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TUESDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK: Hope has left building

Although losing three of their first five games West Virginia football fans still had some hope. The losses had been close. The team was competitive. There was a chance it could turn the corner and still grab some wins.

But after the wreckage of a 45-20 loss at Baylor on Saturday hope has left the building. There was nothing Mountaineer faithful saw that gave them any reason for optimism with half of the 2021 season remaining.

The defense, which at times had played very well in earlier games, was shredded for 525 yards. Baylor touchdown scoring drives were all of 2, 8, 5, 5, 3 and 6 plays. Receivers at times were so open it was difficult to locate a WVU defender on the television screen. The Bears averaged a whopping 8.3 yards per offensive play.

Offensively West Virginia scored on its first possession but as has often been the case then became dormant, not denting the end zone again until a meaningless score with four minutes remaining after the game had long been decided. The offensive line was dominated. There were occasions that a pass rusher didn’t just have to beat his opponent on the line of scrimmage, but instead had an unobstructed path to the quarterback because of apparent missed blocking assignments.

One had to examine the stats of the game closely to find anything positive. But if you looked long enough you could find it. The Mountaineer punter averaged 48 yards per kick. It reminded me of a comment once made by Oz Campbell, who years ago was a fellow Monday Morning Quarterback, who said that if your punter was the outstanding player of the game you know you had problems.

This now appears to be a team that no longer believes. Confidence has been lost. The players know as well as anyone watching that games cannot be won with an offense as ineffective as WVU is putting on the field.

Head coach Neal Brown acknowledged that his team was “exposed”, and that they had major issues to fix. But it isn’t a matter of a couple problems here or there. There are issues across the board. Although not impossible, fixing all of them in the middle of a season will be a tall task.

A once promising season now looks bleak. Right now West Virginia would be a solid underdog in its next five games, most by more than double digits.

The Mountaineers have a much needed week off and return to action with a trip to TCU on October 23.

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