WVU limited thus far by slow starts

| Friday, Oct. 7, 2011

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia senior defensive tackle Julian Miller thinks of a football game a little bit like a boxing match. Sometimes things start a bit slow as the opponents feel each other out.

So far, West Virginia's opponents have landed the first punches.

"It's almost like we come out, and we're feeling the other team out. Sometimes, you really shouldn't be doing that," Miller said.

No. 16 West Virginia wants to get off to a fast start against Connecticut this Saturday, something the Mountaineers haven't done in four of their five games this season.

"I can't really put my finger on it," junior receiver Tavon Austin said. "I mean I don't know if we're not up for the game. I really don't know."

The Mountaineers players used the same words when talking about their early struggles. They talked about executing, being on the same page and coming out ready to play, but save for the road game against Maryland, the Mountaineers haven't started games well.

West Virginia has trailed after the first quarter in three of its five games of the season. Even though the Mountaineers held the advantage last week against Bowling Green, the team struggled in the first five minutes.

After forcing a fumble and scoring a field goal on its first drive, Bowling Green returned the ensuing kick off 77 yards and scored a touchdown on the next play. Then, after a three-and-out, the Falcons used a 11-play, 52-yard drive to go up 10-3 before allowing West Virginia to score 52 unanswered points.

Coach Dana Holgorsen said its something the team has talked about, but it's not just an easy fix. It's mostly about the players being ready to come out and play.

"I think we just don't go out there with the intensity to put points on the board," freshman running back Dustin Garrison said. "We always get slow starts and things like that. We just have to practice and make that better."

There's a fine line when coming out ready to play. West Virginia players tend to get very hyped and pumped up before games, but that can lead to pressing and playing on too much emotion.

The other side of the coin lies in coming out flat. Miller said that's on the seniors to make sure the team is right where it needs to be to set the tone early.

"I think mentally we need to just be able to come out, hit on all cylinders and do what we know we're capable of throughout the four quarters," Miller said.

The West Virginia players understand the importance of coming out swinging early rather than waiting for the later rounds to make a stand. Especially with Big East Conference play starting, it's important for the Mountaineers to get off to a good start.

"You want to try to jump on a team early, especially at home," Miller said, "but even when we're on the road to take the crowd out of it. You want to be able to come out, set the tone early and let the opposing team know you're here for business."

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