Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Special Teams Again Throw Scare into WVU

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Special Teams Again Throw Scare into WVU

Article excerpt

MORGANTOWN - In the old days, one could walk around neighborhoods in the Mountain State and hear Jack Fleming call the play-by-play of WVU football games. On Saturday, I imagined folks across the state were once again in unison.

When they uttered, "Oh no, not again."

Indeed, once again, the Mountaineers' special teams bugaboo appeared like a Halloween apparition and, once again, it has the team's fans scared.

West Virginia followers have seen it over and over in recent years. And over and over the finger has been pointed at assistant and special teams expert Joe DeForest.

On Tuesday, during WVU's weekly press conference, DeForest once again was on the hot seat.

Part of it, though, was because his behind was red with anger.

See, after a fine special teams start to the season, misadventures rattled the team in a loss to Oklahoma. The most egregious errors came via punt returns.

K.J. Dillon chose to return the Sooners' first punt from WVU's 7- yard line - and lost a yard. Later, freshman Gary Jennings caught a punt at his team's 4 and returned it 6 yards. In both instances, chances were the ball was headed into the end zone.

"They made bad decisions - both of them did, DeForest said. "We replaced K.J. and the other guy went in and did the same thing. They're taught to stand on the 10-yard line and don't back up.

You could almost see steam from his ears.

"That's Little League, DeForest continued. "So, we worked on it Sunday night. We'll work on it [Tuesday]. And [Wednesday] and Thursday and Friday. It's an inexcusable error that we have to, obviously, do a better job of coaching - because they apparently don't know where the 10 is.

It is a pretty simple concept. Find the 10. Don't step back.

Not surprisingly, Mountaineer head coach Dana Holgorsen tried to take the heat off DeForest. He's done that in the past. He also tried to take heat off the players.

But in doing so, Holgorsen reminded all how bad the punt situation used to be - when he was so frustrated he wouldn't even put a returner on the field.

"We're fielding it, which is fantastic, Holgorsen said. "We have two inexperienced guys. I'll take the blame for that. We put [them] on the 15- or 20-[yard lines] and that kid kicked it about 65 yards. They had to run backwards to go field the ball. I thought they did a great job, but lost track of where they were.

He went on to say "last week's special teams play was a wash.

"We had a huge challenge with [Oklahoma State's] return game and kept it in check, Holgorsen said. "So I consider that a wash. As an offensive guy, I'd prefer a little better field position, no question. But I don't care where we get the ball, we need to move the ball.

Actually, one could argue WVU's downfall Saturday started when Holgorsen chose to receive the opening kick after winning the coin toss. …

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