A Test Awaits

Despite telling his players all week that they should respect FCS opponent Norfolk State, Dana Holgorsen said Monday he doesn't believe West Virginia heeded that advice. He expects few such problems, though, when the No. 18 Mountaineers travel to Maryland this Saturday.

The Terrapins got the attention of the nation on Monday, Sept. 5 when they knocked off Miami 32-24. Of course, the Hurricanes' roster was depleted due to several suspensions related to NCAA violations in that program, but still, Maryland's performance was impressive.

First-year Terps head coach and long-time WVU foe Randy Edsall will have had nearly two weeks to focus on this year's iteration of the Mountaineers, as Maryland did not play this past week.

"They're going to be familiar with what we do to the point we need to hurry up, play catch-up and get in a routine," Holgorsen said Monday morning on the weekly Big East Conference coaches' teleconference. "Football is about getting in a routine to have the proper days to prepare to play any game. It doesn't matter who you're playing."

That routine was something West Virginia (2-0) did not have the luxury of enjoying last week. It endured a lightning-delayed and ultimately shortened game against Marshall (a 34-13 win) and only had two normal practice days the following week to prepare for Norfolk State.

Perhaps that showed in what was a sloppy first half that saw the Spartans of the MEAC take a 12-10 lead into the halftime break. WVU did emerge from those struggles, scoring on all seven of its true second half possessions (including six touchdowns) to turn that contest into a 55-12 laugher by game's end.

"I'm proud of the way the guys woke up and played well in the second half, did what they were supposed to do," Holgorsen said, closing the book on his team's week two victory.

But a shoddily-played 30 minutes might spell doom for the Mountaineers this week against what will easily be the most talented team they have faced thus far in the young 2011 season.

Holgorsen pointed to his team's relatively poor offensive statistics in the opening stages of games as a point of emphasis, something that must be corrected if WVU hopes to take the Byrd Stadium crowd out of the equation.

"I don't know what the yardage output is in the first quarter, but I'd imagine we're getting slaughtered on it," the first-year coach said. "I know we've only scored three points in the first quarter, and when you're on the road, you've got to try to start out fast.

"They'll be rowdy and have a good crowd, and that's a tough place to play. It's hard to get a home crowd out of it, but starting fast is about the only chance you've got."

Unlike Holgorsen, Edsall wasn't exactly known for his explosive offenses in his previous stop at UConn. But Maryland fans had reasons for optimism on that side of the ball after week one.

Terrapins quarterback Danny O'Brien completed 31 of 44 passes for 348 yards and a touchdown in his team's season-opening win over Miami. Running back Davin Meggett added 92 yards on the ground on only 21 carries -- an average of 4.4 yards per attempt.

But those numbers weren't what impressed Holgorsen, considered an offensive guru.

"We preach about playing smart all the time, and they preach about being smart as well," Holgorsen said. "They're going to be real good at turnover margin. They're going to be real good at not being penalized. You look at last year, and their first game [at Maryland] and it's the same thing."

That's a testament to Edsall, the long-time coach at UConn who left that program this past offseason after steering the Huskies to a Big East championship and a Fiesta Bowl bid in 2010.

"I've got a ton of respect for Randy Edsall," Holgorsen said. "I mean, I don't know him, but just looking at the bio, where he's been, what he's done and what he accomplished at UConn obviously, you know, he's all about being very disciplined. I respect that. It doesn't matter what your offensive scheme or defensive schemes are, you know, it's about being disciplined. They're really good at that."

That discipline, particularly on defense, might be the biggest early test for Holgorsen's West Virginia offense -- and truly the coach's first chance to get a real indication of how the installation of his scheme has come along compared to his work in previous stints as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State and Houston.

Still, early returns have been somewhat promising. Through two weeks, the Mountaineers are tied for 19th nationally in scoring offense at 44.5 points per game -- despite losing essentially the entire fourth quarter of the Marshall game due to weather concerns.

"There's no gauge," Holgorsen said. "I still really don't know where we're at right now. This next week will tell a lot, obviously. When you go against a good team on the road, they're going to expose some things and we're going to address things that get exposed."

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