MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — He claims he’s about wins and not about stats, but on Tuesday afternoon Dana Holgorsen couldn’t resist crushing his team’s run-pass ratio because, you see, Holgorsen amassed his coaching cache by exploiting a pass-run ratio.
So once more we mention 44-27, aka WVU’s run-pass breakdown on Saturday’s opener against William & Mary and the second-most important hyphenated number sequence to spring from said game (behind 24-17, of course, because we care primarily about wins and not about stats).
“I’d like to throw the ball a lot more than we did,” the coach said. “Everybody says it’s an ‘Air Raid’ … and we’re talking about throwing the ball 30 percent of the time. That’s embarrassing.”
Actually, WVU threw it 38 percent of the time, which is still far south of Holgorsen’s typical play-calling ratio. (The guy didn’t build an 11-year streak of 4,000-yard passers by being handoff-heavy.) Blame some of the Game 1 disparity on the FCS visitors dropping seven- and eight-man coverages, essentially daring WVU to run the ball, which it did with only moderate success. Yet there’s no denying the staff wasn’t comfortable with Paul Millard airing it out, or comfortable with Clint Trickett to any degree.
“Not putting too much on the quarterbacks was obviously important,” Holgorsen said, sounding more conservative than at any time in his career.
Outside of Millard’s 69-yard home run to Ronald Carswell, WVU averaged just 9.3 yards per completion. To survive in its Big 12 opener, West Virginia presumably needs a quarterback wiling to challenge the secondary downfield.
Not that Charles Sims, Dreamius Smith and frisky freshman Wendell Smallwood don’t warrant carries. It’s just that the Mountaineers probably can’t line up and run the ball 62 percent of the time against Oklahoma the way they did against William & Mary.
“We’re going to try to correct that—that’s for certain. We have to be more balanced,” Holgorsen said, before hearing himself and pointing out the weirdness. “What the heck’s going on here? I’m talking about balance because we can’t get the ball in the air 50 percent of the time.”
Afforded two days to self-evaluate the Week 1 film, Millard pronounced that he “did all right” against the Tribe, while acknowledging that “I left some things out there.” Now comes the challenge of capitalizing on more explosive plays against a far superior defense, one that trusts its cornerbacks to play man coverage.
“With man coverage that means the (passing) windows are usually a lot tighter,” Millard said. “It’s going to be about getting the ball out on time and getting it in the place it needs to go.”