MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Time to break down a game riddled with breakdowns for West Virginia, which produced six turnovers and only six first downs while being flattened 37-0 at Maryland:
Ford Childress likely has many starts ahead of him at WVU, and he prays none of them come close to replicating Saturday’s disaster. Ranging from ineffective to awful, he threw two brutal interceptions, failed to complete any downfield passes and lost a fumble. His 11-of-22 passing resulted in a paltry 62 yards, which happens when nine passes are completed to running backs (six of those behind the line of scrimmage).
His first-quarter, pick-six interception was part poor decision with equally bad mechanics, a flat-footed throw toward the sideline that became easy pickings for nickel back A.J. Hendy. Late in the half, with WVU trailing 23-0 and pinned inside its own 10, Childress made a futile situation worse—stepping away from pressure only to throw a pass into the raised arms of Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil, who caught the tipped interception at the Mountaineers’ 6.
Childress actually deserved a third interception, but Terps cornerback Isaac Goins dropped a pass thrown far over the head of Ronald Carswell.
With WVU positioned to avoid the shutout on its final drive, Childress committed one poetic final mistake—trying to escape a sack by making an impromptu pitch to blocking back Charles Sims. The fumble wound up in Hendy’s hands, and West Virginia was held scoreless for the first time since 2001.
With the offensive line faltering, WVU’s running backs didn’t find much room until the game was out of hand in the fourth quarter. Dreamius Smith (12 carries for 74 yards) did most of his damage on a late 51-yard run against Maryland’s second-teamers, and Wendell Smallwood curiously was credited with a 30-yard run on his lone carry, which he fumbled away after 18 yards.
Sims gained only 35 yards on eight rushes, but caught eight passes for 33 yards as WVU tried in vain to exploit Maryland’s defense in the flat. One of those catches became a fumble at the Terps’ 20-yard line, though Sims’ knee might have been down—according to replays that were ignored by the booth official upstairs.
History was on Lonnie Galloway’s side during the preseason when he said someone would catch 80 passes in this offense (because someone always does). That prediction turned laughable against Maryland when Carswell’s 12-yard catch on the opening drive turned out to be the only reception by a WVU wide receiver all day. (And wouldn’t you know it, that 12-yarder came on on third-and-13. Gorgeous irony.)
Though Carswell dropped a potential first-down catch in the second quarter, WVU’s wideouts didn’t even get their hands on any other passes. Carswell was targeted three times, while Childress threw toward Kevin White and Mario Alford once each.
Calling this performance “as bad as we’ve ever played on the offensive line,” Holgorsen was being generous. The lack of a sustainable running game despite Maryland dropping more defenders into coverage short-circuited all WVU hoped to accomplish.
“When you can’t block, it’s tough,” Holgorsen said. “We put these guys in position to be able to block and we didn’t.”
Maryland registered eight TFLs despite West Virginia running only 47 plays.
Left guard Marquis Lucas endured his worst game of the young season, surrendering a sack—as did left tackle Quinton Spain.
Center Pat Eger was flagged for a hands-to-the-face personal foul and also had an errant shotgun snap that blew up Childress’ timing on a third-down fail. The senior had shifted to right guard late in the half when the Terps rushed only three defenders, yet lineman Andre Monroe wedged between Eger and center Tyler Orlosky to pressure Childress. A moment later Cudjoe-Virgil had his interception.
Monroe overmatched Orlosky on another third down that saw Childress pressured into an incompletion. Maryland sacked Childress twice and generated ample pressure without having to rely on its zero blitzes.
“When (Childress) is not even planting his back foot and getting hit, there’s not much he can do,” Holgorsen said. “We played incredibly poor up front.”
Turnovers fed directly into 21 points for Maryland, so by most metrics, West Virginia’s defense made a decent showing—though no defender was in the mood to confirm such after a lopsided loss. The defensive front contained quarterback C.J. Brown on the zone-read and limited Maryland to merely 2.4 yards per carry overall. After averaging 262 yards rushing per game, the Terps settled for only 113 Saturday.
