Inept. Lethargic. Uninspired. Or, quite simply, bad.
Any of those words describe West Virginia’s offense in the Mountaineers’ 37-0 loss to Maryland. And West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen wants all fingers pointed at him for his team’s horrible offensive output last weekend.
“We’ve got to get guys into positions to execute what we’re asking them to do,” he said. “That’s not happening very much. I’m not pointing the finger at anybody but myself.”
Here’s a look at five horrible stats that reveal the offense’s struggles against Maryland and potential ways to fix those issues when WVU hosts Oklahoma State on Saturday.
Turnovers: Six. The odds of getting into a offensive rhythm, yet alone winning, with that many turnovers is not high. It’s been a consistent theme this season for a WVU squad that has 12 turnovers in four games. Tennessee is the only other BCS team with six or more turnovers in a single game this season.
The fix: It’s actually an easy fix because fumbles were the main culprit so ballhandling drills will become commonplace on the practice field in Morgantown. But quarterback Ford Childress will need to make better decisions with the ball with three interceptions in two games. If WVU cuts down the fumbles, it will have a much better chance of upsetting the Cowboys.
Third-down efficiency: 16.7 percent. This is the opposite of stepping up in key moments as WVU went 2 of 12 on third down last Saturday. The Mountaineers rank last in the Big 12 in this category (28.8 percent) with ninth-place Kansas almost 10 percentage points (37.8 percent) better than WVU this season.
The fix: Odds are Holgorsen is dedicating a good portion of his time to creating innovative ways to have wide open receivers on third downs. Childress is 6 of 15 pass attempts on third-and-6 or more so Holgorsen needs to set up easier reads and quicker throws for the redshirt freshman to give him the confidence to excel and move the chains. Converting on third down will be critical against OSU to keep the Cowboys' high-powered offense on the sideline.
Ford Childress’ 2.82 yards per pass attempt. The Mountaineers quarterback completed 11 of 22 passes for 62 yards. It was one of the bottom five single-game yards per pass attempt performances from a BCS quarterback this season. Holgorsen’s offenses are known for their big-play, quick-strike ability and putting dynamic players in position to excel. Holgorsen knows he needs to be better in that regard during the rest of the season.
The fix: At the risk of increased interceptions, Holgorsen needs to make sure Childress is playing loose and confidently. True enough he was under pressure quite a bit against Maryland but he has to be willing to give his receivers a chance to make a play in one-on-one scenarios, anticipate throwing windows and challenge secondaries from sideline to sideline with his arm. If Childress is playing tight or worrying about making mistakes, this number probably won't increase much against OSU.
Three-and-outs: WVU went three-and-out on 71.4 percent of its drives against Maryland. It’s amazing to think the Mountaineers only allowed 37 points considering they kept being sent back on the field by the offense’s three-and-outs and turnovers.
The fix: Success on first down. WVU averaged 2.8 yards per play on first down against the Terps. Thus, Maryland’s defense consistently had the advantage after first down, so it’s easy to see why WVU kept going three and out. 2nd-and-long or 3rd-and-long situations allow the defense to play with confidence and set the tone during a drive. If WVU can gain five yards or more on first down against the Cowboys, their percentage of three-and-outs will drop.
Ford Childress’ Total QBR: The Mountaineers’ quarterback finished with a 3.3 Total QBR against the Terps. Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas is the only BCS quarterback with a worse single-game QBR this season with his 1.9 Total QBR against Alabama. The Mountaineers receivers combined to catch one pass among three total targets as Childress was unable to test Maryland’s secondary.
The fix: Everyone, from Holgorsen to the offensive line to receivers, has to improve for the Mountaineers to have any type of passing success. Childress didn’t perform at a high level but he didn’t have much help either. The running game has been solid but if all the components of the passing game don’t improve it won’t matter how successful Charles Sims and Dreamius Smith are on the ground against Oklahoma State on Saturday. WVU can try to spark its offense by taking more shots down the field, using more play action passes and making OSU's linebackers tackle in space by getting the Mountaineer inside receivers the ball more often in the middle of the field.