MORGANTOWN — During the last two games, the West Virginia University offense has looked better than it did for much of the 2019 season, but the Mountaineers’ inability to finish drives with touchdowns has been a consistent problem for WVU no matter who is playing quarterback.
On Saturday, West Virginia’s red-zone woes popped up again and this time, because of the close score, those problems were magnified.
West Virginia drove the ball inside the Cowboys’ 20-yard line three times Saturday, but failed to get the big prize — a touchdown — on any of those attempts.
WVU probably should have been awarded a red-zone touchdown on a Sam James catch in the second quarter, but after a review the receiver was ruled down at the 1-yard line. Oklahoma State stuffed the Mountaineers on the next two plays, followed by a false start and an incomplete pass — prompting first-year WVU coach Neal Brown to bring on the field goal team.
“I think on the goal-line stand that Okie State had, the first play they got under us up front,” WVU senior left guard Colton McKivitz said. “The second, I think we did a good job coming off, they just had guys jump over top and hold [WVU quarterback Jarret] Doege up. That’s on us, the guys up front.
“If you’re going to win games, it’s [by] scoring touchdowns in the Big 12. I tried relaying that message to team on the sidelines. To win these types of games, [you need] touchdowns, not field goals. Credit to Okie State for playing tough in the red zone and doing their job, we’ve just got to do a better job of getting in the end zone.”
Prior to Saturday’s game, West Virginia was tied with Rice for at 117th out of 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in offensive red-zone production. The Mountaineers had 29 red-zone attempts before Saturday and had scored on 21 of them, with six of those scores coming via field goal. WVU went 2 for 3 in red-zone attempts Saturday, with both scores coming on field goals.
“I think it set us back a lot,” Doege said. “Once you get down there in the red zone, especially against a team like Oklahoma State — you knew they were going to score points and the bottom line is we have to score more points in the red zone.”
RUN GAME STRUGGLES
West Virginia’s run game struggled again Saturday, continuing a trend that appeared, for a week at least, to be reversing.
WVU as a team totaled just 26 rushing yards on 22 carries Saturday against Oklahoma State. Worse than that, the Mountaineers failed to score a rushing touchdown for the fifth consecutive game. West Virginia’s last rushing touchdown came on a 1-yard run by quarterback Austin Kendall in the second quarter of WVU’s loss to visiting Texas — on Oct. 5. After Saturday’s game, the rushing touchdown drought for WVU sits at 26 consecutive quarters.
ONE MORE TIME
Saturday’s loss was the third consecutive Senior Day loss for West Virginia, but McKivitz is trying to look at the bright side. It is no fun losing the final home game of your college football career, but for McKivitz and the rest of WVU’s senior class there is still a chance to end the season on a high note with a win next Friday at TCU.
Asked about his emotions following Saturday’s loss, McKivitz said nothing had really hit him hard — yet.
“Give me a half hour or an hour and I’ll let you know,” McKivitz said. “I’m still trying to take in the game and what happened. Just trying to self analyze my play and the group’s play, but as a senior it’s tough to lose at home.
“I’ve seen it happen a few times for our guys and I know what that felt like, but being a senior it stings. Also, I have to look at it as there is one more. You remember your last game a lot more than this one, so next week and that Friday game is going to be important for myself and all the other seniors.”