Here are some quick-hitters in the middle of a big game week:
I talked with West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, the team’s best playmaker, on the phone Tuesday night. Remember, WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen told The Charleston Daily Mail that Austin played through what likely was a dislocated finger suffered in Saturday’s victory over Norfolk State. Austin told me his finger is fine and that he feels close to 100 percent.
I should have asked Maryland Coach Randy Edsall if he knew the precise time he planned to release the classified information on the uniforms Wednesday via Twitter. We could have put a countdown clock on the blog so the nation could tick down the seconds until the Great Unveiling. Austin, a native of Baltimore, told me he thought the uniforms Maryland wore in the Miami game were cool and that he thought West Virginia would get dynamic uniforms next season.
Edsall was pleased that the bye week came after the Miami game because he knew his team would be emotionally spent from the Labor Day night game. Maryland dedicated two practices last week to preparing for the Mountaineers. While they have had an extra week to prepare, Maryland has 2.5 fewer hours to practice this week compared with West Virginia.
Watch the kickoffs Saturday. We know Austin is extremely dangerous in the punt and kickoff return game; he had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Marshall. Edsall also wants to see a more consistent effort from kicker Nick Ferrara. In practice, Edsall said, Ferrara could boot one into the end zone, only to kick the next one to the 15-yard line. He has been inconsistent. Edsall said that at times Ferrara thinks too much while kicking.
In the days leading up to the Miami game, Edsall said, he sat down with cornerback Cameron Chism because he was unhappy with some things that were happening in practice. Edsall did not go into detail about what aspects of Chism’s practice performance were bothering him. But Edsall said he challenged Chism. And the results in the Miami game spoke volumes. Chism forced the fumble that Joe Vellano caught in midair and returned for a touchdown. And Chism intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter and returned it for a score. Edsall said Chism should have fallen to the ground instead of risking a fumble and running toward the end zone.
Count me among those who have been wondering whether the Mountaineers were holding back offensively to a degree in their first two games. When a WVU reporter asked how much of the playbook Holgorsen has not yet used this season, Holgorsen said: “Quite a bit. You can’t go into a game with everything. You’ll blow your kids’ minds. You try to figure out what you can handle. It’s going to be awful hard for me to put a product out there that looks like the New England Patriots. I have had games like that, too, but probably not in game two.”
Consider the perception of both offenses before this season. Edsall kept specifics of his offense under lock and key throughout preseason camp. So the explosive nature of the offense against Miami was both a departure from what he showed at Connecticut as well as a pleasant development for the Maryland fan base. As for West Virginia, the Mountaineers fans were expecting a dynamic, high-octane offense from Holgorsen, who has been hailed as sort of an offensive guru because of his results at Oklahoma State, Houston and Texas Tech. In two games against inferior competition, there have been some hiccups. Holgorsen was asked about what may have been an absurdly high level of outside expectations for his offense before the season. “We tell coaches and players not to read anything you guys write,” Holgorsen said. “Do I think we’re pressing a little bit offensively? Yes. Do I think my expectations are bigger than your expectations? Probably so. But our players can’t be like that.” Holgorsen made clear that the offense is not exactly struggling, noting that it has scored on 70 percent of our drives. “We probably won’t maintain that” all season, he said.