WVU's adjustments patch offensive line
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - With Maryland looming on the schedule, West Virginia is hoping to seal some of the holes it found along the offensive line.
Against Marshall last Friday, the Thundering Herd defense pressured WVU quarterback Geno Smith relentlessly in the first half. Smith was sacked three times in WVU's 24-21 overtime victory. The Thundering Herd also had four quarterback hurries.
Smith was sacked twice in the second quarter on consecutive plays, one coming when Marshall's defensive tackle Vinny Curry beat left tackle Don Barclay. On the next play, MU linebacker Mario Harvey got past right guard Eric Jobe. Later in the game, Curry recorded another sack.
"It was just one guy. We were all communicating great. It was just one block," West Virginia center Joe Madsen said. "We have to get back, watch film and correct it."
On the final two drives of regulation against Marshall, all of those troubles went away. The Mountaineers scored touchdowns on 96-yard and 98-yard drives to tie the score.
Smith was barely touched on those drives.
"They played particularly well there at the end. They played a very athletic and hard game against Marshall," WVU coach Bill Stewart said of the offensive line. "I was really pleased with the way they blocked down the stretch. I thought they did a real nice job."
West Virginia offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen said the coaching staff made some adjustments at halftime against Marshall to switch protections. WVU also went away from calling plays with cards on the sidelines and wristbands to using hand signals in the second half. That allowed the Mountaineers to work quickly on offense and at times without a huddle.
"All game we were getting stopped and shooting ourselves in the foot. But the last couple of drives we came together and jelled," left guard Josh Jenkins said. "We just said we've got to block like your life's about to end."
Mullen said WVU may use a no-huddle offense Saturday against Maryland to potentially alleviate problems with the Terrapins' pressure defense.
"The thing that you worry about as a play-caller is that you don't put your kids in an uphill situation where you don't have time to check or move," Mullen said. "Having said that, I think the first few games when we've picked up the tempo good things have happened. We'll evaluate that a little bit more and see what we can do."
Smith said he doesn't mind running the no-huddle offense. He said that style of offense doesn't give the opposing defense enough time to adjust to the Mountaineers' quick personnel.
"When we go fast, it gets the defense off-balance and we get the O-line moving forward," Smith said.
Stewart said WVU will decide whether to go no-huddle during the game based on what has taken place throughout the course of the contest.
"It's kind of a feel thing. I watched (Marshall's) defense not getting the pressure that they had earlier, and I said pour it on them and that's why we did what we did at the end," Stewart said.
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