HUNTINGTON — Marshall running back Rasheen Ali has seen plenty of success running the football in 2021.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — Perhaps the most important statistic to come out of Saturday's West Virginia victory over Texas was the complete dominance the Mountaineers had in ball control.
In most cases, coach Neal Brown admits, that is not nearly the first statistic he looks at but this week it became an issue for a couple of reasons:
a. Texas has a prolific, explosive offense
b. WVU is thin due to injuries on defense.
So, what better way to keep the Texas offense off the field, and with it the Mountaineer defense, than to keep the WVU offense on the field?
Why doesn't it rank higher on Brown's list of most important stats?
"It matters when the other team is really good on offense," he said. "If I had my druthers, I'd rather score fast, obviously. But that's not where we're at right now."
So how has it happened that they have found ways to keep the ball to themselves?
"The reason for time of possession is we haven't really played with a lot of tempo," Brown explained. "We've been methodical. We've done more 'check with me', especially since the bye week to get us into the best-case plays, so that eats up some clock. Then we've had some high-number-play drives, probably more than most teams."
Now obviously, part of that comes about because the Mountaineer defense rose to the occasion, did its thing on third down and got the ball away from Texas.
And with it, the offense did its part. The result was that the 31-23 final margin of victory was reflective of the fact the WVU ran 87 plays and Texas just 58. That's 29 more plays for WVU, That led to the Mountaineers having possession of the ball for 38:26 and Texas just 21:24 ... 17 more minutes with the ball in the hands of Jarret Doege and Leddie Brown.
"In the games we've won, our third downs have been really high," Brown noted and Texas was no different. "We've had some abnormal time differences a couple of times. It's something you don't see that often."
WVU held the Longhorns to just 2 of 10 on third down, 0 of 1 on fourth down, while they were frolicking to 12 first downs in 20 tries, 60%, and 1 of 2 on fourth down ... two of those key third-down conversions coming on third-and-18 after suffering consecutive
Doege's third-down performance against Texas was outstanding, hitting for 135 yards and a touchdown.
"He had a clean pocket. for the most part," Brown said, echoing Doege's post-game praise for the offensive line. "He also had good movement in the pocket and he really threw the ball.
"It's like with some of us. We have better days within our provession than others and he had a really day. The ball was jumping off his hand. You got back and look at some of those crossing patterns, like the first touchdown to Sam James. That was on point, and it was a great route by Sam. The ball was tight.
"I think we had some great plays, too. That was something we focused on; making sure they were his best plays," Brown said. "It's a little bit different process than you think sometimes. We emphasized using Jarret's best plays and making them work."
They were emphasizing more what Doege could do well as opposed to what Texas did poorly, trying make a match out of them so they could work.
A lot of that comes out of analytics.
Brown believes that the biggest effect analytics has had on offensive football is on third down decisions and decisions whether to go on fourth down, something that is far more common than it was even five years ago.
"That's the time I use it the most," Brown said. "Basically, I'll make the decision when we start the drive that we will go on some fourth downs. That makes you treat second down like you would first down. Then you play the third down like it's second down.
"Probably what it does as coaches is it gives confidence in making the decision because the data backs up what your gut is saying anyway."
Brown explained the decisions on going on fourth down comes off charts that they have and that change each week depending upon the opponent. He said any number of things are charted, how many possessions does your opponent possess, what's their stop rate on third down, what's the stop rate on fourth down. There's all these things go into it.
"It depends on what kind of game it is. When we played Clemson at Troy in 2016, it was the first time we started using it heavily. We on the minus-20 something and we went for it on fourth and 1. But there's a bunch that goes into it. I wouldn't say we follow it 100% but we're pretty close."
MORGANTOWN,W.Va. (WV News) — When discussing and working on aspects of improving the shooting of the basketball, items such as the arc of the shot, getting the ball over the front of the rim and position of the hand and wrist on the release are just some of the many items that come into play. For WVU head coach Bob Huggins, though, another aspect of the game also contributes heavily to shooting the ball well.
