WVU football: Mountaineer offense 'disturbing' at times
MANHATTAN, Kan, - A week ago, West Virginia Coach Dana Holgorsen eschewed a 43-yard field goal opportunity in the first quarter against Texas Tech to give his offense a shot on fourth-and-14.
It didn't work.
In Saturday's 35-12 loss to Kansas State, Holgorsen opted against a 26-yard field goal at fourth-and-7 at the Wildcats' 9-yard line.
It didn't work either, though even this level of dysfunction deserves an explanation.
WVU attempted a fake field goal, but holder Michael Molinari came up two yards short on his run through the middle of the line of scrimmage.
Ahead 12-7 at the time with only seconds to go before halftime, the Mountaineers almost looked as surprised as the Wildcats, though Holgorsen said it was a scenario discussed previously and the decision to try the fake was made by the players.
"Every call is my call. It was there," Holgorsen said. "We had first-and-5 on the 5 and it was disturbing - and there are a lot of things that are disturbing that we do offensively. We had to settle for a field goal, which is fine, but we had the look (on a made field goal earlier) that we wanted, so the next time that we went out there, we said if (the look for the fake) was there we had to communicate it.
"We obviously did not get through to Mike what we needed to get through to him. It was not the correct look and it was not the correct call."
That was part of a lowlight reel for special teams. Punter nick O'Toole averaged 32 yards on five punts. Place kicker Josh Lambert had an extra point blocked. Kansas State punted five times but WVU returned only one for three yards. Four kickoff returns averaged only 17 yards and one 22-yard return was wiped out by fullback Garrett Hope's holding penalty.
It was especially noteworthy because WVU's game captains were Molinari, O'Toole, Lambert and long snapper John DePalma.
WVU's defense continues to dwindle. In addition to season-ending injuries to linebacker Shaq Petteway and cornerback Nana Kyerekeh in the preseason and linebacker Dozie Ezemma and nose guard Christian Brown earlier in the season, WVU is without linebacker Wes Tonkery for a few weeks and safety Ricky Rumph, linebackers Marvin Gross and Doug Rigg and cornerback Daryl Worley for unknown times.
Rumph (foot) and Gross (undisclosed) were in uniform after missing the last game, but neither played. Rigg (undisclosed) was not in uniform. Worley, the freshman who started last week, was ruled out Saturday, though defensive coordinator Keith Patterson declined to say why.
"It's the eighth game of the season, the time when you get beat up and you get injuries," he said. "You've got to deal with it and throw people out there and see if you can overcome it."
Brown's injury has caused a ripple effect that's touched depth at defensive end, linebacker and safety and Saturday nabbed true freshman Darrien Howard. He hadn't played all season, but debuted and broke his redshirt in the first half.
"We had to play him," Patterson said. "We ran out of people at that point. You hate for it to have to happen, but this is a team game."
The Mountaineers may consider another quarterback change after Paul Millard relieved Clint Trickett in the fourth quarter. Ford Childress, who wasn't in uniform and is dealing with a torn pectoral muscle in his right/throwing shoulder, could return to practice this week.
Whoever is throwing passes doesn't change the reality for the WVU receivers. Familiarity with the passer matters because the receivers have to know what to expect from the quarterback. The Mountaineers haven't gotten to know any of their quarterbacks too well or for too long.
"It's big," receiver Kevin White said. "Different chemistry with different quarterbacks. Maybe you're so used to certain throws in practice and in a game. It's totally different. Your timing is all messed up. You've just got to keep working daily throughout the week and try to catch every ball and make every pass and be more consistent."
WVU's defense, which allowed Baylor 73 points two games ago and gave up 21 unanswered points in the second half of last week's 37-27 loss, held the Wildcats to one touchdown, 142 yards and one conversion on five third downs in the first half.
Kansas State scored the final 35 points of the game in the second half and managed 303 yards and seven third down conversions on eight attempts - including seven in a row to end the game with four straight scoring drives.
WVU's defense has allowed conversions on 28 of the last 44 third downs.
"I've never seen, never been around something where things could be so good and all of a sudden you're just like, 'How in the world did that just happen?'" Pattterson said, "You've got these guys held to seven points for 60, 70 percent of the game and now we're losing 35-12? How does that happen?"
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.