WVU Football: Early Challenge Could Benefit the Mountaineers

Amit BatraCorrespondent IIISeptember 24, 2012

MORGANTOWN, WV - SEPTEMBER 22:  Geno Smith #12 of the West Virginia Mountaineers leads the team onto the field before the game against the Maryland Terrapins  on September 22, 2012 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

With West Virginia escaping over Maryland this past weekend, there was a lot of disappointment and uneasiness for Mountaineer fans around the country.

It's not all bad, however.  In the long run, this game is what WVU may have needed.

While senior quarterback Geno Smith had an above-average game, there were tackling issues, offensive line problems and a weak rushing game.

Still, the Mountaineers found a way to win.  That's what good teams do.

With the exception of senior inside receiver Tavon Austin, no one on the offensive side of the ball had a game to write home about.

This game against the Terps could be looked back on as the start of something special.

WVU got the idea that it has a long way to go to be where it wants to be.  It was good for the Mountaineers to get a challenge before Big 12 Conference play starts. 

Smith still is playing Heisman-caliber football, but he now knows that he will need to make plays to get the team out of trouble if things aren't going well.  His leader mentality will need to be evident on the field.

Head coach Dana Holgorsen knows that this team has a long way to go in terms of all three sides of the ball.  Within the secondary, there are issues.  The defense needs to learn how to tackle and stop what should be minimal gains from becoming touchdowns.

The Terps' freshman quarterback Perry Hills had chances throughout the afternoon on Saturday.  He connected with star receiver Stefon Diggs three times, but those three times accounted for 113 yards and pair of touchdowns. 

What did we learn as a positive from Saturday's game?  The defense can get to a quarterback and create sacks.  Yes, that was a refreshing sight for Mountaineers fans.

It was good for Smith to deal with some pressure early in the game.  Not every game will be as easy as those against Marshall and James Madison.  It's good for this team to learn that now rather than later. 

Don't get me wrong; Maryland isn't a bad team by any means.  Yes, it beat William & Mary by only one point, but it is still a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Smith also learned how to adjust without a superb game from one of his main receivers in junior Stedman Bailey.  Bailey only had six catches for 55 yards.  He was rather quiet on the day.

I know, that's mainly due to the play of Austin.  The senior had 13 catches for 179 yards and three touchdowns.

For the first time in three games, WVU found its starting quarterback to be much involved in the last quarter.  It had to happen sometime, right?

While the Mountaineers were able to win by a lot more, it was good to see a true test for this West Virginia team.  It only gets harder from this point on. 

Where does this WVU team go from here?

Well, nowhere, since it plays against Baylor at home this upcoming weekend.

Still, WVU needs to improve for the approaching game against the Bears.  Adjustments and fixing up what went wrong on Saturday is the main focus this week. 

Tackling, rushing and protecting the quarterback should be some of the main objectives to focus on before the team from Waco, Texas arrives to Morgantown.

Don't fret too much over this past weekend, West Virginia fans.  This game was only a wake-up call for the Mountaineers.