West Virginia looking to find balance on offense, find success on ground
Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 00:11
To avoid losing its fifth consecutive game, West Virginia is looking to get back to basics on offense and return to the level of balance the Mountaineers displayed in the first half of the season.
Lately the passing game has taken precedence over the running game – something offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said is exactly what an opposing defense wants.
"(The defense’s) goal is to make offenses one dimensional; they feel like if they can get you one dimensional, they have you where they want you, so running the ball is important," he said.
"Throwing the ball is a lot easier when you have an effective running game."
Though the offense performed better in the Oklahoma State game, head coach Dana Holgorsen was troubled by how the team performed in short-yardage situations.
"It is a huge issue, and we are going to work hard on it this week. We did a poor job of establishing the line of scrimmage. Look at all our third-and-shorts. We have no push. We had none," he said.
"We were garbage on third-and-short (and) fourth and short when we handed the ball off. That is (a) combination of just not controlling the line of scrimmage up front and not having good enough running backs to be able to get the yards that we need," he said.
Part of the running struggles are a direct result of health issues, as senior Shawne Alston is still recovering from a deep thigh bruise, and sophomore Dustin Garrison is still not back to 100 percent following his knee injury last season.
Though Holgorsen was reluctant to admit it, he said the injuries have taken a toll on the Mountaineers’ rushing attack.
"You can blame it on what you want to. Shawne (Alston) is hurt. It is not what people want to hear, but he is hurt. That is why he is not playing," he said.
"Dustin is still six months out from being where he was last year, which means we put it in the hands of (sophomore) Andrew Buie, who is averaging almost five yards a rush. But if you give it to him 20 times a game he is going to wear down."
Buie, who is currently sixth in the Big 12 in rushing, has averaged a robust 4.6 yards per carry this season. Though he had difficulty staying healthy last season, Buie has yet to succumb to the injury bug despite carrying the ball more than 15 times per game.
"I feel good; I feel fine. That was a big thing for me during the offseason: getting my body to the point where I could last for a whole season," Buie said.
"I feel like I’m holding up pretty well right now. I do more stretching and get into the cold tub more often this year to keep taking care and treating my body."
To improve, Buie said he is looking to become more of a playmaker. His longest rush this season went for 30 yards, and it’s plays like that he said he hopes to make more frequently.
"I need to start making more (big) plays within the offense to give us some breathing room (and) help the offense out," he said. "I just have to continue to work and prepare myself to be able to make those runs."
If the Mountaineers hope to upset No. 12 Oklahoma Saturday, they will need exactly that from not only Buie but the rest of the running backs.