WVU football: Maryland thin in secondary
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia's offensive coaches are begging for receivers to make plays. The Mountaineers are wondering if things have lined up to make it happen Saturday.
In back-to-back weeks, Maryland lost both its starting cornerbacks and will be shorthanded when it sees WVU at 3:30 p.m. at M&T Bank Stadium, home of the NFL's Baltimore Ravens. The game will be televised by ESPNU.
A week ago, senior Dexter McDougal suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. A week before, junior Jeremiah Johnson fractured a toe that will keep him out at least another month.
They'll be replaced by senior Isaac Goins, a 5-foot-11, 190 pound junior college transfer who started twice last season, and 5-7, 175-pound true freshman William Likely. They both started Maryland's Sept. 7 win against Old Dominion, though as extra defensive backs against the pass-happy Monarchs.
"They're both real small so we should be able to do some things," WVU receiver Kevin White said.
WVU's offense will feature three and four receivers quite often and sometimes use a running back as a fifth receiver, which will force the Terrapins to go deeper. Their third and fourth cornerbacks are true freshman Jarrett Ross and sophomore Alvin Hill.
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WHITE MINDFUL of big plays, White vows to do small things first. The junior college transfer, who missed the season opener, lost a fumble in the red zone in the third quarter of the loss to Oklahoma and then dropped two passes against Georgia State.
He was benched after the second, a certain touchdown, and watched the rest of the game while taking heat from his coaches.
"They were all (mad) because they know what I can do," White said. "I rarely ever make those mistakes in practice, but when I make them in a game with thousands of people watching, they get upset. I expect that. It's my mistake."
White is second on the team in receptions, though with only nine, and his 10.6 yards per catch is just the sixth-best on the team. That's not what he wants to fix, though.
"I've got to come out and do my part first," he said. "It's my part. It's not like a corner or a defense is just shutting me down. Everything I'm messing up is because of me. The fumble at Oklahoma was me. They didn't hit me or force that. It's me. The drops are me. It's mentality. I've got to fix it."
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THE MOUNTAINEERS continue to run the ball with frequency and success. They've rushed 44, 24 and 42 times in three games and rank No. 39 nationally with 5.33 yards per carry.
Maryland ranks No. 14 in rush defense and allows only 96.67 yards per game and 2.61 yards per attempt.
"They line up in a lot of fronts and do a lot of different movements that help you stop the run," offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. "You're probably going to have one less person in there because of their twists and the nature of their defense, but we've got plans and we're going to be prepared for it.
"We're going to try to run the football, no joke about it. Running it is part of what we do well on offense right now."
WVU added a wrinkle, at least for the Terrapins to consider, in last week's win against Georgia State. The Mountaineers ran outside zone plays that stretched the defense toward a sideline and created alleys and edges for the running backs.
It's a running play WVU used frequently in Holgorsen's first two seasons, but hadn't used as much this season before last week. Offensive line coach Ron Crook, who's emphasized power blocking and double teams upon his arrival from Stanford this season, said the Mountaineers wanted to polish the zone plays against the Panthers.
"We went out and put some stuff on film and it looked good and our guys executed well sometimes," he said. "It's something we continue to run. We had it in our offense all along, but we hadn't majored in it going into that game. It was something we felt like we could take advantage of to get guys out in space a little bit."
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THE TERRAPINS have an NCAA-best 14 sacks through three games. Linebacker Marcus Whitfield is tied for the lead nationally with 4 1/2 sacks and linebacker Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil is tied for fifth with four.
"They'll probably try to disguise and blitz me more than they would on average," said WVU redshirt freshman quarterback Ford Childress, who will make his second career start. "We'll try to line up in some formations that try to force them to show their hand some."
Childress was sacked twice last week and Holgorsen wasn't proud of the way the offensive line protected Childress, who absorbed many other hits throughout the game. Childress took some of the blame as well and said he sometimes rushed his offensive linemen and didn't give them the time needed to make adjustments to protect properly.
Coach and quarterback anticipate more blitzing Saturday.
"I like blitzes," Childress said. "It's easy to get a really big play out of it if you get it in the voided area of the field. I can get a big shot sometimes down the field. Sometimes I'll have to take a shot, too, but I don't really mind doing that."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com.