MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK: Offensive futility haunts WVU 

West Virginia battled 11th ranked Texas well into the second half Saturday but in the end the Mountaineers futility on offense when the game was on the line resulted in a frustrating 42-31 loss.

Entering the second half trailing 21-14, the defense did its job by holding Texas on five consecutive possessions, including an interception which set up WVU at the Longhorns 14-yard line. But with good field position, a strong prevailing wind at its back in the third quarter, and an enthusiastic homecoming crowd urging them on, the West Virginia offense couldn’t get it done.

In the first five possessions of the second half the Mountaineers ran 18 plays for just 43 yards, with more interceptions(3) than first downs(2). After the Texas turnover just two yards were gained, enabling WVU to only convert a field goal, frittering away an opportunity to tie the game and turn momentum. Only after the game was clearly decided was West Virginia then able to put together two late fourth quarter scoring drives.

Although the defense yielding 42 points on the scoreboard might at first appear to reflect a poor effort, it should be noted that when starting possessions in its side of midfield Texas scored only 14 points on the day. Four other scoring “drives” all began in WVU territory, three after interceptions and one after a failed onside kick. The Longhorns are too good on offense to give them that many easy scoring opportunities and expect to keep them out of the end zone.

It’s not that the offense didn’t have some good moments. Sam James made a superlative catch in the end zone on an opening touchdown drive. The first two scoring drives each had long yardage plays, a feature which had been missing in earlier games. The offensive line did not permit a sack in 46 passing attempts, even though Texas was bringing extra blitzers on many of them. Statistically the Mountaineers outgained the Longhorns with 463 total yards and had 24 first downs. But against an opponent as good as Texas a team cannot win with four turnovers and an offense disappearing for an entire quarter.

Head coach Neal Brown was quick to defend quarterback Austin Kendall, emphasizing that on three of the four interceptions the WVU receivers either had their hands on the football or, in one instance, had not correctly run their pass route. This indeed is an inexperienced receiving corps which was without James for the fourth quarter (concussion), and lost Sean Ryan to what appears to be a long term injury.

THIS SATURDAY: Iowa State entered the 2019 season with big expectations, which have been tempered a bit with tough one point losses to Iowa and Baylor. But after struggling in earlier games the Cyclones offense exploded for 49 points in an unexpected rout of TCU last Saturday, and will now come into Morgantown with confidence. All those signs point to another difficult afternoon, but if the Mountaineers can cut down on their mistakes they have a shot at a surprise. WEST VIRGINIA 31 IOWA STATE 30.


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