No. 25 WVU using bye week to address problems

No. 25 WVU using bye week to address problems

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) The defense stinks. The offense is stuck in neutral.

Every game from here on out is a must-win or No. 25 West Virginia will likely fall short of its preseason goal of going to a BCS bowl.

A two-game losing streak is on hold temporarily as the Mountaineers (5-2, 2-2) use a bye week to pay closer attention to their many problems.

``Nobody's pointing fingers anywhere,'' coach Dana Holgorsen said Tuesday. ``We all understand that we have to continue to as coaches put them in position to be successful, teach them how their technique is, teach them how they make the plays, build confidence in them to where they can do it, and then get out there and work hard on it.''

West Virginia went 1-2 in October, the first time since 2001 that the Mountaineers had a losing record in the month.

Their uncharacteristic losing ways have some players wanting to face an opponent right away.

That includes wide receiver Tavon Austin, who scored West Virginia's only two touchdowns in last week's blowout loss to No. 4 Kansas State. The nation's all-purpose yards leader from last season is averaging 203 yards a game, second to Kent State's Dri Archer.

``The bye probably would be good for us right now,'' Austin said. ``But at the same time we can beat up on each other in practice all day. But if we go against somebody else (and don't play well), then what's the point of the bye week?

``I want to get it on now. I don't want to wait anymore.''

Ditto for offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, who doesn't believe an entire season hinges on a few losses.

``It's like everything in life,'' Dawson said. ``There's going to be good days and bad days. So we have to stay positive and just keep forging ahead. That's the only way you work yourself out of a rut, in my opinion.''

The focus of this week's patch-up efforts starts with a young defense, which has been forced to use numerous freshmen and sophomores.

In addition to allowing the most passing yards of any FBS team, the Mountaineers have three total sacks and made one interception over their last three games. The unit has done a respectable job against the run but must do better in other areas.

Defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said that includes ``creating turnovers, three-and-outs, tackling. When we get them in a passing situation, we've got to make sure we get off the field.''

On offense, after throwing 24 touchdown passes in his first five games, quarterback Geno Smith has just two in the last two weeks. Holgorsen would like to see better pass protection to enable Smith to throw downfield more often.

Smith blamed himself after the Kansas State loss for not doing a better job of leadership. Holgorsen said he's talked to Smith about that.

``If he thinks that all this falls on his shoulders, he's sadly mistaken,'' Holgorsen said. ``He needs to relax a little bit and not bear that burden. That's not his job. We're going to get him back on track from the standpoint of just worrying what he needs to control.''

Lately, good weeks of practice haven't translated to solid games. The Mountaineers have been outscored 104-28 in losses to Kansas State and No. 15 Texas Tech and find themselves needing a turnaround to keep pace with the first-place Wildcats (7-0, 4-0).

There are games against four of the six teams that are tied with or ahead of the Mountaineers in the Big 12 standings, starting Nov. 3 at home against TCU (5-2, 2-2). The Horned Frogs will be West Virginia's third straight opponent allowing fewer than 330 yards a game. Only two FBS teams have more interceptions than TCU's 14.

Last year in its final season in the Big East, the Mountaineers trailed by two games in the loss column with three weeks left in the season. They won their three remaining games, teams ahead of them lost and West Virginia earned the league's automatic BCS berth.

``We bounced back last year,'' Holgorsen said. ``This is different because of who we're playing. We're playing some pretty good teams.''

Staying patient with the game plan will be key. Holgorsen said he tells his players all the time that if they are going to rely on the coaching staff to make the perfect call every single play, then failure is inevitable.

``Nobody can do that. Nobody can make the perfect call all the time,'' he said. ``So we can put you in position the best we possibly can. We need to do a better job.''

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short.