Column - WVU lacks ‘X’ factor
Published: Monday, November 7, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 7, 2011 23:11
When West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen was hired last winter, everyone raised expectations for the program tremendously.
Fans were expecting a 10-2 or even an undefeated season by the Mountaineers – and nothing less.
Well, that isn't happening, as West Virginia lost its third game of the season to Louisville Saturday and now stands at 6-3, with two of its last three games on the road against what are probably the three best teams left in the Big East.
It's pretty difficult to come into any big program and expect to finish so strong in the first year, especially in the grueling Big East. Holgorsen is definitely one of the best offensive minds in college football, but he can only do so much.
The players have to play the game. Right now, they're not doing things that make this team a 10-win or more team. The Mountaineers are making too many mistakes on all three sides of the ball and it's costing them games they probably shouldn't lose.
The offense can put up any type of numbers it wants, and it is. WVU averages 487.8 yards and 38.2 points per game – first and second in the Big East conference, respectively.
The Mountaineers totaled 533 yards of offense against LSU, who has one of the top defenses in the country, and have had less than 500 yards of offense in just four games this season. They have had no 300-yard games and just one game under 300 – the first game against Marshall, which ended early.
The offense is also breaking all kinds of records this year. Junior quarterback Geno Smith could shatter the school history books by the time his career is over.
But, that doesn't always translate into wins when the team has trouble finding an identity in certain situations and fails to make the right plays at the right times.
In case you forgot, it is still the offense's first season under Holgorsen's new system.
Mountaineer fans expected it to be flawless, although Holgorsen himself made it pretty clear from the beginning there were gong to be some bumps in the road along the way. The young players are still learning and continuing to improve during every game.
What's hurting WVU is that it doesn't seem to have the grit and unconditional intelligence to go through a season without losing a game like LSU or the Cam Newton-led Auburn team from last year. It seems like it's been that way for quite some time – even under former coaches Bill Stewart and Rich Rodriguez.
The 13-9 loss to Pitt in 2007 or the 19-16 overtime loss to Colorado in 2008 are prime examples of instances where the better WVU team lost a game it was more than capable of winning.
Several players talked about not doing the "little things" to win during the
Louisville game – things such as being able to stop a third-and-one play, being in the right position to stop the Cardinals from scoring on every single red zone possession, or getting a field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown.
There's been that cloud hanging over this team for years now that's keeping them from being a championship-caliber team.
Maybe the change to the Big 12 will help Holgorsen bring in even better recruits to compete with the likes of Texas and Oklahoma. It is indeed a new era under the new head coach, and he has just begun.
Maybe the team will figure themselves out and have the capabilities to win the rest of the games this season.
It just doesn't seem likely, though. To have a quick
turnaround with the way the team has been playing over the last few weeks makes me feel uneasy.
Maybe it's just me being from one of two cities with at least two professional sports franchises that have never won any championships – but it's clear that until the team learns and grows from these situations, it's going to take time and some change to get to the level on which everyone believes it can be.