But between that night and what happened in the bowl game, it obviously convinced us that we need to adjust our defense and be more flexible and diverse."


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