It’s inevitable with young quarterbacks – there are going to be some bumps in the road. Ford Childress
’s big pothole came last Saturday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore against Maryland when he managed to complete just one pass to a wide receiver, threw two interceptions that led to Terrapin touchdowns and West Virginia ran just 10 plays on the other side of the 50.
It was by far the worst offensive performance of any team Dana Holgorsen has been associated with since he first began calling plays at Texas Tech back in 2005.
Rather than chalk it up to inexperience across the board, Holgorsen accepted full responsibility for the team’s lackluster performance against the Terps when asked about it during Monday morning’s Big 12 coaches’ teleconference.
"There is plenty of blame to go around. The one that can be blamed more than anybody is me, that’s for dang sure,” he said. “That was not an acceptable performance. You’ve got to give Maryland some credit. I think they’re a pretty good team and I think they’re really good on defense. They gave us fits last year when we had all these good players running around with a lot of experience.”
That may be, but Holgorsen said he’s simply got to do a better job of coaching his guys up this week as the Mountaineers now hit the meat of their schedule.
“We’ve got to get guys into positions to execute what we’re asking them to do,” he said. “That’s not happening very much. I’m not pointing the finger at anybody but myself. We’re going to coach them harder this week. We’re going to get them prepared to play.”
Despite Childress’s struggles under center, Holgorsen chose to stick with the redshirt freshman instead of going with juniors Paul Millard
or Clint Trickett
. Holgorsen said after the game that Childress is his quarterback and he reaffirmed that position again on Monday, shrugging off the notion of rotating quarterbacks.
“I would think everybody would want an established guy at quarterback,” he said. “It’s what everybody does. I think people play different quarterbacks when different quarterbacks bring something different to the table. The three guys we have are all pocket guys. They’re not option guys.”
Holgorsen also admitted that the lack of production at quarterback so far this year goes beyond a simple matter of youth and inexperience.
“There are obviously things that Ford can do to improve on what his performance was,” he said. “When Paul was in there there were some things I think he could have done better to improve his performance. The bigger issue is me - I’ve got to do a better job of getting these guys prepared to play.
“I’ve got to do a better job of calling plays,” he continued. “I’ve got to do a better job on all three sides of the ball getting them motivated and prepared to play. I didn’t do a very good job of that last week. It’s going to start with me and I’m going to do a better job of preparing them this week.”
Beyond making first downs and scoring touchdowns, Holgorsen said he wants to see his guys playing looser and having more fun out on the field.
“I think they’re playing uptight,” he explained. “You can’t go out there and be scared to make a mistake and that’s a mentality that needs to exist. If it doesn’t exist with me and it doesn’t exist with the majority of our team then the finger comes right back at me so what each and every one of these guys have to do is they have to go to work everyday and they’ve got to try and be a little bit better than they were yesterday.”
For Holgorsen, that means running the same plays and using the same approach to attacking defenses he's always used.
“Our offensive philosophy has remained the same for about 15 straight years so I doubt that’s going to change any more than it has,” he said. “There is always an evolution of what we’re trying to get accomplished on offense. We have spent a lot of time in the run game and we will continue to do so.
“Our yards per play in the run game is not bad,” he added. “I think the bigger problems with what we are doing offensively is we’re not executing the pass game like we should. I’ve been saying that since day one. It’s still a work in progress.”
To do so, the wide receivers are going to have to have far more production than just the one catch they had against the Terps last Saturday.
“It would be nice to get the receivers the ball. That’s why they call them receivers so they can catch a ball every now and then and we’re pretty inept at that,” Holgorsen said. “That’s nothing on them. They’re working hard. We’ve got guys that want to play and are in position, but we’re just not clicking, and that falls 100 percent on me.”
The Mountaineers have a week to try and figure things out before playing host to 11th-ranked Oklahoma State on Saturday afternoon at Milan Puskar Stadium.