We’ll know soon enough
For 30 minutes of West Virginia University’s football game last Saturday against Norfolk State many Mountaineer fans were in disbelief. The Mountaineers were outplayed by FCS, a.k.a. a Division 1AA, opponent Norfolk State and found themselves trailing 12-10 at halftime. Some fans booed. They were probably booing the coaches, but at WVU games one can never be sure.
Of course not everyone booed the players or coaches, but there were neither smiles nor kind words spoken of what was transpiring on the field. This was Norfolk State, a team coached by WVU alumnus Pete Adrian. This game was likely concocted by former head coach Bill Stewart, because of his ties with Adrian. Whatever, the game was supposed to be a tune up game and the Mountaineers were supposed to iron out some weaknesses discovered in the opener against Marshall.
Instead, Adrian used those weaknesses to keep the Mountaineers off balance for an entire half. They completed long passes, ran effectively and stopped the WVU running game. Adrian even told a Hampton, Va. reporter that he expected to be able stop the WVU running game. At one juncture West Virginia ran six plays inside the NSU two-yard line and had to settle for a field goal. Except for a myriad of penalties, the Spartans could have easily had WVU in a much more uncomfortable position at the half.
That 30-minute nightmare could be an indication of disappointing things to come. But, and there is a big but (pun intended) here, the second half could indicate some very good things on the horizon. That’s because WVU came out and outscored Norfolk 45-0 in the second half to win the game 55-12. In the process fans got a look at the Dana Holgorsen offense they had been hearing so much about.
The Mountaineers scorched the Spartans for five touchdowns in their first 20 offensive plays in the second half. The 45 point outburst relieved much of the anxiety of the fans that was brought on in the first half, but it may be premature to suggest the second half was a coming out party for the WVU offense.
What was seen Saturday was a glimpse of what this offense can be. There was also a reminder that the running game is nowhere near where it needs to be, especially with quality opponents like Maryland and LSU occupying the next two lines on the Mountaineers’ schedule. If quarterback Geno Smith can continue to master this offense WVU will not need a prolific running game, but they will need to run the ball much better than they have against Marshall and Norfolk. Expect Maryland’s front to be the best WVU has seen, expect LSU’s the following week to be off the charts good.
In any event, this week’s game will give a much better evaluation of how good the Mountaineers can become. History agrees, because most years the winner of this game goes on to a successful year and the loser often struggles. This year a loss should not derail either team, but for WVU a win will go a long way toward West Virginia achieving a 10-win season.