MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) – It would be easy on a day when the West Virginia defense surrendered 45 points to Baylor in a 45-20 loss, as they surrendered 525 yards to the total, including 354 in the air, to jump into the gorge of the defense.
Admittedly, the defense will never claim that their performance in that game that brought WVU down to 2-4 midway through the season was good… but they are going to get a pass based on the fact that the issue with Virginia football -Occidentale is not currently on the defensive side of the ball.
The point is, the root of the Mountaineers’ problems is – and since the change of coach from Dana Holgorsen to Neal Brown – an offensive problem.
However, don’t read this as a plea to bring Dana back, because what he left behind is at the root of the problem that has plagued Neal Brown since he stepped onto campus.
The offense was, shall we say, offensive.
Or, if you prefer, terrible.
In fact, it has always been terrible to the point of almost being accepted as the norm.
We’re not just talking this year. We are talking about last year. We are also talking about the year before.
As far as I can remember, WVU’s play notes have carried a segment titled “30 Is Enough”.
This week, that segment reads as follows:
“Since 1980, West Virginia is 203-22-1 when scoring 30 or more points in a game. During the 1990s, West Virginia was 43-4 when scoring. 30 or more points in an 80’s by hitting this mark. WVU is 122-18 since 2000 when it scores 30 or more points in a contest. “
Seems like tradition has it that the Mountaineers have a pretty good year if they can still score 30 points in a game, which isn’t as much to ask for as you might think. Only four touchdowns and a basket on the field.
Well, facing major competition under Neal Brown in the last 21 games, WVU has scored 30 points or more – DRUM ROLL, PLEASE – twice. It’s been five games this year, nine last year and the last seven games of 2019.
That’s right, in 19 of those 21 games the Mountaineers have been limited to less than 30 points. In fact, it wasn’t until victories over Kansas and the State of Kansas that they got past 30 points.
It was more common to score among teens, having scored 17 or less in nine of those games.
It’s an anemic offense, no matter how you want to view it.
There was a time when a 1,000-yard rusher was as common in West Virginia as coal miners.
No more. Leddie Brown got there last season, but midway through this season he’s only got 422, despite having no real back-up to take hits from him.
Without a running threat, you need a special quarterback and special receivers to make an attack powerful. But Holgorsen didn’t leave Brown either, so he paddled upstream without a paddle.
Most importantly, for an attack to work, you need a blocking offensive line, working in unison and without error… and as Baylor showed on Saturday, WVU doesn’t have that.
If Neal Brown had a major complaint, it’s that they didn’t block anyone.
“We did not block them, especially our right side,” he said. “It doesn’t matter, run or pass. If you lose head-to-head battles over and over again, it will be difficult to do anything.”
It wasn’t just every now and then. It was always.
“I don’t know if there was a point where we blocked them for two games in a row,” he said.
Part of the problem was that freshman Wyatt Milum was injured.
“Wyatt was injured and didn’t play. He wasn’t 100 percent, and it wouldn’t be fair to put him in that position,” Brown said. “If you do, you lose a player’s confidence, and I wasn’t going to do that with him. He was probably 75-80%. He would have helped us, but that’s not fair to him.
“It’s a long-term deal. He’s going to start on that offensive line for a long time, and it wouldn’t have been fair to him.”
Would it have made a big difference? Probably not, because nothing has really changed the situation.
Brown recently said he believes the way to success at WVU is through defense, and he was probably right. But with a week off next, it’s time for him to take his attack apart and piece it together to fit the parts he has on hand, or it’ll just be the same thing over and over again.
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