West Virginia special teams not so special

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- No wholesale changes will be made on West Virginia special teams this week, coach Dana Holgorsen said Tuesday, but there will be emphasis on dramatic improvement.

The Mountaineers are last in college football in net punting, an issue that was magnified in their loss Saturday night against LSU in Morgantown. The team also had some gaffes on kickoff coverage, allowing LSU to break three tackles on the way to a 99-yard kickoff return.

"We're not going to make wholesale changes. People on those units are the guys we got," said Holgorsen. "Can't do anything but coach 'em, and get them better at what they're doing.

"We'll work hard on it. We're not going to hit panic mode."

Punter Corey Smith is averaging 40.5 yards per punt this season and finished with an average of 38.7 yards per punt against LSU, once landing a 58-yarder.

As a unit, though, the punt-coverage team is not doing well. West Virginia ranks 120th among I-A teams in net punting with 29.75 yards a game.

"I think the main thing is people don't have as much pride as we used to when you go out there," said defensive back Keith Tandy. "You got to want to make the tackle, make the block. You've got to want to be the person to change the game.

"Sometimes, people get caught going through the motions."

Tandy said he will move back to the kickoff-coverage team for the first time since last year.

He said the team has been hearing about the importance of special teams since August.

"They always tell us punt and kickoff are two of the biggest plays in football," said Tandy. "People giggle and laugh, then see how big of a play they really are."

Bowling Green, the Mountaineers' opponent Saturday, is ranked No. 1 in the nation in net punting with 45.29 yards.

"LSU has been known as being as good of a special-teams team as there has been in college football over the last decade," said Holgorsen. "The part of it that was discouraging for everybody involved was the fact that they were better than us on all four phases. They set the bar, and we'll have to work hard to get to the point where they are."

"The only way to fix that sort of thing is working at it," he said. "Our schemes are fine. ... It has everything to do with trusting the people that are on those units, and that's the thing we don't do that great of a job of right now."

NOTES -- Holgorsen said Tuesday his team will move on from LSU quickly. "We've said it from Week 1 to Week 2, to Week 3, Week 4, you have to get over the game you just played, regardless if you win or lose or if you played good or played bad." ... Holgorsen said offensive right tackle Quinton Spain, a redshirt freshman, has more work to do after getting increased action against LSU. "[He was] lazy, much like he is in practice. Big, massive guy, who has good feet. But, right now, he does things on his time and not our time. Eventually, he'll be a great player." ... Twenty-five former West Virginia quarterbacks will be on hand Saturday with the Mountaineer Athletic Club to sign autographs for fans at the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility from 2 to 2:45 p.m. as part of Don Nehlen Quarterback Scholarship weekend. On hand will be: Richard Loring, Fred Wyant, Dale Evans, Ed Pastilong, Pete Secret, Garland Hudson, Mike Sherwood, Bernie Galiffa, Dan Kendra, Dan Williams, Mike Williams, Oliver Luck, Kevin White, Jeff Hostetler, Tony Reda, Ben Reed, Major Harris, Greg Jones, Darren Studstill, Jake Kelchner, Chad Johnston, Eric Boykin, Marc Bulger, Rasheed Marshall and Pat White.



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