Harris: WVU's blame game includes everyone
By John Harris
Published: Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, 11:58 p.m.
During the media's brief encounters with West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, I feel confused because I don't know which area of his football team Holgorsen will blame next.
In no particular order, the Mountaineers' offense, defense, special teams and Holgorsen's hand-picked coaching staff have felt Holgorsen's wrath, and there are still four games remaining (five, if WVU plays in a bowl game).
Confusing, to say the least.
First, it was the defense which failed to support the offense, which was fine as long as the offense was averaging 52 points over the first five games of the season.
Then it was the offense which finally cracked under the strain of carrying the entire team.
"Didn't get much help from the offense," Holgorsen complained following WVU's 39-38 double-overtime loss to TCU.
On the other hand, none of the above matters if kicker Tyler Bitancurt didn't miss three field goals and have another field goal blocked in overtime against TCU.
Did we mention that the Mountaineers gave TCU seven points when Bitancurt, who also punts, couldn't handle a low snap from center, and TCU returned the fumble for a touchdown?
See what I mean?
It's difficult to blame the offense for "only" scoring 38 points (31, if you exclude Tavon Austin's 76-yard punt return for a touchdown) when "improved" play by the defense still gave TCU 39 points. This following a defensive boot camp during the team's recent bye week featuring a return to basics.
Um, isn't that a little late in the season to start stressing defensive fundamentals?
Improved, of course, is a relative term when you consider the Mountaineers yielded 55, 49, 45 and 69 points in their previous four games.
Even if Holgorsen gives his offense and defense a pass, what about the uneven performance of his special teams?
And what about the failure of the coaching staff to have all three units performing proficiently at the same time?
"That was Dana's idea. I didn't balk at all," defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said about calling plays from the press box for the first time in his coaching career. "We had to do something to make a change."
DeForest moved from the sideline to the press box against TCU while Keith Patterson, WVU's other defensive coordinator, moved from the press box to the sideline.
"I loved it. I was calm. It was so surreal up there. When you're on the field, there is so much noise and so much going on," DeForest said. "In my 23 years of coaching, I don't think I was in the press box before. I don't think I'll ever leave."
DeForest probably wanted to jump out of the press box when TCU connected on a 94-yard touchdown pass with less than two minutes remaining in regulation, right after Austin's punt return gave WVU a 31-24 lead.
It was an inexcusable touchdown because the coaching staff failed to position a defender playing deep center field despite knowing the only way TCU could drive 94 yards in such a short time frame was via a big play like the one that occurred.
Maybe the coaches assigned a player (or players) to line up deep on the play, and perhaps in the heat of the moment that player (or players) moved to another area of the field at the absolute worst moment.
Let's hope that's the case.
Blame the players all you want. This one falls on the coaches.
"We had the game won. All we had to do was stay in coverage," DeForest said.
Easier said than done for WVU, which doesn't play bad defense when players are properly positioned.
Defense, however, isn't the team's strength.
Unfortunately, neither is the offense at the moment. Or special teams, for that matter.
And that's the problem.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Letang has surgery on infected elbow
- Crosby leads Penguins to 7th straight win
- Penguins sign Zatkoff to new 2-year contract
- Firefighters allow abandoned houseboat to go over Allegheny River dam
- Florida fears even bigger python could be moving in
- Gorman: WPIAL recruits send message to Pitt
- Miners’ advocate, widow sue W.Va. agencies over safety systems
- Fake Santa Claus surprises his mother as sneaky soldier returns home early
- Secret Santa Gates delivers to aid charity
- Penguins’ Orpik: Thornton was ‘apologetic’
- Outdoor notices: Dec. 21