“I think to a large degree we will shoot the ball much much better when we pass it better,” said WVU’s veteran head coach, who isn’t limited to just the improvement of mechanics as a path to making the ball go in the hoop. “Our offense, instead of looking like a bunch of guys running into each other, will look like a fluid offense once we pass the basketball. If you think back, everybody has been able to pass the ball here. They’ve all learned to pass the basketball, and that’s key.”
While WVU’s offense hasn’t been as bad as Huggins described, it has not produced quite at the level he expected coming in to the season. The Mountaineers are making only 45% of their field goals (32% from three), and are being outshot by their opponents in both categories.
At least some of that stems from the fact that the timing and accuracy of West Virginia’s passes have been inconsistent at best. Passes have led shooters that are open into covered areas, and even those that reach their intended recipients have put them out of shape to catch and shoot smoothly.
“People don’t think about that as much as what they need to, but the key to shooting, and to offense, is to be able to have the ball in a position where you can catch it,” said Huggins, who has seen just 66 assists from his team in five games. “It’s not that we don’t have guys open. We don’t get the ball to them. Or we get it too late to them and they’re under the backboard, or get it too early to them and they have to bounce it.”
At least WVU is trying to move the ball on the perimeter. Attempts to get the ball inside have been few and far between, in part because none of the Mountaineers’ forwards have any proven ability to score with their backs to the basket. Huggins also sees passing miscues on some of those limited attempts, and doesn’t want his team to give up on trying to develop some inside scoring.
“When you throw it down around guys’ ankles it’s hard for them to scoop it up and finish around the rim,” he noted, detailing a problem that is pandemic across much of the college landscape. “You have to throw the ball away from the defense, and we don’t do that. “A pass (inside) ought to be from the waist up. If you throw it below their waist they probably aren’t going to score. Who wants to turn their hands over and kneel down like a catcher and then jump up and shoot one? No one is very good at that. It needs to be in a position where you can catch and finish. If you never pass the ball to someone his guy is going to stand in the lane. Why wouldn’t he?”
As might be expected, veteran guards Sean McNeil and Taz Sherman lead the Mountaineers with assists (18 and 13, respectively), but in third place is forward Gabe Osabuohien (10). He understands angles and positioning inside, and being able to deliver the ball there while also finding the proper player to kick the ball to or move it on the perimeter are two more of his many underappreciated and unnoticed strengths.
“We’ve always tried to get our bigs to pass the ball too — dribble handoffs, or something so they are involved in the offense,” Huggins observed.
While that won’t be a major part of WVU’s game this year, it can be a complementary one, as it was late in the Clemson game when Osabuohien drove into the lane, drew a help defender, and dumped the ball to Jalen Bridges for an open lay-up to cut the Tigers’ lead to two. Get a couple of those per game, and offensive vistas continue to open up.
With so many players from so many different programs, which emphasize different skills, it’s not surprising that some of the disappearing fundamentals of the game aren’t present as they all try to assimilate the Mountaineer way of playing the game. West Virginia, with its motion offense, needs to have accurate and on-time passing, and also has to get those dishes to its perimeter shooters so they can catch and shoot without delay. Achieve that, and it can compete with most any team on its schedule.
Trailing 8-6 at the start of the fourth quarter, Independence scored the game’s final 16 points to avoid the upset and beat No. 10 seed Roane …
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Kansas State football offense revolves around multi-purpose back Deuce Vaughn, who leads the Wildcats in both rushing and receiving. But slowing quarterback Skylar Thompson might be the key to a Mountaineer victory Saturday in Manhattan, Kansas.
First, though, a look at the diminutive Deuce, who is tenth nationally in yards form scrimmage (143 per game) and is the only player in the country with 800 or more rushing yards and 400 or more receiving yards this year. Defending Vaughn is a conundrum, because he truly can get the ball in any way, and anywhere on the field. He sets up teammates by drawing attention to himself, and just a moment’s inattention can result in a big play. Nearly 23% of his touches have resulted in a gain of 10 yards or more this season.
