MORGANTOWN - Cleaning out a crowded notebook and a cluttered mind while still wondering just what to make of West Virginia's 47-21 loss to LSU Saturday night:
Five-hundred and thirty-three yards? Really?
The defense played, well, just OK. Yes, LSU scored seven touchdowns, but one was a kick return, another came after a 1-yard drive and the Tigers' average starting point on the field was 2 yards from midfield and the average starting position for the six offensive TDs was the WVU 47. That's not exactly where you want to give the ball to what is now the No. 1 team in the country.
Shoot, I can even understand the four turnovers and the 10 penalties, to a point. LSU's Tyrann Mathieu might be as good a defensive player as there is in the country and he was personally responsible for two of the turnovers. It's hard to blame Tavon Austin for letting a ball ricochet off his helmet after he caught 11 passes for 187 yards, and Geno Smith's dropped snap was a case of trying to start a play without the ball.
Stuff like that happens, especially in big, pressure-packed games. And are you going to trade Smith's 463 passing yards for that one fumble? Didn't think so.
Still, it is quite obvious this team has a lot of work to do. The best teams in the country don't make that many mistakes in big games. The best defenses rise to more occasions than did the Mountaineers (who did just that in earlier games against lesser opponents).
Here's the thing that really has to be fixed, though: special teams. LSU punted the ball six times and all six were downed inside the 20, giving the Mountaineers an average starting position of their own 7-yard line. West Virginia punted six times and gave the Tigers the ball at an average starting position of the 38. A kickoff return by LSU changed the game and West Virginia's average kickoff return was to the 21.
Just wondering, but can you imagine the reaction to a special teams performance like that in recent years when the offense wasn't putting up 500 yards?
Twice on Saturday night against LSU, Tiger defenders went to the ground apparently injured while West Virginia was running a hurry-up offense. Each time it just flat stopped the football game.
Holgorsen didn't want to talk about it because that's one of those tricky areas of great uncertainty. Injuries are part of the game and no one wants to see a player hurt. To accuse an opposing coach of faking injuries to slow the pace, well, it's just downright impossible to prove.
Holgorsen did accuse Todd Graham of doing just that when Graham was at Tulsa and Holgorsen the offensive coordinator at Houston. It's one of the things that's going to make this year's Backyard Brawl so intriguing now that Graham is at Pitt.
It's hard to accuse Les Miles of the same thing, especially after a loss. It just sounds like sour grapes, so you let it go.