MORGANTOWN - There were more than a few here-we-go-again moments Sunday afternoon and evening during West Virginia's aborted 34-13 win over Marshall.
Almost all of them concerned the Mountaineers' offensive line.
A group that was, well, challenged last year and then rebuilt and somewhat shuffled during the spring and summer, couldn't exactly stand together afterward and boast of a job well done. Not after West Virginia averaged 1.6 yards per rush and quarterback Geno Smith found himself scrambling far more than anyone would have liked.
That Smith was sacked just once was a testament not to the play of the line, but to the quarterback's own elusiveness in the face of protection breakdowns, which were many.
Still, after fielding more questions about the line than he obviously cared to, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen came to the unit's defense.
"I think we're paying attention to the wrong thing,'' Holgorsen said Monday. "Marshall did some good things and we were trying to get some of that stuff worked out on the sidelines
and sometimes it takes a little time. When you have eight drives and score on five of them, I think a lot of people across the country would be happy with that.''
OK, so maybe it's nit-picking. But don't tell me that alarms didn't go off every time one of West Virginia's power plays was stuffed even with two fullbacks serving as lead blockers or decoys. Or when Smith was routinely forced out of the pocket.
The fact is, when WVU lined up in any kind of power formation - one fullback or two - the plays almost never worked. Tailback Andrew Buie lost three yards on a second-and-goal at the MU 6 in the first quarter. On two tries with the formation on the third possession of the game, Buie lost a yard each time.
The Mountaineers went for it on fourth-and-inches in the third quarter and Vernard Roberts gained nothing. And then during the brief time the game was resumed after a three-hour delay, the formation was tried again and Roberts failed to get into the end zone on a third-and-goal power play. That one didn't matter because Marshall committed a personal foul on the play and made it first-and-goal, but the power play still didn't work until it was first-and-an-inch after the penalty and Roberts still barely crossed the goal line.
It was eerily reminiscent of the short-yardage woes of a few years ago in the Bill Stewart-Jeff Mullen offense. The approach was slightly different, but the results were the same.
And even Holgorsen wasn't ready to completely charge to the rescue of the reconfigured offensive line.
"[It was] Just OK. Not bad,'' Holgorsen said. "And I give Marshall credit for what they were doing schematically.''