Some kinks to iron out
MORGANTOWN - The list of issues Dana Holgorsen and his staff want to address before the Mountaineers play again is a long one, despite that lopsided 69-34 win over Marshall on Saturday.
Holgorsen has plenty of time to work on any deficiencies, given that the Mountaineers don't play again until a week from Saturday.
The truth, though, is that the extra week off just makes it more difficult to work out the kinks. After all, it had been nine months since West Virginia last played and it was good to get started again. Now's not the best time to be stopping for another break.
"I don't think it's ideal, but you're going to have a couple of off weeks regardless of where you put them,'' Holgorsen said Monday. "[With the off week so soon], we'll have to make some corrections by playing against each other and I think it's easier to make corrections when you play against somebody else.
"But there's nothing we can do about it. There are a lot of things we have to get out there and improve on.''
Indeed, there are a few issues facing the Mountaineers, particularly on special teams and defense.
Concerning the former, WVU punted only twice against Marshall but Corey Smith's first punt of the season was blocked. Tyler Bitancurt also missed his first extra-point attempt of the season - it's the reason the Mountaineers didn't match the 70 points they scored in January's Orange Bowl - and there were no outstanding returns.
The problem with special teams, though, is that it's difficult to practice many areas live without risking injury, so in practice things are done only partially. That's why a game would be better this week than practice.
"Special teams-wise, the punt team's got some issues we need to take care of and the timing on our PAT-field goals is something we've got to get taken care of,'' Holgorsen said. "We've got to block a little bit better on punt returns, too.
"So there are some things we've identified that we can work on in practice. We can get them accomplished, but I think it's a little easier with a game, though.''
As for defense, well, Marshall gained 545 yards and scored four touchdowns and two field goals, so obviously there are some things to work on there. Holgorsen also cited missed tackles, which is always an issue in openers, but the primary issue he cited was more general.
"On third downs we weren't good at all,'' Holgorsen said. "I think we probably had 22 critical downs and we were only successful on nine of them. We need to do a better job of [getting off the field].''
The good news is that there aren't many problems with the offense, which came within 19 yards of matching the school's all-time record for total yards. The Mountaineers have scored 139 points in their last two games.
Still, Holgorsen wasn't completely satisfied.
"Offensively I think the thing that I liked was that we were pretty physical and we blocked well and made plays,'' Holgorsen said. "But we put the ball on the ground twice and had the missed opportunity in the red zone. The fourth-down call I take on my end, but the couple of plays prior to that we didn't do a very good job of pushing it in there.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.