Bowling Green-West Virginia Preview

BY foxsports • September 27, 2011

West Virginia's Geno Smith is one of the nation's elite quarterbacks, but a sloppy performance in his last game left him frustrated with his progress.

The lack of improvement on defense may be a more pressing concern for coach Dana Holgorsen.

The 22nd-ranked Mountaineers will try to bounce back from their first loss when they host Bowling Green on Saturday.

West Virginia began this week attempting to move past a disappointing 47-21 loss to then-No. 2 LSU last Saturday night. The Mountaineers (3-1) felt like they let one slip away after they outgained the Tigers 533-366, but were ultimately undone by sloppy play in all phases.

There may have been no one as frustrated as Smith, who threw for 463 yards and two touchdowns, setting school records in passing yards, completions (38) attempts (65).

Despite the big numbers, the two figures that bothered Smith were his two interceptions and one fumble in LSU territory.

"I think that I did some good things," Smith said. "But I think I had way too many negatives. Had I done better, we may have been in a better position to win the game late, but that's the way the game goes. You have to learn from it and just get better."

Smith's miscues may not have been as costly if the defense played better. The 47 points were the most West Virginia has allowed since a 48-22 loss to Virginia in the 2002 Continental Tire Bowl.

The lack of progress on defense has been an ongoing concern in Morgantown. The Mountaineers have allowed 843 yards of offense in their last two games, and they've allowed their opponents to score first in all four contests.

Holgorsen said the team needs to be more effective at forcing turnovers. West Virginia failed to record one Saturday for the third time in 2011 after posting 23 takeaways last year.

"I keep talking about it. ... All the defensive guys work on stripping the ball (in practice)," Holgorsen said. "We work on it and we talk about it. Other than that, it comes down to players making plays."

West Virginia also has recorded only one sack after finishing third in the nation last year with 45.

Part of the ineffectiveness on defense may be due to inexperience. Seven starters are new.

"When guys do things well, we tell them and try to build on it," Holgorsen said. "When guys do things wrong, we tell them to do it this way or that way then move on. ... We want to keep the positives and continue to move in that direction. If we do that, then we have a good chance of being a good football team."

West Virginia will get one final tuneup before Big East play begins when it hosts Bowling Green (3-1), which opened its Mid-American Conference slate with a 37-23 win at Miami of Ohio last Saturday.

Anthon Samuel ran 96 yards for a touchdown to cap the scoring in the fourth quarter while Matt Schilz completed 19 of 24 passes for 183 yards, three touchdowns and one interception as the Falcons surpassed last year's win total.

Bowling Green held the RedHawks to 308 yards of offense, including just 43 on the ground. Opponents are averaging 294.3 yards and 19.8 points against the Falcons, a big reason for the team's promising start.

Last season, they ranked 102nd in the FBS in yards per game allowed (432.0) and 100th in points allowed (33.6).

"We talk about making stops and getting off the field when we needed to," defensive lineman Kevin Moore said. "And we had a lot of players, both young and old, making big plays."

This is the third meeting all-time between the programs and first since 1991. West Virginia has won both.

Bowling Green has lost three in a row against the Top 25 since a 27-17 win at then-No. 25 Pittsburgh in 2008.

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