MORGANTOWN - Time and again Monday, Dana Holgorsen was prodded to pinpoint the blame for West Virginia's rather humiliating offensive performance in a 37-0 loss to Maryland Saturday in Baltimore.He never really took the bait.He was asked about his young quarterback and the growing pains that Ford Childress is going through in just two college appearances. He brushed it off and talked about "bigger issues.''He was queried on the play of his offensive line, which certainly did little to help that young quarterback. He spoke of "plenty of blame to go around.''
The closest he came, perhaps, was when someone on Monday's Big 12 coaches teleconference brought up the fact that the six wide receivers who played combined for all of one catch."Yeah, it would be nice to get receivers the ball,'' Holgorsen admitted. "That's why they call them receivers, so they can catch a ball every now and then. We're pretty inept at that.''But even then, his answers kept coming back to the same thing. It was the factor he immediately cited in the aftermath of Saturday's shutout and seems intent upon citing until the problems are fixed.It's Holgorsen himself, the erstwhile offensive genius."That's nothing on them. They're working hard. We've got guys that want to play. We've got guys that are in position,'' he said of his receivers. "We're not clicking and that falls a hundred percent on me. I'm not pointing the finger at anybody other than me. We've got to coach them better, we've got to get back out there to work and we've got to execute like we know how to do.''Whatever the issues, they need to be addressed quickly. Through four games, the Mountaineers are 2-2 and have yet to hit the most difficult part of the schedule. That begins with the first of eight straight Big 12 games, Saturday at home against No. 11 Oklahoma State (noon kickoff, ESPN). After that comes No. 19 Baylor, then No. 24 Texas Tech."I've got to do a better job of coaching them,'' Holgorsen said. "We've got to get guys in a position to execute what we're asking them to do. That's not happening very much, so I'm not pointing a finger at anybody but myself. We're going to coach them harder this week. We're going to get them more prepared to play. ... I've just got to do a better job. And if I do a better job, then the rest of the guys will do a better job, as well.''In Holgorsen's defense, he is dealing with some issues, not the least of which is running a quarterback-centric offense with a quarterback who until 10 days ago had never taken a college snap. He also lost his top three receivers - including arguably the two best in school history - and that offensive line had to be rebuilt in the middle.And, too, there was the Maryland factor. The Terps are 4-0 now."You've got to give Maryland some credit. They're a pretty good team. I think they're really good on defense,'' Holgorsen said. "They gave us fits last year when we had all these good players running around and a lot of experience. So I give them a tremendous amount of credit.''Still, other good defenses have not shut down Holgorsen's offense like this. Childress completed fewer passes (11) for fewer yards (62) than any quarterback Holgorsen has ever coached. The Mountaineers gained just 175 yards and rushed for only 113, 51 of those on a meaningless run after all the game's points had been scored. West Virginia turned the ball over six times, five of them by the offense and the sixth by an offensive player fielding a punt.
"I see bigger issues,'' Holgorsen said when asked if the problems could be traced just to a young quarterback. "There's obviously some things that Ford can do to improve on what his performance was ... but the bigger issue is me."I've got to do a better job of getting these guys prepared to play. I've got to do a better job of calling plays. I've got to do a better job on all three sides of the ball, getting [players] motivated and ready to play. I didn't do a very good job of that last week, so it starts with me.''Holgorsen also talked about the mindset of the players. It's not a bad one, but rather a wrong one, and again one that traces back to him."I've got to get these guys to where they're getting out there and they're playing a little looser,'' Holgorsen said. "I think we're playing pretty uptight. You can't go out there and be scared to make a mistake.''"That's the mentality that needs to exist. And if it doesn't exist with me, then the finger comes right back at me.''All in all it can't be argued that West Virginia's offensive performance against Maryland was due to one factor. It was a combination of things that led to WVU's first shutout since 2001.
"There's plenty of blame to go around,'' Holgorsen said. "The one that can be blamed more than anybody is me, that's for dang sure. That's not an acceptable performance.Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1