Thompson, though, has been the key to the Cats’ recent winning streak. Since returning from an injury that caused him to miss a pair of games, the five-year veteran has completed 72% of his passes while accounting for 1,318 yards and eight scores against just two interceptions.
His career completion percentage hovered around 60% prior to this season, and the boost in successful connections has helped the Cats extend drives, create more opportunities and have more chances to come up with big plays. He’s currently seventh nationally in completion percentage and 10th in passing efficiency (166.4) and if he approaches those marks this week, West Virginia will go home with a loss.
WVU will attempt to reverse his success rate with its usual strength, attempting to make him uncomfortable and making him move “off his spot” in the passing game. With Vaughn as an effective check-down and short range target, though, the Mountaineers have to account for one of the most effective backs in the league.
Kansas State will play in its 23rd bowl game this year, and 22 of those have occurred since 1990. The only prior appearance in postseason play for the Wildcats came in 1982, which ended a 70-year drought. Legendary head coach Bill Snyder owns 19 of K-State’s appearances.
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West Virginia head coach Neal Brown noted that Kansas State has totally revamped its defensive system, which means that much of what the Mountaineers schemed and executed successfully during its winning streak has to go into the file cabinet.
Under defensive coordinator Joe Klanderman, the Wildcats brought in six transfers. Four of those are in the secondary, which has gone to a three-down lineman and three-safety look that is similar, but not identical, to what Iowa State runs. The difference is that the Cats have an elite rusher in Felix Anudike-Uzomah, who leads the nation with 11 sacks, and don’t give opposing passers time to survey the field.
That is a key for the Mountaineers, whose offense doesn’t function well under pressure. Iowa State deployed its familiar cloud coverages and tried to muddle things up in the mid-range and downfield, but didn’t get much pressure on WVU’s backfield. Unhurried, West Virginia put together one of its best offensive showings of the season.
Kansas State isn’t likely to repeat that mistake, and if it can’t get pressure with its three-man front, will likely bring more defenders in an attempt to make the Mountaineer pocket unstable. It can also, like WVU, switch to a four-man front if necessary, and has a deep rotation that keeps it in top gear throughout the game.
Texas A&M is now tied with West Virginia for 15th place all-time in wins with 765. The Mountaineers and Aggies trail Clemson (774) by nine victories and lead Virginia Tech (759) by six.
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Virginia Tech has the reputation for blocking kicks and scoring on special teams, but Kansas State has been the best over the past two decades at putting points on the board when not on offense. The Wildcats have scored a combined 124 touchdowns on defense and special teams since 1999, which is seven more than Alabama and 24 more than the Hokies.
WVU, which is 76th nationally in kickoff return defense, will have to contend with the Wildcats’ Malik Knowles, who owns two runbacks for scores against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State this year and averages 31.2 yards per return.
WVU has gained just nine turnovers this year (five interceptions, four fumbles) to rank 105th out of 130 FBS teams nationally. Kansas State isn’t far ahead, though, having forced just 13 (52nd) through its nine games. In a contest that figures to be defensive-oriented, an extra possession or two could be even more critical than usual.
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Kansas State tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe is the only tight end in the nation with two receptions of 65 yards or longer this year, and the only distance that exceeds that is the total he’s traveled between schools. Imatorbhebhe is at his fourth FBS school, as he signed and went through spring practices with Florida in 2015, transferred to USC for the 2015 through 2019 seasons and spent the 2020 campaign at Illinois.
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Kansas State has outscored opponents by 58 points (88-20) in the fourth quarter this year. West Virginia (40-39) holds a one-point advantage over its foes in the final 15 minutes.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Saturday’s history was not the type the Mountaineers wanted to make.
In WVU’s 24-3 loss to Oklahoma State, at Mountaineers Field, West Virginia had its lowest point total since being shut out by Maryland, 39-0, in 2013.
