Different Weekend. Same old story.
The West Virginia Mountaineers again struck quickly with a 53-yard touchdown run less than five minutes into the game at Connecticut Friday night. UConn couldn't even get a first down, and WVU ended the first quarter with a 10-0 lead and seemed well in control. But West Virginia fans could not relax. We have seen this scenario before.
The remainder of the game was a fiasco on offense, and the Mountaineers suffered a 16-13 overtime loss to a team playing with its third quarterback and whose previous wins were over Texas Southern and Buffalo.
After the initial quick score, West Virginia had eight more possessions in Connecticut territory (including five in the fourth quarter or overtime) and managed to score all of sux points. In the third quarter on fourth-and-1 a handoff was fumbled. On another possession, quarterback Geno Smith failed to protect the ball which resulted in a lost fumble. Three other fourth quarter possessions at or across midfield resulted in punts after either negative running plays or a sack. And then to top it all off the WVU was at the 1-yard line ready to take a touchdown lead in overtime when a pulling guard collided with Ryan Clarke causing yet another lost fumble. The Mountaineers literally could not get out of their own way.
The West Virginia offense at times was able to move the ball (414 total yards), but on virtually each possession somewhere a negative play or penalty would occur which could not be overcome. A total of 21 plays (17 rushes and four completed passes) resulted in gains of 2 yards or less, nine of those for negative yardage. Add in the incomplete passes and the result is that on 33 out of 81 plays WVU was unable to gain even 3 yards.
Breakdowns are occurring on the offensive line keep the Mountaineers from being able to sustain and finish drives, and it hasn't just been one or two guys. This has been a problem going clear back to last season, and with two thirds of schedule having been played in 2010 it isn't likely to be solved. The guys playing are the best linemen on the team or they wouldn't be starting.
WVU actually appears to be more effective operating out of the I formation, yet the spread is the staple of the offense. I'm just a fan and not a football coach, but for whatever its worth my observation is that spread offenses don't really work in college football without a running quarterback. And we don't have one of those.
The defense has yielded but one touchdown in each of the last two games, yet both ended in losses. Unfortunately, however, they have been unable to create takeaways the last two weeks, and with the offense alternating interceptions one week and fumbles the next, the loss of the turnover battle means a loss on the field.
It is remarkable how quickly things can turn sour in a football season. Less than three weeks ago the Mountaineers were ranked 20th in the BCS ratings with their only loss to an undefeated top 10 team. Across the nation pundits were touting WVU as the clear favorite in a weakened Big East.
But two upset losses later a Mountaineer squad that once had some swagger has lost its confidence and a season that once held great promise appears to be unraveling.
West Virginia is off next week and does not play again until Cincinnati visits Morgantown on Nov. 13.