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Grading the Mountaineers: WVU vs. Baylor

WACO, TEXAS — The Mountaineers were mauled by Baylor on Saturday, getting blown out 45-20 at McLane Stadium.

With the loss, West Virginia fell to 2-4 on the season and will now try to regroup during an open week before visiting TCU on Oct. 23. Baylor improved to 5-1 and will host future Big 12 member BYU next Saturday.

Atmosphere: This time, Mother Nature overdid it. After wonderful weather for each of WVU’s first five games this season, morning in Waco broke picture perfect. But the sun kept baking central Texas, and the temperature topped out at an oppressive 91 degrees by game’s end.

Baylor’s McLane Stadium is the smallest facility in the Big 12 (capacity 45,140), but it is also the newest (opening in 2014) and, along with TCU's, arguably the nicest in the league. Sitting on the banks of the Brazos, the setting for McLane is outstanding, but Bear fans usually don’t pack the place, and they never have when West Virginia has come to Waco.

Don’t fully believe the announced attendance of 43,569; BU, like most schools, including WVU, lists attendance as tickets sold and not the actual number through the gates. More than a third of the seats were unoccupied at McLane Stadium on Saturday. Grade: C+

Offense: West Virginia’s offense was far from great, but it actually moved the ball with some success. It posted 362 yards of total offense (272 passing and 90 rushing), but Mountaineer receivers failed to adjust their routes a couple times, and those kept WVU from getting big plays on each. One of those Baylor actually turned into an interception.

On a team that has offensive issues, every missed opportunity has big consequences. West Virginia also badly needs to generate some explosive plays. Against BU, it had only one longer than 25 yards — a 53-yard catch by Sam James. Grade: D+

Defense: Baylor receivers spent most of the first half running by Mountaineer defensive backs like it was a track meet matching Olympians against high schoolers. The Bears scored four touchdowns on their first five possessions, jumping out to a 28-7 lead early in the second quarter as BU quarterback Gerry Bohanon connected on passes of 78, 44, 22 and 58 yards in the first half. That was part of his 12 of 17 performance in the first 30 minutes for 272 passing yards and three touchdowns.

West Virginia’s defense didn’t give up more than 250 passing yards in any game last year, but it allowed BU to exceed that mark in the first half alone Saturday. For the game, the Bears end up with 525 total yards (354 passing and 171 rushing).

Unfortunately for WVU, its poor pass defense has been a problem all season, as all five FBS quarterbacks the Mountaineers have faced in 2021 have thrown for at least 220 yards, and four of them have gone over 255. It’s a bad trend for something that was a strength last year. The only positive for West Virginia’s defense is that after a horrendous start, it did respond and get a few stops afterward. It was way too little, way too late, though. Grade: F

Special teams: West Virginia’s special teams didn’t make any major miscues, other than fair catching a punt at the nine-yard line. But it didn’t create any big plays, either. Baylor’s kicking game didn’t allow WVU’s returners many opportunities, but on a squad that is searching for any type of big play, the Mountaineer special teams need to provide one or two in order for WVU to have a chance.

An onside try in the third quarter came close, but in the end, it too failed to provide West Virginia with the big play it badly needed in Waco. Grade: C

Coaching: The disturbing theme is that for the second straight game, West Virginia fell behind big in the early going. The Mountaineer defense in particular was gashed, apparently blind to the fact that Baylor’s big-play receivers were capable of — hey, guess what — big plays. WVU’s coverage usually was soft and porous.

Offensively, the numbers were OK, but the need to use a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty on WVU’s very first offensive play was an especially bad sign considering the Mountaineers’ clock management issues in other games this season. After the loss, WVU head coach Neal Brown said he was very upset with the referees in that situation, but still, it was an awful way to start, no matter who was at fault.

Another bad West Virginia trend that the coaches need to rectify is penalties. WVU had eight for 70 yards against Baylor, and many of those were costly. Again, the Mountaineers just are not good enough to overcome mistakes, every one of which is magnified. Grade: F