The Mountaineers’ rushing total of 17 net yards was their fewest since gaining just 12 against Maryland in a 54-7 loss in 1951. Only twice since then has WVU netted 20 or fewer yards on the ground — 18 vs. Texas Tech in a 38-17 loss in 2019 and 20 vs. Pitt in a 38-17 loss in 1981.
West Virginia managed only 133 yards of total offense against the Cowboys in Saturday’s defeat. That’s the best OK State defensive performance since 1999, and it’s WVU’s lowest offensive total since Nebraska limited the 1994 Mountaineers to 89 yards in a 31-0 loss in the Kickoff Classic.
OK State is statistically the best defense in the Big 12 this year, and it certainly showed that on Saturday. That Cowboy unit is not only good, it is also very experienced, starting nine seniors and two fourth-year juniors, though maybe the performance and experience go hand-in-hand.
“I think they are pretty good defensively,” admitted West Virginia quarterback of the OSU D. “Coach (Mike) Gundy was talking to me after the game and said I had been playing better lately, but they have a really good defense. That showed tonight. They are pretty good.”
With a ground attack that was limited to 0.5 per attempt, WVU’s offense was hamstrung. It is 4-0 this season when rushing for more than 100 and now 0-5 when rushing for less than that number. Saturday was way less than that number.
“It makes it a lot easier when the run game is working,” noted Doege. “Every person on our offense has to look in the mirror and own their mistakes and move on to K-State (who WVU plays on the road next Saturday).”
West Virginia’s rushing attack had shown signs of improvement lately, rushing for 229 yards against TCU and 122 against Iowa State in those two recent victories. But Saturday’s performance was a step backward.
“I’m not sure why,” pondered Doege. “We’ve got to go back and watch the film and see what happened, learn from it, learn from the mistakes and grow from what happened.”
West Virginia’s passing numbers were only slightly better than those on the ground. Doege completed 15 of 22 passes but for just 109 yards with an interception. Backup quarterback Garrett Greene was one of two passing the football for seven yards.
“Everything they did we were ready for,” said Doege. “They didn’t really do anything that surprised us. We just couldn’t capitalize and execute the plays.”
West Virginia wanted to take some deep shots early, but Oklahoma State’s tight coverage and strong pass rush didn’t allow Doege to make those throws. WVU had just one completion longer than 16 yards, and that was a 32-yard catch-and-run by Sam James on the Mountaineers’ second play of the game, a series which ultimately produced West Virginia’s only points of the contest.
“We had a couple on early, but we couldn’t get them off because of their pressure,” said Doege of WVU’s hopes of long pass completions.
Maybe the most telling stat of all, though, was the fact that between them, Doege and Greene were sacked eight times. The Cowboy pass rush was constant, even when it didn’t produce sacks.
“I just want to make a play, stated Doege. “There were some plays out there that could have been made, and I want to be that spark and make that play to turn things around.
“They were doing a couple different things while playing man, dropping into different coverages,” WVU QB said of the OSU secondary. “We just couldn’t seem to get anything going. I’ll put that on myself. When things are going bad, I’ve got to find a way to get things going in the right direction.”
West Virginia’s offense kept looking for answers, but its struggles blocking, running and getting receivers open left no real options.
“I came to the sideline, and me and Coach (Sean) Reagan talked about what happened in the series and talked about what to expect in the upcoming series,” explained Doege. “We knew it was going to be a grind. He told me to stay in it and take it one play at a time. It was a grind. We just could never get anything going. If we could have just scored a couple points, and got going, it could have been a different game.
“We needed to get first downs (just 11). If we could have done that, we could have gotten some tempo going and taken some deep shots. But we kept going three-and-out, and that didn’t help us.
“Repeatedly we kept going three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out, and couldn’t get anything going,” the junior quarterback concluded, shaking his head.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Oklahoma State’s defense dominated West Virginia on Saturday at Mountaineer Field, limiting WVU to 133 total yards in a 24-3 OSU win.
