by Jim Buzzerd
One way to go
Mountaineer fans probably have a good idea now as to why former West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen was focusing more on signing a nice deal with the University of Houston than he was preparing the Mountaineers for the Camping World Bowl last December.
Saturday’s 38-7 loss at Missouri serves as an indicator as to just how much work new coach Neal Brown and his staff have in front of them. It’s not clear if Brown knew how much he had on his plate when he took the job.
“We were completely outplayed and out coached in all phases. I’m very disappointed in our performance, but I’m not discouraged,” Brown said. “I want that to be heard loud and clear. I’m not discouraged.”
Fans would be wise to follow Brown’s lead. Patience is key here if you are a Mountaineer fan looking to survive the season. That’s not to say the season is a lost cause, but thoughts of a 6-6 record and a bowl appearance appear extremely optimistic in light of Saturday’s loss, which included a number of recent low points.
When the Mountaineers took possession with 7:49 left in the fourth quarter, they weren’t just facing a 38-0 deficit. West Virginia was staring directly at a pair of low points.
At that point, WVU had minus-seven rushing yards. The Mountaineers have only been limited to negative rushing yardage five times in program history, with the most recent instance being in 1996.
West Virginia had only gained 93 yards total at that juncture, which put them at dire risk of establishing their lowest offensive output since 1994’s season-opening loss to Nebraska. That Cornhuskers team went on to be one of the greatest in college football history. It’s safe to say the 2019 Missouri Tigers aren’t in the same company after already being exposed by Wyoming that ran for almost 300 yards on Missouri last week.
The lack of any running game was evident in the opener and continued on Saturday. WVU is last nationally averaging 1.14 yards per carry through its first two games. One of the biggest factors in that number is the fact the team only has five offensive linemen the coaching staff has deemed game-ready. It could, and likely will, take a couple recruiting cycles to address this issue effectively.
I never imagined the running game and line play would reach this point, but what we’ve seen in the first two games seems to be where the Mountaineers are right now. There is much room for improvement and we can only observe how Brown and his staff work to get things better. Not just in the running game, but overall.