West Virginia offense can't deliver

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BALTIMORE -- The post-game reactions arrived in a flurry of words -- "whipped," "whooped," "embarrassed."

In short, Maryland smacked West Virginia in a lopsided 37-0 contest Saturday that marked a historic low for the Mountaineers offense.

It was West Virginia's first shutout loss since 2001, a 35-0 defeat to Virginia Tech, and the worst shutout loss since Penn State beat the Mountaineers, 39-0, in 1975.

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said it was the worst offensive performance he has coached. He hadn't been blanked once in his nine seasons as head coach or offensive coordinator.

"Offensively we're as inept as we can possibly be in college football," Holgorsen said. "We didn't compete."

The numbers agree.

West Virginia (2-2) turned the ball over six times and never entered the red zone.

The Mountaineers' longest drive of the game consisted of just six plays. Their 47 total offensive plays were the least in 36 years, since they ran 40 plays against Boston College Oct. 15, 1977.

The offense managed 175 total yards and six first downs. Ford Childress threw for 62 yards. Dreamius Smith's had a 51-yard carry on the final drive of the game, but the rushing total for the rest of game also was 62 yards.

Perched in the coaches' booth at M&T Bank Stadium, offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson was left scratching his head.

"It's frustrating to sit there -- what do you call?" Dawson said. "You can't put 'em in perfect situations. Everybody takes the blame in this deal. It's as bad as I've ever seen it."

The matchup with Maryland, the 50th contest between the border-state rivals, was supposed to be a barometer, a measuring stick for the young offense's progress.

"We've got to figure out what our identity is," Dawson said. "To do that you strip everything down and start from the basic blueprint."

West Virginia is four weeks into the season and plays host to No. 11 Oklahoma State, the preseason Big 12 Conference favorite, Saturday. It's not exactly the ideal time to return to the drawing board.

"We knew we weren't very good offensively at the beginning of the year," Holgorsen admitted.

Holgorsen said the dismal performance didn't unseat Childress as starting quarterback.

His criticism Saturday was directed toward the running backs ("If you're not able to run the ball when there's five people in the box ... "), the offensive line ("It was probably as bad as we've ever played offensive line-wise.") and the wide receivers, who combined for one catch against Maryland ("We're very average at receiver right now.").

"We've got guys that have potential," Holgorsen said. "Potential gets your butt beat."

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Stephen J. Nesbitt: snesbitt@post-gazette.com, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.


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