Atmosphere: With sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-50s, it would be hard to find a better college football afternoon in November than what those at Mountaineer Field enjoyed Saturday. Add in a pregame flyover by three Army Blackhawk helicopters, which was especially appropriate on Military Appreciation Day, as well as the recognition of WVU great Major Harris, whose No. 9 was retired during an in-game ceremony, and it was simply a wonderful atmosphere all the way around.
The only disappointment was the crowd size (50,109) fell short of optimum. Grade: A-
Offense: West Virginia’s offense started the game with a promising 11-play, 67-yard drive, though it stalled short of the end zone, and the Mountaineers had to settle for a field goal. After that, Oklahoma State’s Big 12-best defense completely bottled up West Virginia for the remainder of the game, allowing it just 69 additional net yards and no further points in the subsequent 54 minutes.
West Virginia could neither run it (17 net yards) or pass it (116 yards) and was able to convert just two of 14 third-down situations. After allowing just one sack in the previous two games combined, WVU quarterbacks were sacked eight times by Oklahoma State for a loss of 75 yards.
Give the Cowboy D credit. It has developed a reputation as an excellent defense, and Saturday it proved to be as good as the hype. OSU’s veteran unit starts nine seniors and two fourth-year juniors, and that experienced group overwhelmed the Mountaineers’ offense. “We didn’t play well,” WVU head coach Neal Brown said of his offense, “but they had a lot to do with that.” Grade: D
Defense: The Mountaineer D had a good start to the game. An outstanding Dante Stills tip and interception stopped OSU’s second drive, and two others sandwiched around that possession ended in Cowboy punts.
OK State found a rhythm in the second quarter, though, scoring a touchdown and a field goal on its final two series of the period to take a 10-3 lead into halftime. WVU yielded two touchdowns in the second half, but one of those came on a short field after a turnover.
West Virginia limited OK State to 285 total yards (182 passing and 103 rushing), but on a day where the Cowboys completely throttled the WVU offense, the Mountaineer D would have needed to pitch a shutout to allow West Virginia to pull out a win. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t nearly a shutout. Grade: C-
Special teams: Isaiah Esdale has done a very nice job returning punts for the Mountaineers this year, but he was unavailable for action Saturday because of an injury. That put Graeson Malashevich in the punt return role. The Spring Valley High grad is normally sure-handed, but he made a mistake in the third quarter, as his muff gave OSU the ball at the West Virginia 26.
Four plays later the Cowboys were in the end zone, capitalizing on the turnover to take a 17-3 lead. The outcome was pretty much decided at that point. Tyler Sumpter’s punting and Casey Legg’s field goals remained good for WVU, but special teams — and football games in general — often turn on big plays, and the Mountaineers had a negative one. Grade: D+
Coaching: Running out of players because of injuries, West Virginia’s coaches tried a variety of tactics in an attempt to find some creases in Oklahoma State’s outstanding defense. Nothing they did worked, though, as OSU was simply better. I’m not sure what a coaching staff can do in that situation. Grade: D+
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — Last week, the question was whether or not WVU could take advantage of TCU’s suspect defense, and the answer turned out to be mostly yes. The Mountaineers had some red zone issues that turned what should have been a 40-point performance into one of just 29, but the offense was good enough to move the ball consistently.
This week, WVU would take 29 points right now, because Iowa State’s defense is the best in the league. It ranks in the Top 10 nationally in total defense (262.9 yards per game), first downs allowed (101) and passing defense (164.6), and boasts Top 15 national rankings in yards per rush and yards per play.
None of this should be news to Mountaineer fans, as the Cyclones have stuffed far more powerful WVU offenses than the one they will face on Saturday. So, the question is, how can West Virginia manufacture enough points to pull an upset, get back to .500 on the season and perhaps set up a run for a bowl bid?
