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Holgorsen has Mountaineers starting fast

Sep. 20, 2012 @ 12:05 AM

MORGANTOWN -- A common theme throughout most of the No. 7 West Virginia football team's game a year ago was trying to solve the problem the Mountaineers had with slow starts.

From the times the Mountaineers struggled against Norfolk State at the beginning of the season until their nail-biter against South Florida, WVU wasn't able to find a rhythm until the second half of most games.

But in the second season under head coach Dana Holgorsen, that problem looks as though it's getting closer to being solved, as the Mountaineers (2-0) have scored 63 first-half points through the first two games of the season.

Holgorsen is hoping that trend can continue this weekend against Maryland, a noon home game in Milan Puskar Stadium.

"I know we didn't start very good in the first two games (last season), but we started fast against Maryland last year," Holgorsen said. "We've done a good job of starting fast (this season). We need to start faster in the second half, and we need to finish people. We haven't done a good job of that."

One of the things Holgorsen wasn't pleased with came early in the second half of the Mountaineers' 42-12 victory against James Madison last week.

After a goal-line stand by the WVU defense swayed even more momentum into its favor, the West Virginia offense took a safety on its ensuing drive.

"Other than the four snaps of goal line, the defense started slow. We gave up two drives all the way to the goal line. I'm happy with the goal-line stands, they were tremendous, but we were really soft in the first two drives," Holgorsen said.

"Offensively, we looked like crap on the third-and-one. We got the ball on the goal line and we were soft. We were soft up front, we ran soft. It was just soft. They played with more effort and played harder than us for half of the third quarter."

The head coach said the energy from his team, with the exception of the early part of the second half, was much improved from earlier this season, and he hopes to see that improve even more against an inexperienced Maryland (2-1) team led by freshman quarterback Perry Hills.

Hills has completed 54 percent of his passes this season for 444 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions.

"He's just young. He's going to continue to get better," Holgorsen said. "What they're going through is the same thing we'd be going through if we had to start (freshman quarterback) Ford Childress. When you play that many young kids, there are going to be times where it doesn't look very good, times where it is frustrating and they're not moving the ball as well as they'd like to."

The Terrapins bring a playmaker that resembles WVU inside receiver Tavon Austin in the form of in-state product Stefon Diggs. The freshman Gaithersburg, Md., native has emerged as a threat as a receiver and kick returner early on for Maryland, much like Austin was able to do in the early part of his career at West Virginia.

Diggs has caught nine passes for 146 yards and a score this season.

"He has some twitch, but there are a whole lot of kids that have twitch. He's a Baltimore kid that wears No. 1 that's a receiver and return guy -- I guess they're clones," Holgorsen said. "They're called good players and there are more than just Tavon Austin and Stefon Diggs across the country, I can assure you of that.

"We figure out what their schemes are and what we have to do to contain guys like that."