Holy numbers 1s batman, has Tavon Austin been cloned?
Diggs (1) has proven difficult to contain.
Apparently Maryland receiver Stefon Diggs bears a striking resemblance to West Virginia’s all-purpose phenom.
For starters, both Diggs and Austin accumulate big numbers as return men for their respective teams. In fact, Diggs is statistically one of the Top 10 return men in the country.
The 6-foot, 185-pound freshman is averaging 13.8 yards on 11 punt returns and 30.8 yards on four kick returns. He is also tied for the team lead with nine receptions for 146 yards and a touchdown. He is also averaging 146 yards of all-purpose yards per game.
By contrast, Austin averaging 6.3 yards on three punt returns, 21.5 on two kick returns and is second on the team in receptions 21 for 166 yards and two touchdowns. He is averaging 154 yards per game in all-purpose yardage.
“He’s a Baltimore kid that wears No. 1 that’s a receiver and a return guy, I guess they’re clones,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “He’s a good player.”
And he is a lot of the offense for a young Maryland team that has struggled breaking in a new quarterback (Perry Hills), a young backfield and a young offensive line.
Holgorsen said that Diggs would be a “challenge for our coverage team.”
“We figure out what their schemes are and what we’ve got to do to contain guys like that,” Holgorsen said. “It’s about our coverage unit. We spend a lot of time on kickoff coverage, we spend a lot of time on punt coverage and we’ve got to get people downfield and make tackles.”
Austin is slightly outgaining Diggs, 154 to 146 in all-purpose yards per game.
Maryland (2-1) is a flipped image of West Virginia, led by an experienced defense that is giving up 19 points per game. The Terps are coming off a 24-21 loss to Connecticut.
“They’ve got a lot of experienced guys on defense, much like we are on offense,” Holgorsen said. “Much like we are on defense, they’ve got a lot of young guys on offense learning a new scheme.”
Holgorsen said that Maryland defensive lineman Joe Vellano caught his eye.
“He’s a guy we were concerned with last year,” Holgorsen said. “He’s a big, thick, try-hard guy. Defensively it’s about the same people who played last year. All the backers are, the same, both safeties are the same, one of the corners is the same. It’s much like we are offensively. They have eight or nine starters back.”
The Terps are starting Hills, who has struggled at times. Hills is 37 of 69 passing for 444 yards and three touchdowns. He has been picked off four times.
“He’s young and he is going to continue to get better,” Holgorsen said of the young QB. “He’s trying to figure things out. What they’re going through is what we would be going through if we had to start (true freshman) Ford Childress. When you play that many young kids there are times when it doesn’t look very good, there’s going to be times when it’s frustrating. With experienced guys it gets easier.”
That said, the defensive strategy is obvious, Holgorsen said.
“We’re going to want to be aggressive,” he said. “We’re going to want to attack them. With any young kid you going to want to give them different looks, try to confuse them.”
Wes Brown is the Terps leading rusher with 124 yards and a touchdown. Justin Pickett, a sophomore, has 116 yards rushing and two scores and Hills has 44 yards and two rushing scores.
While slow starts were the talk of the Mountaineer team this year, Holgorsen said starting the second half is now something he is addressing.
“We’ve done a good job starting fast,” Holgorsen said. “We have to start faster in the second half and we need to finish people. We haven’t done a good job of that. We let Marshall keep playing. We let James Madison keep playing and score late.
“Last year we started fast against Maryland and we let them keep playing. They scored a bunch in the second half and almost beat is in the end. We need to do a better job of starting fast in the second half and finishing people off.”
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Geno Smith is off to a smoking start, completing 66 of 75 passes for 734 yards and nine touchdowns.
Holgorsen said that, from a statistical standpoint, it’s as quick a start as he can remember. But none of that is what has impressed the coach.
“The completion percentage is awesome, throwing touchdowns is awesome (but) taking care of the football is more important than the two stats you just said,” Holgorsen said. “He’s perfect on turnovers. He hasn’t thrown an interception. He’s doing a good job of taking care of the ball. I credit our receivers with that as well as far as getting open and not having a lot of drops.
“And then in the pocket he’s done a good job as well. He hasn’t taken a sack. He got awful close last week. There were three or four times last week when they could’ve got to him and he just physically just threw people off him because he is a strong kid. We’ve gotta tie that up. But he’s done a good job taking care of the ball.”
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Holgorsen said that 59 players appeared in the Mountaineers’ 42-12 win over James Madison Saturday.
The coach said playing that many kids, a lot of them in the fourth quarter, contributed to the slow down late in the game.
“We gave the touchdown in the fourth quarter last week (and) there were like six missed tackles,” Holgorsen said. “Offensively, for the second straight game we didn’t score in the fourth quarter with our young guys. It’s not all just young guys; there are some experienced guys out there as well. I don’t care who they are, their job is to move the ball or tackle people. It’s great to play those guys in key situations. But it needs to look a little better than it has in the past two fourth quarters.”