Special teams gaffes plague No. 22 West Virginia

BY foxsports • September 27, 2011

West Virginia's special teams gaffes were almost too numerous to count against LSU and Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen can only hope there's enough time to fix them all.

No. 22 West Virginia gave up the most points at home in six years in a 47-21 loss to LSU on Saturday.

Holgorsen is trying to sort out bad punts, poor field position blamed in part on a lack of punt returns, and two missed tackles on an LSU kickoff return that went for a touchdown.

''The only way of fixing that sort of thing is getting out there and working at it,'' Holgorsen said Tuesday. ''We're not going to make wholesale changes because the people that are on those units are guys that we've got. We can't do anything else other than just coach them and get them better at what they're doing.

''So we'll work hard on it. We're not going to hit panic mode.''

The battle of field position is sure to continue for West Virginia (3-1) on Saturday against Bowling Green (3-1), which leads the nation in net punting with an average of 45 yards. West Virginia is dead last at just under 30 yards per punt.

Setting the tone for the sour night against LSU was Corey Smith's 14-yard punt on the first series that led to a short touchdown drive for the Tigers.

Of LSU's 14 possessions, eight started on the Tigers' 40-yard line or better and only one touchdown drive was longer than 60 yards.

When it came time to get the ball back, West Virginia's Tavon Austin, one of the nation's best punt returners, didn't get a single return. LSU's Brad Wing averaged 49 yards on six punts and West Virginia started six possessions inside its 15.

''LSU has been known for being as good as a special teams team as there has been in college football over the last decade,'' Holgorsen said. ''Part of the thing that was discouraging for everybody involved was the fact that they were far better than us in all four phases. They just set the bar and we've got to work hard to get it to the point where we're like they are.''

Holgorsen said he doesn't expect the speedy Austin to field every punt that comes his way because there's a lot of ground to cover. He placed the blame on others needing to hold their blocks.

''I thought their punter did as good a punting performance as I've seen in all my years of coaching as far as where he placed it,'' Holgorsen said.

Special teams aren't the only phase Holgorsen needs to tweak. West Virginia is still looking to balance out its offense.

Although Geno Smith threw for 463 yards on Saturday night against one of the nation's most respected defenses, the Mountaineers are 115th in rushing offense at about 77 yards per game.

Freshman Andrew Buie sat out the LSU game with an injury. Freshman Dustin Garrison got his most extensive work of the season and ran for 46 yards on 10 carries, including a 1-yard score.

Holgorsen said fans shouldn't expect performances like he saw last year as Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator when the Cowboys' Kendall Hunter ran for 1,548 yards and 16 touchdowns

''We're still searching for guys that are every-down backs, which we don't have one yet,'' Holgorsen said. ''We'll get to the point where we'll trust those guys more and we'll give them the ball more. We're still missing that guy that can burst through that, pick his feet up and get through it.''


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