WVU’s plan a mystery

If the plan going into Saturday’s season opener against William and Mary was to show its future opponents nothing, then West Virginia University head football coach Dana Holgorsen and his staff did a great job in the Mountaineers’ 24-17 come-from-behind victory.

But, if the plan was to prove to the loyal fans of the old gold and blue that this year’s product was going to be just as good offensively and better defensively than it was in 2012, then they failed.

Those who buy the tickets, however, are hoping the latter is proven wrong when WVU travels to Norman, Oklahoma, on Saturday to take on the Sooners.

“Obviously, in the first half, there were some nerves,” defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. “It was a little shocking. We busted some assignments. The (McBride) kid made three really, really good catches and was in position.

“They made the plays and we didn’t. Once we got our feet on the ground in the second half, you could tell our kids were much more comfortable. We kept telling them, look, don’t play outside the framework of the defense. In the first half we had too many busted assignments and gave up a few vertical shots…. It caught me off-guard. I didn’t expect some of those nerves to be there.”

To its credit, the defense did show up during the second 30 minutes of action, shutting out the Tribe while limiting the visitors to 108 second half yards-309 for the game despite playing a vanilla scheme that was approximately 70 percent base with a few nickle and blitz packages mixed in.

Offensively, junior quarterback Paul Millard had many asking the question-“Geno who”-following an 8-play opening drive in which the former backup completed all four of his pass attempts for 40 yards as the Mountaineers scored the game’s first touchdown on an 11-yard run by former University of Houston standout Chris Sims with 11:08 remaining in the first quarter.

Little did any of the “announced” 56,350 in attendance realize that those would be the only points scored by WVU in the first half, that William and Mary would take a 17-7 lead at the intermission, or that the Mountaineers would not regain the lead until the final 3:22 of the game.

To say the least there were more than a few anxious followers in the stands at Milan Puskar Stadium letting the coaching staff hear their disapproval over a subpar opening game performance.

But, then again, it was opening day for a program that is trying to rebuild an offense minus three of its deadliest weapons from a year ago and a defense that is trying to regain some confidence after surrendering more than 38 points and nearly 480 yards per outing in 2012.

A likewise display this Saturday night against an Oklahoma squad looking to break into the Top 10 and place its name among the possible suitors to face an SEC team (probably Alabama) in the National Championship could result in a very ugly outcome.

Contact Jim Butta at jbutta@newsandsentinel.com