Will Clarke registered both of WVU’s sacks and whiffed on a third when Brown dodged him in the end zone. Who could have foreseen the near-safety was the Mountaineers’ best chance to score?
With 2.5 TFLs among his five stops, Dontrill Hyman showed continued progress. Kyle Rose (3.5 tackles) flashed some hustle by catching Terps running back Brandon Ross 25 yards downfield after a screen catch.
Nose guard Shaq Rowell made four tackles, and with no offensive players speaking to the media, he once more emerged as the team’s postgame spokesman. “They beat the hell out of us,” he said. “I’m embarrassed. I’m being real with you. I’m embarrassed. All three sides of the ball, we got our ass kicked.”
From what was perhaps Jared Barber’s best game (four stops,1.5 TFLs), the Sam linebacker regretted two near-interceptions that eluded him. The first came on Maryland’s opening drive, backed up at its own 11. The second slipped through Barber’s hands and was corralled by tight end Dave Stinebaugh for the game’s first touchdown.
Monday should bring an injury update on Barber’s fellow inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, who left in the first half and didn’t re-appear. His presence figures to be vital to WVU’s chances of slowing Oklahoma State next Saturday.
One injury that appeared gruesome but wasn’t—the twisted left leg of Brandon Golson—sent the Buck linebacker writhing after a collision with Clarke on a first-quarter sack. Yet Golson looked nimble as ever upon returning in the second half. (Marvin Gross had a quarterback pressure and a third-down tackle in the interim.)
Doug Rigg (3.5 stops) tracked a seam route to break up a pass in the end zone and made a mid-air goal-line hit that delayed Maryland’s score before the half.
Eric Kinsey continues to look capable at the backup Buck, though he lost containment on Deon Long’s 16-yard run.
The expense of rendering Stefon Diggs a non-factor contributed to Deon Long’s productive day (six catches for 98 yards). Brown overthrew Long on another potential big-gainer, culminating in safety Darwin Cook cracking the former WVU signee.
Travis Bell, who frequently had his hands full in man coverage, walloped Long on a sideline route and received a personal foul flag. Given the climate of officials erring on the side of safety, Bell was fortunate to avoid a targeting ejection.
On the opposite side, Icky Banks flattened Diggs on an incomplete screen pass and wound up with 3.5 stops.
With Kwiatkoski sidelined, Karl Joseph (eight tackles) reclaimed his spot as the team’s top tackler. Nickelback K.J. Dillon, healthy after sitting out a week, crashed in on a run blitz to bat loose an option pitch that he also recovered at the Maryland 26.
Reserve cornerback Daryl Worley showed his downfield cover skills by breaking up deep shots intended for Long and Diggs.
Reminiscent of the Oklahoma loss, a WVU punt-return gaffe proved crucial. This time it was Carswell who misjudged the ball as it bounced off his leg for a turnover at the Mountaineers’ 24-yard line. Three plays later, the Terps led 7-0.
West Virginia’s punt- and kick-coverage units were solid, and Nick O’Toole’s eight punts equated to a 46-yard average with three dropped inside the 20.
But West Virginia’s kick-return unit was tagged with two flags (holding and Illegal block) and its field-goal defense was caught with a 12th-man infraction.
You would have had a hard time convincing anyone, even Maryland’s players, that they were capable of burying WVU by halftime. Yet this loss made for such stinging embarrassment that it creates consternation and uncertainty heading into the Big 12 schedule. (And as an inescapable footnote, it gives WVU five losses by three touchdowns or more within the last 12 games.)
Holgorsen’s offense—completely dysfunctional to a depth he has never suffered as a head coach or coordinator—features inconsistent receivers, weak line play and a gaping question at quarterback. How that gets fixed, or simply made adequate, will determine whether WVU has any hopes of a bowl invite.
“It’s 100 percent on me,” Holgorsen said. “Obviously, what I’m doing offensively is not working.”