Offense missing punch

Goal-line failure obscures outburst

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia's offense exploded for five second half touchdowns on consecutive possessions Saturday to essentially negate a rough first half against I-AA Norfolk State.

But one troubling goal-line series still lingers as the No. 18 ranked Mountaineers, 2-0, prepare for Maryland.

With first-and-goal at the 1 early in the second quarter, the offense failed to convert on six plays -- four passes and two rush attempts for no gain on a series extended by a pass interference penalty.

"That's a big thing. We expect to score down on the 1," said quarterback Geno Smith. "We expect especially to pound it in running the ball. It doesn't always go as planned. ... You never know what'll happen the rest of the season. We might be the best goal-line team ever. We've just got to continue to work it and stay positive."

Coach Dana Holgorsen said after the game that series was simply "embarrassing." He could not say what exactly went wrong but assured it was nothing schematic.

It brought more attention to the team's problems in the trenches: blocking effectively to run the ball in short yardage situations.

"They outplayed us in some parts," said left tackle Don Barclay. "Sometimes it was our fault. Sometimes the backs didn't pick up a block. We all got together in the locker room and we said we've got to be on one page together."

In fact, Holgorsen and his staff, who give out weekly awards for the team's top performers, chose to award no one on the offense this week.

"Yeah, we couldn't find anybody," he said Sunday on a conference call. "I know that sounds crazy. We didn't feel like we found anybody who played good enough to get the award."

Ultimately the offense recovered in a big way in the second half against Norfolk. Most of what went wrong in the first half went righted in the second. The Mountaineers amassed 533 yards of total offense by game's end.

That included two rushing touchdowns from inside the 5 during the team's 28-point third quarter: a 3-yard run by Vernard Roberts and a 1-yard run by Dustin Garrison. Both are freshmen.

Smith completed 20 of 34 passes for 371 yards and four touchdowns, with a long of 55 yards.

But the team's rushing total was just 102 yards on 33 tries, an average of 3.1 yards per carry.

"The run game was not good," said Holgorsen. "Usually, we're targeted right. But we're not finishing blocks. We're just not. Some of it [is] our running backs, who are young and not getting it. It's not what we want right now. We've got to get better."

And after watching game film Sunday, Holgorsen said the team's most pressing need this week comes back to fundamentals.

"It still has everything to do with blocking and tackling, the most basic, fundamental thing we're trying to get better at," Holgorsen said.

NOTES -- The Mountaineers moved up to No. 18 in the AP Top-25 poll and to No. 20 in the USA Today poll. ... After two games Smith leads the Big East in passing average with 310 yards, total offense (314 yards per game) and pass efficiency (170.8 rating). ... West Virginia has the top-ranked passing offense (340) and is second ranked both scoring defense (12.5) and pass defense (156).


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