One of West Virginia’s most consistent means of moving the ball is with its screen game, and it will have to run at peak efficiency if it is to produce enough gains to fuel four or five scoring drives. WVU runs a number of different screens, and blocks each in several different manners, but it will have to get much better execution than it has overall this season. Look for more throws to big receivers and even tight ends, who might be able to gain a few more yards (and break a tackle or two). That’s not an easy assignment against the Iowa State defense, though, which rarely beats itself.
Can WVU put together three or for 10-12 play drives that result in touchdowns? Not many have had that level of success against the ‘Clones, so it may take a defensive or special teams score — or a setup in scoring range — for the Mountaineers to have a chance. ISU is yielding just 17 points per game this year.
One more possibility — is this a game where Garrett Greene might contribute more? His running style might “junk up the game” and cause some consternation among ISU defenders forced to chase him all over the field.
What does ISU do that fuels its defensive performance? It’s a base 3-3-5, but with a number of features that make it difficult to pin down. It can execute cloud pass coverages easily with its three safeties, but is very aggressive in playing downhill to get more defenders to the ballcarriers than might be suggested with a pre-snap count of the box. Offenses will try to take advantage of that with fakes and play-action, but the veteran defense, which features seven senior starters, is too savvy and experienced to get fooled very often. That puts the pressure back on the Mountaineer offense, which simply has to take advantage of every open receiver or scoring chance it gets. Miss a couple of good chances, and WVU’s chance of winning drops near zero.
COVID AND COLLATERAL NOTES
Each week we’ll provide notes and tips on health precautions, travel advisories and more for the upcoming game in this space.
WVU is still requiring masks for all classrooms and lab settings, as well as the PRT, for the remainder of the fall semester, but that does not include football games. Those who are unvaccinated are “encouraged to wear a mask outdoors, including in the parking lots and in the stadium” according to the school’s home game information press release.
Interstate 79 northbound between Charleston and Morgantown continues to be a construction hotbed, so those making that trip should allow some extra time.
If the game comes down to a kicking duel, it promises to be quite interesting. West Virginia’s Casey Legg is 12-13 on the season, with his sole miss a block. He’s second in the league with a 92.9% success rate, which is nearly matched by Iowa State’s Andrew Mevis, a transfer from Fordham who is 11-13 this year (84.6%). Mevis has made eight kicks from 40 yards or longer this season, but Legg’s 49-yarder against TCU shows that he has the range to compete with Mevis.
Both teams are right at the 40% mark in third down conversions. If there’s one stat other than turnovers to watch, this one is probably it, as the team which can put together sustained drives is going to be the winner.
West Virginia’s secondary depth is an issue, as injuries and defections have made the safety and cornerbacks rooms a bit lacking in terms of numbers of those ready to play. There will be lots of trips to the bottom floor of the Puskar Center for rehab this week as players such as Nicktroy Fortune and Scottie Young try to get back on the field for the OSU game.
Charles Woods’ good step-in for Fortune was a key part of WVU’s win over TCU, and he’ll be called upon this week to continue that if Fortune can’t go. Former walk-on Malachi Ruffin has been getting more work this week at corner to help backstop Daryl Porter. Earlier this year, Jackie Matthews would have been another candidate to help, but he’s won the starting spot at spear, where he was competing with Woods, so moves from there would further disrupt the defense. That leaves freshman Andrew Wilson-Lamp, who did travel to TCU, as the only other scholarship player at corner. Is he ready to make his first appearance in the maelstrom of Big 12 play? Or might Davis Mallinger or Aubrey Burks move into one of the safety positions to allow a multi-position switch?
The bright spot in all of this is that WVU’s defense isn’t facing 80+ snaps per game, as was the norm just a few years back. West Virginia is facing just 66 plays per game this year, and that includes an 80 count from the first game against Maryland. This isn’t to say that WVU can play every defender the entire game, but it can probably get by with those on hand so long as more injuries don’t crop up. The weather, expected to be in the mid-50s, should also present no problems on the fatigue front.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — Without question, West Virginia’s football coaching staff has been evaluating everything in and around its program during its recent open week.
