MORGANTOWN - Dana Holgorsen said having an open weekend is not the most ideal thing for his West Virginia University football team to be facing following its offensive explosion over Marshall.
But he said it will give his players a chance to correct some of the flaws the coach saw in the game.
"Defensively, we need to tackle better and get better on third down," he said at Tuesday's weekly press conference. "If you tackle better on third down, you're probably getting off the field, which reduces snaps, which reduces the yards."
The Inter-Mountain photo by John Wickline
WVU linebacker Isaiah Bruce heads toward the end zone after scooping up a Marshall fumble during Saturday’s 69-34 victory.
Bruce, a red-shirt freshman, was named the Big 12 Conference's Defensive Player of the Week after leading the Mountaineers with 16 tackles and the fumble return for a touchdown.
Holgorsen said in his experience, most teams do begin to tackle better as the season wears on. He said that trend has to follow for the Mountaineers.
"That's the one thing that has to improve," he said. "If it doesn't, we won't be very good."
He quickly pointed out that many of the Mountaineers on defense were either true or red-shirt freshmen.
"If you count them, those guys have never tackled in a college football game," the coach said. "We tackled good and practiced well together. But it's still different on game day."
One of those freshmen, linebacker Isaiah Bruce, was named the Big 12 Conference's Defensive Player of the Week.
Bruce, a red-shirt freshman in his WVU debut, returned a fumble for a touchdown and led the team with 16 tackles.
"Isaiah has practiced well in spurts, but we didn't know if he could do that for four quarters," Holgorsen said. "He has tremendous conditioning and he's a smart kid."
Quarterback Geno Smith was tabbed as the conference's Offensive Player of the Week Tuesday. Smith completed 32 of 36 passes for 323 yards.
He threw for four touchdowns and ran for another, mostly in just three quarters of play. Smith was also named the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week.
The Mountaineers, 1-0 and ranked ninth in the latest Associated Press poll and eighth in the USA Today Coaches Poll, return to the field Sept. 15 at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., to take on James Madison University.
Kick-off is slated for 4:30 p.m., and the game will be televised on Root Sports.