BALTIMORE - If you're a WVU football fan looking for a ray of sunshine from a rainy day at M&T Bank Stadium, I have one for you. Really.True freshman Daryl Worley had two pass breakups against standout Maryland receiver Stefon Diggs.Otherwise, though, I have zip. Nada.The Mountaineers melted down in the first half of Saturday's game like a DQ Blizzard in a brick pizza oven.
It reminded me of Aug. 23, 1994, when the Mountaineers played Nebraska in the Kickoff Classic in the Meadowlands. The Cornhuskers outscored WVU 24-0 in the first half, put in place a kind, vanilla offense, and won 31-0. Mountaineer punter Todd Sauerbrun was the one and only bright spot. Had a 90-yard kick.Yet there's one huge difference: Nebraska had Tommie Frazier, Lawrence Phillips and went on to win a national championship.WVU lost on Saturday to Maryland. It lost to a Terrapin team that went 4-8 a year ago. It lost 37-0 to a team that had the worst offense in the country last season.In sum? The Mountaineers were terrible on Saturday. They were ineffective and appeared unprepared, lacking confidence and uninspired.For Maryland, some guy named A.J. Hendy, a backup safety, became a star. For WVU, head coach Dana Holgorsen's star fell a little bit more.And that star has been falling since last Oct. 13, when WVU had an even more substantial meltdown, a 49-14 loss at Texas Tech after moving to 5-0 and a Top 5 ranking.It's been quite a downturn. Remember at the beginning of last season when the Mountaineers scored 69 on Marshall? And 70 on Baylor? And 48 at Texas?On Saturday, there was no "Air Raid." There was no ground attack. There were six WVU first downs. There were but 113 rushing yards and 62 passing yards.The offenses of Holgorsen past seemed as distant as, well, a Big 12 site. Since 2005, his offenses have finished no lower than 15th nationally. The highest have been the last two at WVU - 15th in 2011 and 10th last season.
The wizardry has disappeared. The Mountaineers have lost eight of their last 12 games. The only wins have been against Iowa State, Kansas, William & Mary and Georgia State.Afterward, Holgorsen appropriately used the word "inept" over and over in his press conference. To his credit, though, he did point to himself. It was reminiscent of Bob Huggins toward the end of last basketball season.
"We're very inept," Holgorsen said. "We're going to fix it. It's 100 percent on me."Certainly much of it is. There were many Saturday discipline issues, including the seven penalties. The defense had two illegal substitution penalties.There were other gaffes, like calling a timeout with 11:50 left in the first quarter because there were only 10 men on the field. There was ye olde delay of game penalty after a timeout.Of course, there is the quarterback issue. Recruit William Crest played near M&T on Friday night - and fared much better than Mountaineer QB Ford Childress, who completed 11 of 22 passes for 62 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns. His longest completion was 12 yards. He was sacked twice.Ugly with a capital U. Holgorsen and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, though, tried to take up for their redshirt freshman.
"There were a lot of times it didn't matter who was back there," Holgorsen said. "We could have had Peyton Manning back there, and if you're not able to get yards in the run game, or set your feet. He didn't have a chance.
"I'll look at it a little bit closer to see how he did."Dawson was asked specifically about Florida State transfer Clint Trickett, who has been in on just six plays this season."The deal right now is this doesn't fall on one person," Dawson said. "We've got to get better on offense. We've been dumping reps on Ford. We've decided he's our guy."Later, though, Dawson said he'd "watch film and evaluate" his QB.We'll see about that. WVU desperately needs a spark. But there are other areas of concern. Holgorsen and Dawson both pointed to the poor play of their offensive line. The head coach called the line's play "incredibly poor." That has to be disappointing after athletic director Oliver Luck went out and hired away Stanford assistant Ron Crook.What has to be most disappointing to Luck, though, is the dropoff in production from Holgorsen, who is being paid over $2 million per year.As it stands, WVU's situation looks as difficult to turn around as an 18-wheeler."I don't know what we need to do to fix it," said the coach. "It's 100 percent on me. Maybe we need to change how we practice. Maybe it was something schematically they did - but I doubt it."Whatever the case, Holgorsen needs to figure it out quick. The offense can't go through stretches - as it did Saturday - of six straight 3-and-outs or less.Because of injuries, Maryland had just two reliable cornerbacks on Saturday. It was a golden opportunity to wear them out. WVU could have accomplished that, as well as help its defense.Yet Childress was ineffective. The receiving corps didn't step up. (Only one wideout, Ronald Carswell, had a catch. Not kidding.) On defense, the WVU pass defense that went into the game ranked eighth nationally proved to be a mirage.Mountaineer defensive lineman Shaq Rowell summed it up."We lost on all three sides of the ball," he said. "Offense, defense and special teams."And on Saturday, the opponent wasn't Nebraska.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.