WVU coach Holgorsen targets offensive line
MORGANTOWN, W.VA. — West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen didn't dance around the offensive line's performance in last weekend's narrow win at Cincinnati.
"None of them played good enough to win," he said. "We'll leave it at that."
During this week's bye, the West Virginia offensive line needs to improve after some shaky performances in the past few games, Holgorsen said. The coaches are challenging the linemen to play better, but the unit's taking it a step further.
"We're challenging ourselves," senior right guard Tyler Rader said. "All of us were sick of the way we played. It was awful. We can't let that happen."
The problems began against Syracuse on Oct. 21, when the offensive line allowed four sacks against a number of exotic blitz packages. Cincinnati didn't blitz much Saturday, but West Virginia still allowed a season-high five sacks.
The offensive line allowed just five sacks in five nonconference games, including none against current-No. 1 LSU. But since starting Big East play, the Mountaineers have given up 16 sacks in five conference games.
The Cincinnati game might have been the line's worst performance. Holgorsen said the Mountaineers had opportunities to run but were limited to a season-low 32 yards on 32 carries.
The running backs combined for 24 carries and 46 yards — just 1.9 yards per rush. Junior running back Shawne Alston doesn't like to single out his offensive line but admitted there's been frustration for the country's 97th-ranked rushing attack.
"There's a lot of frustration," Alston said, "being whether it's offensive line problems, running back problems or just being that we played a good defense."
The offensive line committed five of the West Virginia's season-high 14 penalties against Cincinnati, and another holding call was declined.
"I don't make excuses," said Rader, who was guilty of a false start against Cincinnati. "I really don't know what it is. If we knew, we'd be able to fix it."
West Virginia at least has had consistency up front. It's one of three Big East teams that has employed the same offensive line in every game this season
It hasn't mattered lately, as the unit struggles to effectively run block and win one-on-one battles in pass protection.
"Have we called them out• Yes, we're challenging them," Holgorsen said. "We want them to get better. We're going to work hard with them and get them healed up."
A bye week couldn't come at a better time. The line will use the time off to get refocused and improve in time for the Backyard Brawl against Pitt on Nov. 25.
"We have to improve, no question. Up front is where it has to start," Rader said. "I think we've been playing the worst that we've played all year in the last couple games, and that can't happen."