Penalties Hamper Spartans
MORGANTOWN The very first sentence in the Norfolk State game notes read: ”Norfolk State takes a step up in class when it faces Big East co-defending champion West Virginia…”
Did it really?
The Spartans were flagged 17 times for 177 yards – both numbers a record for WVU opponents and both more than Mountaineer Field had ever seen.
”Don’t even go there,” NSU coach Pete Adrian said. ”I have been coaching 43 years, and I think we had 120 yards in the red zone. If we are that stupid as players, then that’s the way it is. I’ll have to watch the film, but the officials are saying they did their job. So they did their job. Simple as that.”
Smith on record pace
With his 371 passing yards and four touchdowns, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith has 620 yards through two games, putting him on a pace for 4,030 passing yards and 39 touchdowns. Both numbers would obliterate school records, which were set by Marc Bulger in 1998.
That year Bulger threw for 3,607 yards and 31 touchdowns. The same could be said for completions and attempts. Bulger set those records, too, at 274 and 419, respectively. Smith is on pace to throw it 448 times and complete 299 of them.
Saturday’s yardage numbers were a single-game best for Smith – and good enough to pass current AD Oliver Luck for seventh place on the all-time single-game list at the school – but even he didn’t escape coach Dana Holgorsen’s sweeping assessment that no one played particularly well, and thus, no one was pleased
”He needs to get better,” Holgorsen said of Smith. ”He missed some checks and he got the wrong checks a couple time. He plays well. He gets tempo and he plays with some balance and some enthusiasm. He has a voice on the sidelines and he’s one of the only voices on the sidelines with his experience and leadership. He’ll get better.”
Kicking Times Two
It didn’t look good at halftime for the Mountaineers. Norfolk State led every measurable category, including the number of kickers who can make a field goal.
When a penalty pushed a field goal out of regular kicker Ryan Estep’s range on the Spartans’ first drive, Everett Goldberg came in and nailed a 50-yarder. Estep hardly took it personally. He came back out the next three times NSU was in range and nailed them all, giving his team a 12-10 lead at halftime.
With a little more than 13 minutes left in the first half, West Virginia ran six straight plays from the NSU 1 and never did punch it in, settling for a 17-yard field goal by Tyler Bitancurt.
First was an incomplete pass, then Vernard Roberts was stuffed for no game, one play before a pass interference play in the end zone that gave the Mountaineers a first down. Then it was back to Roberts for another no-gainer in front of a completed pass for no gain and and incomplete pass.
”It’s flat-out embarrassing,” Holgorsen said. “If you want to say it’s scheme, say it’s scheme, but it’s the same stuff we’ve done for a long time, but if you can’t come off and move people, then it’s not good.”
On the other side, Adrian saw something in his guys.
”The thing I’m really proud of,” he said, ”is when’s the last time you stopped a West Virginia team (six times) inside the 1? That was really something we’re going to hang our hat on. We’re real pleased with that.”
Saturday’s game marked the fourth time Norfolk State has played an FBS team, having played Rutgers twice and Kentucky once – all within the past five seasons. Though the Spartans scored 12 points against the Mountaineers, they didn’t score a touchdown and have yet to do so against a Division I foe.
”We actually didn’t know that,” defensive back Terence Garvin said. ”I know they’re a real good team. They had some skill players that could do stuff. They had a lot of good players. We just really buckled down when they got close and we kept them out of the end zone.”
The WVU defense has yielded six field goals through two games but has yet to surrender a touchdown. The only TD against West Virginia this season was an 87-yard kick return by Marshall’s Andre Booker.