Figuring out what needs changed outright, and what needs honed or corrected, however, is one of the many difficult decisions that face head coach Neal Brown and his staff as they try to put together an approach that will get the Mountaineers back on a winning track.
It’s easy to say ‘Throw everything out and start over’, but that’s about as realistic as tearing down every deficient bridge in the state rather than trying to fix them. Time constraints, player suitability to what is in place and familiarity with what is already in place all factor into the decisions on what to repair and what to scrap.
“You do a bunch of self scout during the bye week because you have some time to evaluate,” Brown said, explaining the process that he and his staff went through over the past 10 days. “We have a good understanding of what we are capable of doing, and then where we are making mistakes. I think that’s the most important thing. Is it schematic? Is it personnel? Then how do you correct them, or how do you avoid them?”
To break that down into simpler steps, Brown and his staff have separated problems into two main types. The first are those of execution. Is a receiver releasing in the right way off the line, or is he wasting steps? Is a quarterback looking in the wrong place for the first read? Those are ones that can’t be ignored, because they will carry over into anything that is being tried.
“The things you have to correct are fundamental mistakes,” Brown said. “Footwork, pad level, anything like that, those are non-negotiable. You have to fix those.”
It should be noted at this point that if they aren’t, no manner of scheme or tactical changes will have much of an effect. That’s not exciting for the group of fans that wants to junk the offense and install the wishbone or the single wing, but it can’t be denied.
Offensive coordinator Gerad Parker notes that the open week gave the Mountaineers more chances to address those sorts of problems.
“We had more time to work on fundamentals in individual time,” he said of the early practice periods where players are broken up into position groups. “When you are trying to solve problems and find answers there’s a lot to it. It’s not just one thing.”
That part of problem-solving is fairly straight forward. Then there are issues that might be considered more philosophical, and may have to overcome preconceived notions about the ability of the team.
“Ownership is a big piece of it,” Brown detailed. “Take it from a coaching perspective. Just because it’s a scheme that you have used in the past, if your personnel can’t execute it, you can’t put that into play. If it’s a schematic issue, maybe you can’t be in this coverage; then you have to eliminate it.”
On a broad scale, a look at West Virginia’s offense is in order. It was adequate last year, and was able to put together enough points to win six games, but some of the items that it improved upon in 2020 have been missing in 2021. Is it time to junk those? Brown seems to be saying yes.
“That’s what we’ve tried to do. We’ve tried to cut back on what we are asking our guys (to do). Even if it was good for us a year ago, what are the things we are doing that don’t fit our personnel?”
As the off week morphed into TCU game week, Brown and his offensive coaches also began looking for ways in which to go at a Horned Frog defense that has not been up to usual Gary Patterson standards. Looks at previous games are the beginning of that, but not a Marauder’s Map of guaranteed answers.
“You try to look where they are vulnerable and where you can attack them, and then you try to match what you do well against that. Is there something we can add to our package that matches up to what we do well?” Brown asked rhetorically.
“You have to be careful. Oklahoma did some really good things schematically versus TCU, but they have different personnel than we do. So those may not necessarily be a great fit for us.”
Parker has also put a stake in the ground concerning where the offense is, and what it has to do.
“When you are close (to winning or having success), it’s a scary thing to say ‘if’,” the Mountaineer offensive coordinator noted. “‘If’ don’t matter. We have to get it done. Tying our offensive line and our running backs together, breeding confidence, and making sure we aren’t saying ‘If we would have finished here,” or ‘If we would have made this read’. It all adds up, and before you know it you are telling a tale of ‘maybes’ and ‘ifs’, and then you can’t. Over these two weeks it has been a commitment to saying ‘Let’s get it done.'"
All that sounds good, but the decisions on what to keep working on and what to jettison aren’t easy ones. Still, correct choices among those have to be made to give West Virginia any chance of turning its season around.