Smith, Mountaineer offense finding success early in games this season
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 07:09
West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen has implemented a number of offensive philosophies during his tenure in Morgantown, but one conviction in particular has been evident the last few games – start fast.
The No. 7 West Virginia Mountaineers have scored a whopping 181 points over their last three games dating back to last January’s Orange Bowl, and in each game they’ve gotten off to absolutely torrid starts.
It’s a trend that the second-year head coach is happy to see right away in 2012.
"We’ve talked about it the prior two weeks," Holgorsen said. "We’ve done a good job of starting fast."
Last year, the Mountaineer offense seemingly had trouble putting their offensive game plan into effect immediately, and thus, had issues putting points up on the board right away in 2011, especially via the touchdown.
The Mountaineers played the entire first quarter of last year’s season opener only accumulating a field goal against Marshall, with their offense visibly stalling in the first two drives of the season.
It evolved into an even more worrisome trend in the second game of the year in 2011 when the Mountaineers played host to the Norfolk State Spartans and again showed signs of sluggishness out of the gate in regard to the offense. In fact, the Mountaineers failed to score at all against the lowly Football Championship Subdivision-opponent Norfolk State in the first quarter and then somehow even managed to find themselves trailing 12-10 heading into halftime.
But West Virginia didn’t waste any time at all getting their offense in tune in this year’s season opener against the Thundering Herd. The Mountaineers marched 94 yards for an opening-drive touchdown capped off by an impressive 32-yard strike from Geno Smith to his high school teammate, Stedman Bailey, the team’s most productive one-two punch from a year ago.
West Virginia continued to score on seven of their first eight drives of the season, throwing up 34 points in the first half alone against their in-state foe Marshall in the Friends of Coal Bowl.
Last Saturday, it was a similar story against the Dukes of James Madison. The Mountaineers got off to another blistering start against a much better FCS opponent than they had faced a year ago in Norfolk State.
Smith threw just two incompletions while leading the West Virginia offense to touchdowns in each of the first four times the Mountaineers got the ball. West Virginia led 21-0 by the end of the first quarter and, for the second game in a row, was able to rest a majority of their starters in the fourth quarter.
"It’s just been a pleasure for us to really execute the game plan early," Smith said. "We’ve been able to get a few touchdowns early, put us ahead and give our defense a chance to pin their ears back and go after some quarterbacks. We expect that to kind of be a trend, we like to start off early.
"That’s something that coach Holgorsen emphasizes, that we come out ready to play."
Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson also acknowledged it’s critical to get off to fast starts offensively but warned that even though the team needs to start fast, they can’t forget about finishing opponents.
"I tell players all the time you got to be able to handle success," Dawson said. "When you score on four drives right off the bat, kids start thinking that it’s easy. They relax, their body tempo goes down, their mental focus goes down. Well, it’s not easy. It’s hard for teams that have success early to not have a lull.
"There are peaks and valleys in every game. You just gotta keep pressing; you gotta keep executing."