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WVU looks for consistency in ground game

By Josh Sickles
Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen isn't worried about rushing statistics.

Sure, it's a concern that the Mountaineers are ranked No. 109 in the nation in rushing offense. Their crowded backfield has averaged 72 yards per game and just 2.44 yards per attempt.

Still, West Virginia doesn't need a ton of yards. It just needs respect.

"How many yards you rush for is not nearly as important as them just respecting the fact that you have to be able to run the ball and that you are able to run the ball," he said.

West Virginia, ranked No. 18 in this week's AP poll, is still looking for an efficient rushing attack to keep defenses honest.

The Mountaineers rebounded from their 42-yard performance against Marshall to rush for 102 yards against Norfolk State Saturday, but it took 33 carries to get there, an average of only 3.09 yards per carry.

That total also came against a defense rooted in containing the pass. While Marshall schemed to stop the run, Norfolk State only rushed three linemen and dropped eight into coverage for a majority of the game. Yet, West Virginia still couldn't establish a strong run game.

"If they come into the game saying 'You what, we know they can't run the ball, so we're going to drop eight all the time,' that's going to be a challenge offensively," he said. "I don't care about the numbers. I just want the defense to know we can do both."

Even though blocking's been part of the problem, West Virginia has a young backfield with three freshmen taking a majority of the carries, and they're still getting adjusted to the college game and the patience necessary to let a play develop.

It's a process that's taking some time, but they feel confident everything will soon be clicking.

"We're just that close from making a big run," said running back Vernard Roberts, who leads the team with 76 yards and two touchdowns. "We just have to stay patient, let our blocks develop and hopefully you guys will see some long runs."

This team doesn't need to have the best running stats in the nation, but the possibility of a consistent running game will make West Virginia's offense more effective.

"I don't care if we're 120th in the country in the run game," Holgorsen said. "If we're able to run when we need to and not let them dictate what they do, we're going to be fine."



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