Running game a little empty vs. stacked defense, blitzes

Holgorsen says it's a work in progress WEST VIRGINIA


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West Virginia's new pass-heavy offense flashed legitimate promise Sunday in the lightning-filled, season-opening win against Marshall.

The run game, however, didn't quite get off the ground.

WVU picked up 42 rushing yards in three quarters before the game was called with 14:36 left in the fourth after weather delays of more than four hours.

It will be an area of attention this week as the team prepares for Norfolk State at 1 p.m. Saturday.

"It's a work in progress," said coach Dana Holgorsen. "It's obvious [Marshall] was going to take away the run, they put a lot of people up, blitzed a lot of people. It's something we've got to handle."

In question at this point is when freshman Andrew Buie will return to the lineup. He is being checked for what coaches originally thought was a collarbone injury, but wasn't, Holgorsen said.

"He's got some juice and he's going to touch the ball a lot" he said.

"We thought it might've been a collarbone, but it wasn't. I don't know if he's going to be out this week or not. He's going to be a good player. He's young. We need to continue to get better up front so we can get him loose."

Buie was the primary ballcarrier -- 30 yards on 15 carries -- before leaving in the third quarter after taking a wicked hit.

"They took a good shot that welcomed him to college football," Holgorsen said. "It was a receiver breakdown. The guy shot through the gap, blew him up and ended his day a little early."

On the next series, freshman Vernard Roberts was stopped on fourth-and-1 just shy of the 50. Roberts finished with 12 yards on seven carries.

Marshall was effective at stopping the run, by jamming the box and leaving few gaps.

Quarterback Geno Smith, who looked confident stringing together 26 of 35 passes for 249 yards, said he expects the run game will come together.

"I think so. I truly believe it will, just with time," Smith said. "We have some young guys. I'm pretty sure they were nervous. They did a good job, didn't turn it over.

"Once they gain experience, get the feel for the game, it'll get better along with our offensive line."

In general, Holgorsen said he was proud of his team for keeping it together in such a strange situation.

The game was delayed at 5:47 p.m. with about five minutes left in the third quarter. It was set to restart at 8:05 when more lightning was detected.

After starting up at 8:50, it was delayed again at 9:06 until finally being called at 10:24 with 14:36 to go in the game.

Players, who hadn't eaten a meal since 11:30 a.m., were playing video games, watching the Weather Channel and trying to stay loose.

"It was an unordinary win, obviously," Holgorsen said. "Early in the year, you'd like to get as many snaps as you can and play a full game. It's the only way you can gauge your team.

"For three quarters, I was extremely happy with what we did out there."

NOTES -- Tavon Austin was named Big East special teams player of the week for his 100-yard kickoff return that broke the game open for West Virginia in the third quarter. ... Because of the short week to prepare for the game Saturday, players watched game film Monday, are off today and get back at it Wednesday.


Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1959.


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