WVU football: Mountaineers want to make most of bye week
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Only 33 of the 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams didn't have an open week during the first six weeks of the season. West Virginia needs one as much as any other school after Saturday's 73-42 loss at Baylor.
"Heading into Baylor, we tried to convince them that we had enough in our tank to go play a good football team," West Virginia Coach Dana Holgorsen said at his weekly press conference Tuesday. "Looking back on it, I don't know if we did."
Six players who have started for WVU (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) and three reserves are working through injuries.
Holgorsen said quarterback Clint Trickett, who started the last two games, won't practice this week. Holgorsen hopes the right (throwing) shoulder Trickett injured against Oklahoma State is healthy enough for the Mountaineers' Oct. 19 noon home game against No. 20 Texas Tech (5-0, 2-0).
Quarterback Ford Childress, who started the third and fourth games of WVU's season, tore the pectoral muscle on his right (throwing) side in the fist quarter of the loss to Maryland. He practiced last week and will again this week.
Running back Dustin Garrison, who hasn't played the past four games, and linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, who was leading the team in tackles after four games and has missed the past two, should be recovered from hamstring injuries in time for the Red Raiders.
Receiver Ivan McCartney, who missed the Baylor game, and left guard Quinton Spain, who started the first four games at left tackle, are both dealing with concussions. Receiver Mario Alford, who didn't play against the Bears, has a shoulder injury Holgorsen hopes recovers during the open week.
Defensive back Ricky Rumph injured his foot against Baylor and linebacker Wes Tonkery broke a thumb. Holgorsen wasn't sure about a timetable for either player.
"We have a beat up football team," Holgorsen said. "We've been playing a lot of snaps defensively, and those guys are worn down. It had something to do with what happened on Saturday. Offensively, we're playing more bodies because we're trying to figure out what our dynamic is and what our makeup is going to be."
The blowout loss to Baylor also exposed some areas the Mountaineers will examine before their next game. It begins at quarterback, where Holgorsen said he hopes to start Trickett as long as he's healthy and if Childress doesn't do something in practice to win the job.
"I'm not prepared to say that Clint is our quarterback because Ford didn't do anything to lose the job," Holgorsen said. "It's a dynamic I don't like and isn't beneficial to our football team. With our offense being inexperienced and having different people in at different times, it's hard."
WVU hasn't been effective running the ball, as Holgorsen hoped at the start of the season, or passing the ball. He said the Mountaineers are improved in some areas, but he admitted they don't yet know "who we are, where we're at and where we're going."
Without an identity, WVU is left without strengths to use in order to pick on an opponent's weaknesses. The Mountaineers have tried, whether it was to run the ball at a Maryland defense that expanded to help its cornerbacks or to pass against a Baylor defense that was going to load up to stop the run, but haven't succeeded.
"We try to attack, and we will try again," Holgorsen said. "We are going to try and put ourselves in the best situation we possibly can. If it doesn't work, we need to do it again, and again and again until it works out. You can't use a magic wand or put some sort of a spell over them to make that stuff work. You just have to play. You need reps, time and practice."
That would be especially true on the offensive line, where Spain is new at left guard, Nick Kindler has started two games at left tackle and Pat Eger has started three times at center. The linemen are in their first season under Ron Crook, who is emphasizing a more physical, straight-ahead style that the Mountaineers still aren't used to.
"We're not good enough," Holgorsen said. "There have been a lot of things targeted properly where our pad level's been good and we're coming off and doing some good things. We're improving on that. Is it a winning formula at this point? It's hard to be good at just lining up running the ball at people.
"If you want to compare it to a winning effort, look at what Baylor did. What they did was come off the ball and establish the line of scrimmage five yards down the field. What we did was OK, but it wasn't a dominating performance."
Baylor ran the ball at will and with ease because its offensive line bullied WVU's defensive line and linebackers. That was only one item on a list of problems for a defense that hadn't been made to look as bad this season as it did against the Bears.
The early deficit evoked memories of last season, but it also invited some of the same mistakes that Holgorsen wants to make disappear before another test against the Red Raiders. First-year Coach Kliff Kingsbury has Texas Tech ranked No. 13 in total offense, No. 3 in passing offense and No. 19 in scoring offense.
"We reverted back to a lot of the stuff that happened last year," Holgorsen said. "When we got down 21-7 and we knew the environment we were in, our guys hit the panic button, defensively specifically. They lost some of the discipline that we've been teaching for eight months, which was discouraging to see."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.