Musings, Matchups and More: Ga State Edition

Musings, Matchups and More: Ga State Edition

West Virginia was surprisingly consistent in its alignments and personnel groupings against Oklahoma. What does that say about the learning curve of the Mountaineer offense, and its potential for the next few games?

BlueGoldNews.com Game Scorecard
Sat 9/14 12:00 PM ET

Morgantown, WV

Mountaineer Field at
Milan Puskar Stadium
Record: 1-1

Last Game
Oklahoma 16-7 L
TV: Root Sports Pitt
Sirius\XM: 138\191
Web: BlueGoldNews.com
Record: 0-2

Last Game
UTC 42-14 L
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2013 Schedule

Series: First Meeting

First Meeting: 2013
Last Meeting: None
Rosters/Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2013 Schedule

MATCH-UPS, MUSINGS AND MORE

West Virginia's offensive alignments and personnel packages against the Sooners revealed a couple of truths about the way in which the coaching staff is trying to develop an attack -- and the limitations they are facing in doing so.

First, the numbers. On 65 snaps, WVU used three wide receivers on 53 occasions. On the other 12, there were only two wideouts on the field. Not once in the game did the Mountaineers go four or five wide. WVU also used at least one tight end 35 times, with a handful of those involving two players at the position. On those plays, Russell Haughton-James lined up as one tight end, with Cody Clay either in the backfield or set as a wingback.

One of the foundations of head coach Dana Holgorsen's offense is the use of multiple formations and multiple personnel packages, but so far in the 2013 season those have been severely limited. That was more than evident in the Oklahoma game, when many of West Virginia's three-wide sets were the same. Even the motion package was repetitive.

The first conclusion to draw from this is that WVU's inexperience across the board -- but especially at wide receiver and quarterback -- has kept practices focused on perfecting just a few sets. In order to build the familiarity required to allow the offense to run at top speed, the players have to be able to line up and run plays with a minimum of thought. It has to come as second nature, and clearly the Mountaineers aren't at the place yet where they can run three-, four- or five-wideout alignments at a moment's notice. Even on West Virginia's final drive against OU, when it clearly needed to complete passes, the three-wide, one back, one tight end set was used on every snap.

Having a tight end on the field should help with blocking in the run game, but the Mountaineers didn't stick with it enough. WVU ran the ball just 24 times (opposite 41 passes), and even when discounting Dreamius Smith's rowdy 75-yard tackle-busting run, still averaged four yards per carry. Although the Mountaineers did have receivers open during the contest, a combination of poor passes, drops and lack of adjustments to the ball in the air kept the completion percentage just barely above 50%, and the average yards per passing attempt at only 5.3. The question arising from this has to be asked: Did Dana Holgorsen's assessment of the number of passes thrown against William & Mary ("embarrassing") play into the decision to throw the ball more against the Sooners, even though the running game was at least slightly more effective?

It's far too early to make a final call or assessment on this year's offense. A number of changes are coming this week, including an entirely new cast of starting wideouts and perhaps a different starting quarterback. However, those changes arent going to do anything to improve the familiarity and repetition factors for the offense, so it's tough to forecast an increase in the diversity of formations and groups the Mountaineers will emply this week.

* * *

Relative to the previous item, it was also a bit of a surprise to see so few three-back formations, given the expectation that WVU was going to rely on its running game. Of course, a good bit of the Holgorsen rushing attack is based on spreading the field and creating seams for the backs, but it was also expected that Clay, along with Dreamius Smith, might line up as two-thirds of loaded backfield that could either run power or use deception to get the ball to a third, speedier back going away from the strength. Nothing of the sort was evident against Oklahoma, so it will be interesting to see if, and how, the running game might evolve. So far, it looks as if two-and single-back sets will rule the day, but again, that could be a result of WVU trying to get comfortable with just a few formations, rather than attempting to master many of them.


A NUMBER WORTH COUNTING

Today's digit is five -- as in the number of turnovers the Mountaineers REALLY committed against Oklahoma.

Click for full game report!
What's that? WVU had but four, you say? Well, maybe according to the official stats, but West Virginia's roughing-the-kicker personal foul had the same net effect as a giveaway. The Mountaineers were going to be in possession of the ball -- then suddenly, they gave it right back to the Sooners, What's worse, the play was akin to a sanp that goes wildly over the quarterback's head and is booted 20 more yards in the wrong direction before being recovered by the defense, as OU gained 15 yards of field position while getting the ball back.

And while I was writing this, another thought occured. None of WVU's five giveaways were committed by a running back -- perhaps another reason to make sure Charles Sims, Dreamius Smith and company get more than 22 combined carries?


BEER OF THE WEEK

On our trip to Oklahoma last week, a stop at an establishment on Campus Corner gave me the opportunity to resample a Young's Double Chocolate Stout, which had been off my radar screen for more than a few years. I like dark beers, porters and stouts, so you'll probably see more than one of this class in my selection list this year, but this one is a nice introduction for those that stick to lagers and IPAs. Obviously, from the name, chocolate flavor dominates the scene, but it's not an overly heavy brew, and the lack of bitterness at the finish makes it one of the smoother stouts on the market. It went really well with a burger and onion rings, and stands alone on its own quite nicely too.


ONE MORE THING...

I haven't said much about Georgia State, because, in all honesty, there's not much the Panthers should be able to do to influence this game. The talent gap is just too wide, and even if the Mountaineers play as they did against William & Mary, it shouldn't be competitive. Given that, what can WVU get out of this game? Most fans are probably hoping that a starting quarterback can be identified, and head coach Dana Holgorsen has thrown something of a curveball with his Thursday announcement of Ford Childress as the starter against the Panthers. All indications had been that he trailed Paul Millard and Clint Trickett in the battle throughout the fall, but Holgorsen has held true to his word of holding an open competition this week.

That said, any of West Virginia's three QBs should be able to move the ball against the Panthers. This time next week, we might still be analyzing QB play, especially if Childress struggles. However, if he plays as Holgorsen said he has this week during practice, he'll likely retain the starting job for next week's far tougher challenge with Maryland. Only then will we likely see how far he has progressed.

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