Austin, TX (November 7th, 2014)
By Dave Ackermann – Senior Writer (Feature photo by BlueGoldSports.com)
Coming off their poorest performance this season, the WVU Mountaineer Offense must rebound on the road as they are hosted by a hungry bunch of Texas Longhorns tomorrow at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin, TX.
Against defensive guru Gary Patterson’s TCU Horned Frogs, the Mountaineer Offense, which was averaging 538.4 total yards per game, could muster only 357 yards last Saturday. The Mountaineer passing attack was the biggest culprit; the WVU air attack managed only 162 yards when they had been averaging about 362 yards per game; that’s a net missing of 200 yards. Yes, the rushing game was up a few yards (195 yards versus an average of about 177 yards), but, that was on 54 rushing attempts, more than double the number of passing attempts (26).
Add to the lack of offensive efficiency, the fact that WVU had 5 fumbles and 2 interceptions, resulting in 6 turnovers, several inside the WVU 25 yard mark, and all on the Mountaineer end of the field. The bottom line is two of those 5 inside the WVU 25 yard mark resulted in 14 TCU points. That really hurts when you lose by a single point and you still had the lead until the last 4 seconds of the game. Lets not take anything away from the TCU defense, or the WVU defense for that matter. It was a game dominated by the defenses and both powerful offenses were stymied all day long.
Kevin White makes a one-handed grab against the Baylor Bears (photo credit to WVUsports.com)
Outstanding Mountaineer wide receiver Kevin White has been held to just 6 total receptions over the past two games, and only one touchdown. Again, excellent defenses and defensive talent can limit great players; its not unexpected but is a bit shocking when you consider who Kevin faced in his first seven games and what he accomplished. Kevin met with the media this past Tuesday and BlueGoldSports was there (see link to video below).
Kevin White meets with the media on 11/04/2014 (Video by Dave Ackermann of BlueGoldSports.com)
It seems like when an offense rushes the ball 54 times and passes the ball only 26 times, that they play a role in taking receivers like Kevin White and Mario Alford out of the game; but again, not so fast my friends! TCU’s CB Kevin White gets most of the credit for taking WVU’s WR Kevin White out of the offensive mix, and he had safety help over the top for most of the game. In fact, TCU had double safety over the top defensive sets most of the time, and that my friends, means you should be running the ball to the WVU coaching staff, according to the comments of Dana Holgorsen and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. I the video link below, however, wide receiver coach Lonnie Galloway addresses the media on the subject:
Coach Lonnie Galloway adresses media on 11/02/2014 (Video by Dave Ackermann of BlueGoldSports.com)
Nobody could really blame the offensive line for the lack of offensive output. In fact, I asked both Coach Holgorsen and Coach Crook during Tuesday’s press conference and meetings with select members of the media if the O-Line just got tired. Here is Coach Crook talking about the TCU defense, particularly DT Malcolm Brown and then answering my question:
Coach Ron Crook meets with the media on 11/04/14 (Video by Dave Ackermann of BlueGoldSports.com)
But lets move on because the Mountaineers say they put that one to bed quickly last Sunday Night. Let’s talk about the challenge of Texas!
Having already faced 4 top 10 teams this season, (and #7 Kansas State is still owing a visit to Mountaineer field) Texas would seem an opportunity to get win #7, even if its on the road. But as Lee Corso says: “Not so fast my friend”! Yes, the Mountaineers are favored, (current line is something like the Mountaineers giving Texas 3.5 points), but its less than one score and feels more like a field goal favorite.
Mario Alford scores on a pass and run versus the Baylor Bears (photo by BlueGoldSports.com)
There is nobody on the Mountaineer team that has more all purpose yards than senior wide receiver and kick returner Mario Alford. Mario has amassed 1,113 all purpose yards (679 yards receiving, 431 kick returns, 14 rushing and minus 11 punt returns) and has scored 7 touchdowns this season giving him 11 for his career. He has two (2) 100 yard kick-off returns for touchdowns this season as well. Mario has also had three (3) 100 plus yard receiving games in 2014.
Charlie Strong is another defensive guru that knows how to “game plan” against an opposing offense and he has experience doing so against Holgorsen’s offense form the old Big East. But things are a bit different now. WVU can run the ball as well as pass the ball and is much more balanced than the WVU team that played in the Big East under Holgorsen.
The rushing offense has been a team effort, but everybody on the “next man up squad” is averaging over 4.0 yards per carry:
Rushing gp att gain loss net avg td lg avg/g
Smallwood, Wendell 9 115 547 7 540 4.7 1 25 60.0
Shell, Rushel 8 122 562 24 538 4.4 6 28 67.2
Smith, Dreamius 9 57 316 5 311 5.5 4 50 34.6
Buie, Andrew 8 50 209 7 202 4.0 2 26 25.2
Garrison, D. 8 17 86 4 82 4.8 0 28 10.2
SO RB Wendell Smallwood leaps through a huge hole versus OSU (Photo by BlueGoldSports.com)
Sophomore running back Wendell Smallwood has rushed 115 times for 540 yards and averages some 4.7 yards per carry. He also has snagged 21 passes for 286 additional yards this season. For all his efforts, Smallwood has scored just 1 touchdown this season. Such is the life of a sophomore, I suppose.
r-SO RB Rushel Shell escapes the Alabama Defense (photo courtesy of WVUsports.com)
Redshirt sophomore Rushel Shell has rambled for 538 yards on 122 carries for a 4.4 yards per carry average and has scored 6 touchdowns and has added 108 yards receiving on 15 receptions.
SR RB Dreamius Smith sheds Baylor tackles for a touchdown. (Photo by BlueGoldSports.com)
Senior running back Dreamius Smith has gained 311 yards on 57 carries for a 5.5 yards per carry average and has scored 4 touchdowns. Dreamius had the longest run from scrimmage by a WVU running back last week when he broke-off a 50 yard scamper against TCU.
Redshirt junior running backs Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison have both made important contributions as well. Buie has gained 202 yards on 50 carries for a 4.0 yards average per carry and scored 2 touchdowns giving him 10 rushing TD’s for his career. Garrison has only rushed the ball 17 times for 82 yards, but that’s a 4,8 yard average and he has 2 receptions for 15 additional yards, but none was bigger than the one he made versus Texas Tech in the waning moments of the game. Garrison has 8 career TD’s to his credit though he has yet to score this season.
The real key to this game may well prove to be senior quarterback Clint Trickett and his ability to bounce back from what he views as a poor performance. He did so after the Oklahoma game when he had two interceptions in a closer game than the final scored indicated. If Dana Holgorsen can get just an average game from Clint (300 passing yards, no turnovers, and a couple of passing TD’s) then WVU is more than half way home against a Defense that has been rather stingy giving up oints this season.
The Texas defense has held UCLA to 20 points, high scoring Baylor to only 28 points, Oklahoma to 31 points, and Kansas State to only 23 points. The shocker is who they have given up big points too this season; Iowa State scored 45 points and still lost to the Longhorns while now struggling BYU put up 41 points in a win early in the season.
This may set-up as another ugly defensive struggle come tomorrow at 3:30 EST in Austin, TX.
TV coverage is set for Fox Sports 1 and another national audience.