Monday Morning Quarterback: WVU picks up W for the road
When the WVU football team flew to Fort Worth to play TCU Friday everyone knew that this would be the final game in a disappointing 2019 season.
A losing record was assured. There would be no bowl game.
To the casual observer there wouldn’t be much difference between a 4-8 and 5-7 season, but you couldn’t convince the Mountaineer players or their fans. Finishing with an upset 20-17 win left a much more positive feeling at the close of the season and leaves the program with more energy moving forward.
It was apparent that part of the game plan was throwing the deep ball, but most of the afternoon that approach backfired with overthrows, pass breakups and interceptions.
But the last attempt, a beautifully thrown 35 yard pass to Isiah Esdale for a touchdown with two minutes remaining became the game winner.
The defense then stopped TCU on two final possessions to preserve the victory. The West Virginia defense actually held the Horned Frogs to 10 points, their last score coming on a 70 yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter.
From late in the second quarter TCU offense had only 104 yards on 8 possessions and zero points. And this was a team that had averaged 34 points per game in Big 12 Conference play.
Mountaineer fans knew that 2019 would be a difficult year, and it was indeed an often frustrating season.
The West Virginia offense, so prolific in recent seasons, struggled throughout and improving offensive line play will need to be a priority.
But there were some positive signs: WVU was 4-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less. The Mountaineers won three games in which they were not favored, including the last two road games when they were two touchdown underdogs. Both of those upset wins were achieved with fourth quarter comebacks.
In seven of nine Big 12 Conference games West Virginia was competitive, entering the fourth quarter either ahead or behind by no more than seven points.
The biggest kudos, though, have to go to defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, who inherited a unit which surrendered over 27 points per game in 2018 and which returned only four starters and suffered a number of injuries during the season.
Yet this group improved significantly during the last half of the season. The four man defensive front generated an effective pass rush at times, and a secondary with a number of young players stepped up and played well in game ending situations.
The defense will return a majority of its starters for next season.
The Mountaineers open the 2020 season on September 5th against Florida State in Atlanta. We hope to see you again here next year!