Plenty to work on after 73-42 loss
WACO, Texas - As is generally the case, there was a common theme among players and coaches following West Virginia's brutal loss to No. 17 Baylor Saturday night. Call them talking points, if you will.
Nothing, of course, can be said that makes a 73-42 loss sound any better than it was, particularly when it was a 31-point loss that didn't even seem that close. After all, it was by just the midpoint of the second quarter that the Mountaineers trailed by 35 - it was 42-7 - and nothing that happened beyond that was anything more than both teams just playing out the string.
And while there is no way to explain away such a dismal performance, there is a way to put it into context. Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, this is the second time in the past three games they have been forced to do that.
"It counts as one loss, much like what happened at Maryland three weeks ago,'' Dana Holgorsen said, obviously trying to put a 37-0 drubbing to the Terps further in the rear-view mirror than is accurate. "It counts as a loss. We'll regroup and we'll do our best to get back on the winning track here in two weeks.
"We've got a lot to work on in the next two weeks, which we'll get back and we'll do.''
Indeed, if Saturday night's performance at Floyd Casey Stadium illustrated anything, it is that the Mountaineers (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) have plenty to work on before the second half of the season begins in two weeks with a home game against Texas Tech. West Virginia is off this week.
In fact, the most difficult task facing Holgorsen right now might be deciding what to focus attention on first, offense or defense. It is perhaps odd to say that both units were equally inept after the defense gave up 73 points and the offense scored 42, but that is closer to the truth than the raw scoring numbers would indicate.
First the defense. The 1904 WVU team lost 130-0 to Michigan. No other Mountaineer team before or since has given up more points than this year's group did to Baylor. Even the first game played by the first WVU team ever in 1891 only resulted in 72 points allowed.
But that's only scratching the surface. Baylor might have matched that 130 had it wanted to. Consider that of starting quarterback Bryce Petty's 347 passing yards, all but five came in the first half while the Bears were rolling up a 56-14 lead. All of Antwan Goodley's 170 receiving yards and Lache Seastrunk's 172 rushing yards came in the first half.
Even Baylor's mind-numbing total yardage figure was misleading on the low side. The Bears had 864 yards - a school record on both sides for yards and yards allowed - but at halftime were on pace for 1,034 before calling off the dogs. In the first quarter, WVU gave up 369 yards - more than any team in major college football has surrendered in any quarter of any game in at least the last 10 years.
But at least the Bears didn't reach the 1,000-yard mark, which for a while seemed almost certain and perhaps would have come to pass had they not turned the ball over twice in the fourth quarter. And for at least that defensive coordinator Keith Patterson seemed grateful.
"We had a lot of opportunities to just lay down and quit, but I didn't see them quit,'' Patterson said before personally taking responsibility for the debacle. "There's no magic call. You have to play with great intensity and great energy and we didn't. And that's my fault.''
As bad as the defense was, however, the offense wasn't much better, regardless of those 42 points. First, WVU's safeties scored two of the six touchdowns - Karl Joseph recovered a fumbled punt in the end zone and Darwin Cook scored after Travis Bell intercepted a pass and lateraled to him - and two others came late against Baylor's backups. It was Paul Millard who threw TD passes to Ronald Carswell and Kevin White after a battered Clint Trickett was finally allowed to watch the fourth quarter.
An so the first-team offense scored really just two times against the Baylor starters, once on a 39-yard Charles Sims run after Baylor had scored 56. The other was a 39-yard Trickett-to-White pass with the score 42-7, one of many deep balls Trickett threw but one of the few that was anywhere close to its mark.
Both Holgorsen and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said throwing deep wasn't just a prayer in a lopsided game, but was one of the few things Baylor's defense seemed vulnerable to.
Trickett, though, admitted that some of it might have been the former.
"It's hard when you get down early like that,'' he said. "You feel like you have to come back on every play.''
A year ago, when WVU beat Baylor 70-63, the Mountaineer offense seemed like it might be good enough to come back on every play. That's far from accurate now, however.
"I said it all week. If it got into a track meet, we wouldn't be in good shape,'' Holgorsen said. "We didn't make them punt once all game. They scored more than we scored last year. Offensively we're not equipped to be able to keep up at this point in time. Hopefully we get there at some point.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1.