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Sean ryan 10

WVU receiver Sean Ryan (10) reaches for a pass thrown in his direction in the Mountaineers’ 45-20 loss to Baylor Saturday in Waco, Texas.

It would be easy, on a day when West Virginia’s defense gave up 45 points to Baylor in a 45-20 loss, when it gave up 525 total yards, 354 of them through the air, to jump down the defense’s throat.

Certainly, the Mountaineer defenders would never argue that their performance in this game that dropped WVU to 2-4 at the halfway point in the season and heading into an open date, was a good one. But they are going to get a pass based on the fact that the problem with West Virginia football is not found on the defensive side of the ball.

The fact of the matter is that the root of the Mountaineers’ problem is — and has been since the coaching change from Dana Holgorsen to Neal Brown — an offensive problem.

Do not, however, read that as a bring-back-Dana plea, for what he left behind is at the root of the problem that has burdened Brown since he walked on campus.

The offense has been, shall we say, offensive. Or, if you prefer, terrible.

In fact, it has been consistently terrible to the point that it is almost accepted as the norm. We’re not talking just this year. We’re talking last year. We’re talking, too, the year before that.

For as long as I can remember, WVU’s game notes have carried a segment entitled “30 Is Enough.” It read this week coming into the Baylor game this way:

Since 1980, West Virginia is 203-22-1 when scoring 30 or more points in a game. During the 1990s, West Virginia was 43-4 when scoring 30 or more points in a contest and were 40-2-1 in the ’80s when reaching that mark. WVU is 122-18 since 2000 when scoring 30 points or more in a contest.

Sounds like the tradition is that the Mountaineers will have a pretty good year if they can consistently score 30 points in a game, which isn’t as much to ask as you may think. It’s just four touchdowns and a field goal.

Well, facing major competition under Neal Brown over the last 21 games, WVU has scored 30 or more points …. DRUM ROLL, PLEASE … twice. That’s a total of five games this year, nine games last year and the final seven games of 2019.

That’s right, in 19 of those 21 games, the Mountaineers were held to fewer than 30 points. In fact, only in victories over Kansas and Kansas State did they top 30 points.

It’s been more common to score in the teens, having scored 17 or fewer in nine of those games. That is an anemic offense no matter how you want to look at it.

There was a time when a 1,000-yard rusher was as common in West Virginia as coal miners.

No more, on either count. Leddie Brown got there last season, but halfway through this season he has but 422 yards, despite the fact that he has no real backup to take carries from him.

Without a running threat you need a special quarterback and special receivers to make an offense potent, but Holgorsen left Brown neither, so that’s been rowing upstream without a paddle.

Most of all, though, to make an offense work you need a hard-blocking, working-in-unison, mistake-free offensive line, and as Baylor showed on Saturday, WVU doesn’t have that.

If Neal Brown had one major complaint, it was that they blocked no one.

“We didn’t block them, in particular our right side,” he said. “It didn’t matter, run or pass. If you are going to lose one-on-one battles over and over again it’s going to be hard to do anything.”

This wasn’t just every so often. It was always.

“I don’t know if there was a time we blocked them for two plays in a row,” he said.

Part of the problem may have been that freshman Wyatt Milum was out with an injury.

“Wyatt was hurt and did not play. He wasn’t 100% and it wouldn’t be fair to put him out there in that position,” Brown said. “If you do, you lose a player’s confidence and I wasn’t going to do that with him. He was probably 75 to 80%. He would have helped us, but that’s not fair to him.

“It’s a long-term deal. He’s going to start on this offensive line for a long time and it wouldn’t have been fair to him.”

Would it have made much of a difference?

Probably not, because nothing much has made much of a difference.

Neal Brown recently said he believes the route to success at WVU is on defense, and he’s probably right, but it’s time with an off-week that he take his offense apart and piece it back together to fit the parts he has on hand, or it’s just going to be more of the same over and over.