It’s no secret that the West Virginia Mountaineers offense has struggled as of late, scoring only 28 points in their last two games, 14 of which came late in the fourth quarter in garbage time.
I read today that WVU has not led a football game in nearly a month. This is a serious problem for a team that only a few weeks ago was able to put up 60 points in any given game at the beginning of the season.
Here’s my take on what is causing the poor offensive play.
1. WVU has faced the strongest defenses in the last two weeks than they’ve faced all season.
The Texas Tech Red Raiders shut down the Mountaineer offense and began the offensive drought. WVU QB Geno Smith was confused for the first time all season. In that game, the Red Raiders sent multiple packages at Smith, and disguised coverages in a way that he was not used to seeing.
Texas Tech did a great job of disguising zone coverage as man coverage. The DB would stick to the outside receiver briefly, only to pass him off to the safety and run back towards the line of scrimmage, into the space where the slot receiver was sent.
Smith was not used to this kind of disguised coverage, and it slowed him down. The Kansas State Wildcats did a lot of similar things, in disguising packages and making receivers seem open to bait Smith into throwing into coverage. They even forced two interceptions from a QB who hadn’t thrown one in 273 passes.
2. Weak WVU defense isn’t feeding the offense.
The poor play of the WVU defense in the last few weeks has also contributed to the lack of performance from the offensive side of the ball.
At the beginning of the season, when Smith and the offense were putting up “video-game numbers” on teams unlucky enough to face them, the defense wasn’t great, but it kept the team in the game, and fed momentum to the offense.
Let’s examine the numbers from the defense in the first few weeks of the season.
Against the Marshall Thundering Herd, the Mountaineer defense allowed 34 points. 14 of those points came in the fourth quarter, to the second team defense. One TD was scored with 9:50 on the clock, and the other was scored with 0:54 on the clock. So take away the 14 points the backup team gave up, and the first team defense only allowed 20 points.
On top of that, one of Marshall’s TDs came after a WVU punt was blocked deep in their own territory. Marshall started that drive inside the WVU ten yard line. Take away the short-field TD and the first-team defense allowed only 13 points.
Then the Mountaineers played the James Madison Dukes, a team that in my opinion was better than Marshall. They only allowed 12 points to the Dukes.
The Mountaineer defense followed that performance up with a game against the Maryland Terrapins and only allowed 21 points.
While the defense played poorly, and allowed way too many points, they still made the crucial stops needed to keep the offense in the game, and allow them to outscore their opponents.
The defense’s performances early in the season may not have been great, but the few stops they made gave the offense momentum to work with. In the games against TTU and KSU, the defense did not make enough stops to give the offense momentum, and allowed entirely too many points.
If the defense gets back to even average, the offense will follow.
3. No rhythm
In addition to the defense not providing the offense momentum, it is keeping the offense out of rhythm.
Teams are scoring so fast on the Mountaineer defense that the offense barely has time to get off of the field before they are sent back out. There is no time for the offense to go over adjustments or fix things on the sidelines while the defense is on the field.
4. Too much pressure on the offense.
Lastly, and perhaps the most important reason the offense has struggled, is that there is too much pressure on an offense to have to outscore everyone it faces. When an offense knows its defense is only good for two, maybe three stops a game, it feels as though it failed if it doesn’t capitalize on every defensive stop.