When West Virginia travels to Waco, Texas, this Saturday, they will be looking to do something head coach feels they have yet to do all season: play well for a full game.
Currently, the Mountaineers are 2-3, after losing their first two conference matchups of the year to Oklahoma and Texas Tech.
“We are a 2-3 football team, and we lack consistency, and we have to play better and we have to do so for a full game,” WVU head coach Neal Brown said in his press conference.
In order to play well for a full game, West Virginia knows they will have to stop the run on defense, and be able to play better on offense for the entirety of the game.
Baylor (4-1) lost their first game of the year last week against No. 12 Oklahoma State.
On offense, Baylor has two running backs who both have rushed for more than 300 yards. Senior Abram Smith has rushed for 510 yards, and accounted for six touchdowns, while fellow senior Trestan Ebner has rushed for 348 yards on the season.
Brown knows the importance of stopping the run, as he knows that is Baylor’s offensive identity.
“They want to run the ball,” Brown said. “I think the running backs are both playing well, and I think they complement each other.”
So far this season, Baylor is averaging 23.2 pass attempts per game.
Defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley knows the Bears do a good job of choosing the time to pass the ball and knows his defense will have to be disciplined to stop the run and limit the big play threat on play-action passing.
“On the passes they do throw they are high percentage type of throws for them,” Lesley said. “If you get a little greedy and try to take it away is when they throw it 70 yards over your head.”
After not being able to get off the field against Oklahoma two weeks ago, and not being able to stop Texas Tech on their last drive last week, Lesley knows it is important for his defense to step up when it matters the most.
“We’ve got to execute in key situations,” Lesley said. “That’s what we’ve got to find a way to do more than anything.”
Offensively, West Virginia will have to run the ball more efficiently than they have to this point this season.
The Mountaineers currently rank last in the Big 12 in rushing yards per game, averaging 116.2 this season. Fortunately for West Virginia, Baylor ranks fourth-worst in the conference in rushing yards allowed per game, giving up almost 160 rush yards on average in each contest.
Offensive coordinator Gerad Parker knows the run game has to get better, and hopes they can start reversing their trend of being last in rushing this week.
“We just have to find a way to create more explosive plays to be better in the run game,” Parker said. “In many ways our efficiency is better. We have to continue to work on our second and third runs to make us better and more multi-dimensional. We wouldn’t say we are pleased where we are at in the run game by any means, we have to grow there. No better time to start than with this week.”
West Virginia will look to beat Baylor for the second straight year, as they defeated the Bears 27-21 in double overtime last season. West Virginia leads the all-time series against Baylor 6-3, and the Mountaineers will look to pick up their first road victory since Nov. 29, 2019 when they defeated TCU 20-17.
The game is set to kickoff at 12 p.m. and be televised on FS1.
(Top Photo: Bryan Doughtery)