By John Antonik for WVUsports.com
October 07, 2011 09:55 AM
Dana Holgorsen was brought in last December to inject life into West Virginia’s offense, and through the first five games of this season he has certainly delivered.
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The Mountaineers have the sixth best passing attack in the country heading into Saturday’s game against Connecticut, WVU averaging 362.8 yards per game. Quarterback Geno Smith is on pace to throw for more than 4,000 yards and three different receivers - Tavon Austin, Ivan McCartney and Stedman Bailey - could easily reach 60 catches this year.
West Virginia is presently ranked 14th in total offense averaging 496 yards per game and now the running game is showing signs of life, moving up to 78th this week after producing 360 yards on the ground in last week’s 55-10 win over Bowling Green. Of course Dustin Garrison was a big part of that by running for a freshman-record 291 yards.
And 78th is actually where West Virginia finished last year in scoring offense, averaging 25.1 points per game. The Mountaineers were also 50th in rushing yards per game (159.7), 67th in passing yards per game (213) and 67th in total offense (372.7 ypg.) in 2010.
Perhaps the biggest difference this year is the offense’s avoidance of negative yardage plays – something Holgorsen placed great emphasis on last spring. Last year, the Mountaineers ranked 94th in the country in tackles for losses allowed, giving up almost seven per game, and 71st in sacks allowed, permitting more than two per game.
This year, the O-Line is only allowing one sack per game (tied for 20th) and two fewer tackles for losses per game (tied for 45th).
Fewer negative yardage plays means the offense is staying on schedule more frequently, and it also is helping the Mountaineers get into the end zone more frequently this year.
This Saturday, the offense will get another stern test against a UConn defense that ranks eighth in the nation against the run (75.2 ypg.), 24th in points allowed (18.4 ppg.) and 30th in total defense (315.6 ypg.).
By the way, for those of you heading to Morgantown for Saturday’s game be sure to bring some extra sunscreen because the thermometer could reach 80 degrees by the end of the game.
We’ll see you at the stadium.