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WVU football: Team ‘not doing a very good job offensively’

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - At this point in West Virginia's season, any of a number of statistics could be used to explain the 3-5 record two-thirds of the way through the schedule.

After all, there are many ways to measure the misery for these Mountaineers.

One, none stand out in detailing WVU's problems quite like this one: Dana Holgorsen's teams have been destructively slow starters.

He's 20-14 as WVU's coach and he's been outscored 161-41 in the first quarter of the 14 losses. His teams have trailed after the first quarter in 13 of the 14 losses and have been shut out in seven of those 14 first quarters.

"It's the same old deal," said Holgorsen, who has nine losses by at least three touchdowns. "We're not doing a very good job offensively. We're not scoring. We're not finishing drives. We're not finishing blocks. We're not making people miss. We're not catching the ball down the field."

It's been pronounced this season. A 7-0 deficit at the end of the first quarter in the 35-12 loss to Kansas State Saturday pushed the season's first-quarter scoring deficit to 76-45.

In games against Football Bowl Subdivision teams this season, WVU's offense ranks No. 79 nationally with 5.4 points per first quarter, according to TeamRankings.com.

"We addressed it with the offense," Holgorsen said. "I thought  (quarterback) Clint (Trickett) was very jittery at the start of the game last week, so we tried to get him some plays he was comfortable with and just run the ball a little more and give him quick passes. It didn't work."

A year ago, the Mountaineers ranked 34th, averaging 7.4 points in the first quarter. In 2011, their 6.8 first-quarter points ranked No. 41.

"It's just experience again," Holgorsen said. "I don't even really want to say it, because I've been saying it, but he just hasn't been in this offense as much as you want the guy playing to have been in the offense."

It's not entirely upon the offense or the quarterback, though. WVU's first quarter scoring defense ranks No. 112 nationally and allows 9.9 points per game against FBS opponents.

WVU doesn't recover either. The second-quarter scoring deficit is 74-46.

The Mountaineers (3-5, 1-4 Big 12) could find temporary relief or cement the trend Saturday at TCU. The Horned Frogs' first-quarter scoring offense is ranked No. 118 nationally with only 2.4 points.

The 3:30 p.m. game at Amon G. Carter Stadium will be televised by ESPNU.

"I've talked about this at times, but it's a long time to focus," defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. "You get there two hours before the game starts. You've got to be able to concentrate for extended periods. Until you learn to do that, you're not going to get over that hump defensively."

More concerning for the Mountaineers is how their defense has deteriorated in the second half of games while the offense has found no way to help.

The Mountaineers led Texas Tech 27-16 in the third quarter at home two weeks ago, but lost 37-27. They led the Wildcats 12-7 in the third quarter Saturday, but lost 35-12. Kansas State ripped off seven consecutive third down conversions and four straight touchdown drives to end the game.

WVU allows 13.3 points per game in the second half, which ranks No. 66.

"It's eerie how similar those games are," Patterson said. "I thought we played much better in the first half (Saturday) than we did a week ago. I thought, 'Man, we've got our confidence back. We've got these guys shut down. We've got a handle on them.'

"Then we came out after we forced a fumble and we're up 12-7 and we make some critical mistakes and they go up 14-12 and it just snowballed. Then people with all the right intentions try to play out of the framework of the defense, and it doesn't work like that. It's frustrating."

The Horned Frogs (3-5, 1-4) have had bad starts that have been parts of bad games. In Big 12 play, they've scored 10 points against Texas Tech, 17 against Oklahoma, 10 against Oklahoma State and seven in Saturday's 23-point loss to Texas. In its lone Big 12 win, TCU managed 27 points against Kansas, the fewest points Kansas has allowed in its last eight conference games.

Should TCU find something useful against WVU's shaky defense, the Mountaineers offense has to do something better than what it's done lately.

"How many times have we dug ourselves out in the fourth quarter? Not many," offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. "When we get in that situation, there probably is a little pressing going on when in all reality what we've got to do is loosen up and play loose and whatever happens happens. You can't press. That's what causes problems."

WVU averages 10.7 points in the second half, which ranks No. 87. On the final five drives against Texas Tech. the Mountaineers ran 19 plays and gained 33 yards and had one first down. They were 2-for-8 on third down in the second half Saturday.

It had been a strength in the past. The Mountaineers averaged 18 second-half points last year to rank No. 12 and 16.2 in 2011 to rank No. 19.

"It's a huge concern," Holgorsen said. "It's a four-quarter game and we talk about it. We talk about how we have to finish. We've got to finish everything we do. It is a concern. That doesn't happen to a good team."

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

 


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