BALTIMORE, Md. — Reflecting on a 37-0 loss to Maryland that would have been hard for any coach to stomach (much less a spread-offense guru), Dana Holgorsen not only refused to pile on quarterback Ford Childress, but indicated plans to stick with the redshirt freshman.
“He’s going to be our guy,” Holgorsen said.
Holgorsen’s guy threw a pick-six in the first quarter. Holgoren’s guy set up another Terps touchdown with an interception at his own 6-yard line. Holgorsen’s guy lost a fumble. Holgorsen’s guy completed one pass to a wide receiver—all afternoon. Holgorsen’s guy threw for 62 yards—all afternoon.
WVU fans might be clamoring for Holgorsen to get a new guy, just as they clamored after the offense struggled in a 16-7 loss at Oklahoma. But Holgorsen is running out of new guys—only Clint Trickett is left in the bullpen—and in the aftermath of WVU’s first shutout in 12 years, Holgorsen said no quarterback could have prospered behind WVU’s shaky line play.
“We could have had Peyton Manning back there, and if you’re not able to get any yards in the run game or not able to set your feet and throw downfield …” the coach said, an incomplete sentence that didn’t need an ending.
“We played incredibly poor up front. It was probably as bad as we’ve ever played on the offensive line.”
That frames up Holgorsen’s headline of the day: “Offensively we’re as inept as we can possibly be.”
Though Childress was sacked only twice, Maryland pressured him frequently—often without committing extra defenders to the pass rush. When West Virginia attempted to run the ball with a numbers advantage, Maryland typically stopped that too.
Dreamius Smith’s 51-yard run with four minutes left in the game—against second-team Terrapins—and Wendell Smallwood’s 30-yarder earlier in the fourth quarter helped WVU average 4.5 yards per rush, which is statistical folly. Eliminate those two outliers, and the Mountaineers averaged 1.3 yards per attempt.
“When they have five people in the box and we can’t get a yard, it’s going to cause a problem,” said Holgorsen, who wanted to emphasize more elements of power football into WVU’s offense this season. The running backs appear to be a talented group, but the offensive line has been mangled in two games against legitimate competition.
“I thought we’d be able to run the ball,” said offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. “(Maryland) definitely out-physicaled us up front.”
Those breakdowns make it impossible for Childress to do how job, and to some degree, make it difficult for coaches to evaluate whether Childress should continue a the quarterback or give way to the Florida State transfer behind Door No. 3.
Childress completed 11-of-22 passes for the aforementioned—and completely unfathomable—62 yards (a smidgen off last week’s pace of 359). Eight of Saturday’s completions went to running back Charles Sims on swing passes or quick screens, including an 11-yarder that opened the game. (Ah, those were optimistic times, indeed.) Two plays later, on a third-and-13, Childress fired an out route to Ronald Childress, who made a lunging grab a yard shy of the marker.
Make sure to circle Carswell’s catch, because it was the only one made by a West Virginia wide receiver. Childress overthrew a few others, guessed wrong at least twice when receivers broke off routes in different directions, and simply chucked some passes in hurried fashion when rushers leaked through.
“Did he play great tonight? No. Was it all his fault? Heck no,” Dawson insisted. “There’s a lot of things that have to get better offensively for us to get a quarterback going.”
While Dawson claimed he wasn’t trying to deflect criticism from Childress, Holgorsen went about defending his quarterback client harder than Alan Dershowitz, saying: “He never had a chance.”
Which sounds an awful lot like he’ll get another chance next week.