Once around the block
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Dreamius Smith was just as baffled as anyone else Saturday night at Oklahoma.
West Virginia's junior college transfer running back had carried the ball twice. Once was on the first series, the game's third play, and he gained a yard.
The second was on WVU's second series. He went into the middle of the line, bounced outside and somehow managed to turn the corner and race 75 yards for a touchdown.
He would get one more carry. That was it. His touchdown was the Mountaineers' only score in a 16-7 loss.
"I don't know what the story behind that was,'' Smith said this week.
Well, actually he does.
There was one other play in the game in which an action by Smith had a profound effect. Early in the second quarter, quarterback Paul Millard was hit while bringing his arm back to throw. His fumble was recovered by Oklahoma and it put an end to a West Virginia drive that had reached as far as the OU 41-yard line.
Smith was in the backfield on that play, too. He was Millard's blocking back.
"Yeah, I missed one key block that caused a turnover and I take all the responsibility for that,'' Smith said. "That's one thing I'm working on to improve more is my blocking. If my blocking improves, [it means] more carries. That's what it sounds like.''
Dana Holgorsen couldn't agree more. When asked this week if it was fair to say that in order for Smith to stay on the field more and get more carries he might have to block better, the West Virginia coach didn't hesitate.
"Yes,'' Holgorsen said. "A hundred percent.''
To be fair to Smith, there was also an issue with cramping in the 90-plus-degree heat of Norman, Okla. He wasn't alone. No amount of fluids was going to stop it. It happened to more than just Smith.
That's exactly why West Virginia once again rotated its running backs. Smith, Charles Sims, Wendell Smallwood and Dustin Garrison all played and all carried. Sims had just 11 carries, half what he had in the opener against William & Mary. No one else had more than five.
Still, the absence of more than one carry for Smith after that touchdown run seemed odd, and Holgorsen agreed. But he also said it was just the way the game went.
"He's on the field a lot. He plays a lot,'' Holgorsen said. "I know everybody's upset with three carries. Yeah, I want the ball in his hands more, too. But we're rotating those guys to keep fresh bodies out there and I rarely rotate them and call plays based on them being in the game. I just call plays because I have confidence in all those guys carrying the ball.''
Also, on a night like that one, it wasn't likely Smith was going to repeat that run over and over again.
"Dreamius's one run was great, but he ran over two people,'' Holgorsen said. "You're not just going to continuously run over people.''
Well, at least not Oklahoma people.
The bottom line, though, still comes back to blocking. Consider that despite a terrific individual effort on that touchdown run, Smith did have some blocking, as well. And it came not just from the offensive line, although right guard Pat Eger absolutely steamrollered linebacker Dominique Alexander on the play. Sims was in the backfield, too, blocking. Had Smith blocked on a few other plays, perhaps other backs might have broken runs.
"If Dreamius gets out there and he whiffs [on defenders he's supposed to block] like he did about three times, then he's coming out of the game. And he knows that,'' Holgorsen said. "The one run was spectacular. I mean, it was awesome. But you can't turn around and miss a block and get the quarterback hit and have a turnover.
"You've got to do the little things, and blocking is way more important than running people over.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.