MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK: WVU needs to get more physical
In 2017 and 18, West Virginia University Mountaineer football fans enjoyed watching a prolific offense which averaged over 37 points per game during those two seasons. This success was almost entirely attributable to an outstanding quarterback in Will Grier along with three exceptional receivers. Defense were so focused on stopping this efficient passing offense that WVU was at times able to run the ball effectively.
But even with great success through the air, there are times that truly good offenses must be able to physically control the line of scrimmage. And this is where those WVU offenses still showed some flaws. When it was third down and a couple yards or less, or goal to go situations, or when trying to protect a fourth quarter lead, the Mountaineers were often unable to consistently and effectively run the ball.
Now that is in 2019 Grier and his receivers are gone and defenses no longer fear a passing attack, we are seeing the results of a lack of physicality on the line of scrimmage. Against Iowa Sate and Oklahoma, the Mountaineers gained a grand total of 91 yards on 51 carries. The Mountaineers rank in the 120s nationally in the rushing yardage per game and average gain per carry. An offense cannot be successful with that level of futility.
Head coach Neal Brown recently addressed this issue: “It is what it is. We’ve tried about everything. We knew it was going to be a struggle. We’re playing some guys that are just not as physically mature as the guys we’re playing against … We have to do better. I think we will be better by the finish of the year. But it’s not going to be a position of strength until our guys are older and we’re able to make some personnel changes.”
Translation of that statement is not difficult. WVU is simply not good enough along the offensive line. And sensational quarterbacks who can at times mask such weaknesses don’t come along very often.
To be successful over the long term, the Mountaineers must become better and more physical on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. There is no quick fix here. Coach Brown can only play with the cards he was dealt when he arrived and will need to recruit better athletes in the trenches.
THIS THURSDAY: As proof that quick turnarounds can indeed happen, we only have to look as far as Waco, Texas. Before Matt Rhule arrived as head coach in 2017 the Baylor football program was a mess, to a great extent due to off the field issues. Rhule struggled to a 1-11 record his first season, but the Bears went 7-6 in 2018 and now find themselves undefeated through seven games.
I have said before that I am not a big fan of playing games on Thursday. College football is meant to be played on Saturdays, and it is difficult for teams to disrupt their routine and travel a 1,000 miles to play a Thursday night game. Baylor had to make that midweek trip to Morgantown last year and was never competitve, losing 58-14. Now the shoe is on the other foot. BAYLOR 40, WVU 17.