MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Recognizing the blitz and getting rid of the ball quicker will be a point of emphasis this week for quarterback Geno Smith and his offense, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said Tuesday.
Smith was never sacked Saturday by James Madison, but he was knocked down a few times and hurried, highlighting the need for improvement.
"Geno has to change his thought process from having time in the pocket to not having time in the pocket," said Holgorsen. "From a receiver standpoint, we have to do a better job of running our routes quicker, looking quicker, expecting the ball quicker.
"Not that it was bad, but it wasn't what we wanted from a blitz standpoint. We're going to work on that this week. Try and change our thought process and get the ball out a bit quicker."
James Madison blitzed in the second half more than the Mountaineers had seen in quite some time.
- Game: No. 8 West Virginia (2-0) vs. Maryland (2-1), Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, W.Va.
- When: Noon Saturday.
- TV: fx.
- The skinny: West Virginia has won the past six in the series.
"He got caught a couple times, got hit a couple of times. It was good to see James Madison heat us up like that," said Holgorsen. "We hadn't seen that very much ... hadn't seen that for quite some time, and we have to be able to recognize it and we have to be able to communicate up front as far as what's going on."
It wasn't all miscommunication, said offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. .
"We need to tell our guys, instill into them when people blitz and play us man they should pay," said Dawson. "When that happens you've got to accelerate your body. You should get excited. It's a chance for a big play."
Holgorsen said that the Maryland-West Virginia game is an important rivalry. The teams will square off for the 49th time at noon Saturday.
"It's important. This series is one of the few remaining rival game because it is a neighboring state, and we have a history with them," said Holgorsen. "This isn't the last time we're going to play; we're going to continue to play. It's going to mean a lot to a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons."
The Terrapins are 2-1 and have the eighth-ranked defense(227.3 yards per game) in Division I-A, but their offense is ranked 119th (258.3 yards per game).
Maryland has the 23rd-ranked punt-returner in Stefon Diggs, who averages 13.82 yards per return.
"They're good in the return game; they have a guy that we're going to have to contain that is [talented] in both punt returns and kickoff returns. It's going to be a good challenge for our coverage teams to be able to improve."
West Virginia will play consecutive home games that start at noon, beginning with Maryland.
Asked if he disliked the early starts, Holgorsen said: "Not at all. Gotta play some time. We're trying to play fast around here. What's a better way to start fast than playing early? "As opposed to sitting around and getting all lethargic, let's just get up and play. "
Holgorsen praised running back Andrew Buie for his game against James Madison.
Buie caught five passes for 90 yards and rushed for another 31 on seven carries. He also had five knockdowns as a blocker.