WVU struggles against Terps a good thing
Published: Monday, September 24, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 24, 2012 07:09
The mood is a bit different inside the West Virginia locker room and among Mountaineer fans this morning.
The Mountaineers, much like the last two Mondays after a game weekend, are freshly off a victory.
But this win was different than the others.
Senior quarterback Geno Smith was forced to play the fourth quarter, the experienced offensive line looked vulnerable and head coach Dana Holgorsen had to replace his headset after launching it to the ground in frustration.
The first sack on Smith since December of 2011 and the damaged headset are just two of many negatives that can be taken from the 31-21 victory against the Terrapins that are, in reality, positives.
Bear with me on this ...
We’ll start with the two sacks and constant pressure Maryland was able to exert on the Mountaineers’ Heisman Trophy candidate Geno Smith.
Coming into Saturday’s game, Smith had barely been touched by opposing defenses. With only nine incompletions through two games, he was consistently able to sit in the pocket and choose his targets.
Smith, however, is going to be pressured this season. Getting hit and being forced to make quicker reads are exactly what Smith and the offense needed to prepare for tougher opponents on the 2012 schedule.
Another adjustment Smith had to make was who he was targeting.
Junior wide receiver Stedman Bailey, who recorded 173 yards receiving and three touchdowns against James Madison last weekend, was held in check against the Terps.
Bailey only had six catches for 55 yards and was kept out of the end zone for only the second time in his last 10 games.
The Terrapins constantly kept a safety on Bailey’s side of the field, forcing Smith to target other receivers.
Yet the experienced QB was still able to throw for more than 300 yards without his go-to receiver.
Another first in Saturday’s game was the heavy reliance on defense in the fourth quarter. In each of the first two games, the starters found themselves on the sidelines due to a lopsided score.
This weekend, however, the first string was on the field in the final frame and made the necessary plays to hold off a late Maryland comeback.
My point from all this is simple. With Big 12 Conference play less than a week away, the Mountaineers needed to be challenged before being thrown to the wolves.
And a tough-fought win against a rival was a great way to cap off a successful nonconference slate for West Virginia.
Exposed weaknesses and the need for adjustments Saturday is exactly the wake-up call the Mountaineers needed before the real season begins this Saturday.
Yes, it was frustrating and concerning to watch your once-invincible football team exposed by a unproven Maryland foe.
But, in reality, the No. 7 ranked Mountaineers needed exactly that to happen to ultimately be a better and more well-rounded football team.