by Jim Buzzerd
Back in the hunt
Heading into last Thursday night’s West Virginia University football game with Baylor, an insider reported that the West Virginia coaching staff felt that the Bears would be the best team the Mountaineers played so far this season. I attempted to ask just where the WVU staff had Iowa State ranked on that list, because the Cyclones resembled top ranked Alabama more than anyone in their dominant 30-14 win over the Mountaineers. My question went unanswered, but I’ll trust my eyes after WVU took a 41-0 lead at the half on the way to a 58-14 win over the bears and just say ISU is better than Baylor. The blowout was just the elixir the Mountaineers needed to shake off any hangover from the game in Ames.
The first half was one for the record books as the Mountaineers amassed 435 yards of offense in the first half which is the most ever in a half for the Mountaineers. The 41-0 lead at the half was impressive and WVU failed on two field goal attempts in the first quarter or the deficit could have been worse. While it was a great night to be a Mountaineer, after the euphoria wore off there remain some issues that will be problematic for West Virginia moving forward.
WVU hit a ton of big plays in this game and it was fun to watch, but the Mountaineers were just 1 of 10 on third down conversions. Part of the issue there is their continuing struggle to establish an effective running game. WVU had 172 yards on the ground against the Bears, but 79 of those came on a run by Tevin Bush and 33 more on a run by Martell Pettaway. So it took West Virginia 31 more attempts to run for the remaining 60 yards of the total. The struggles were evident when WVU had to settle for field goal attempts on four straight possessions spanning the first and second quarters.
Offensive line play has been poor or worse for a while now, so it may be overly optimistic to expect much improvement at this point and makes the Mountaineers’ November slate even more challenging. It also plays into the hands of this week’s opponent Texas who boasts strength along the defensive front. That doesn’t mean the Mountaineers can’t get a win in Austin because this game on paper is about even, and Vegas agrees making Texas a one point favorite on Monday. I expect that line to grow, for what it’s worth. If the offensive line can improve one thing this week; it would behoove them to keep quarterback Will Grier upright and afford him time to throw the ball.
Game time has been set for 3:30 Saturday afternoon on FOX. If you want a pre-game option, you can catch a glimpse of this season’s WVU basketball team who will host Penn State in a charity exhibition game at noon. The game will be televised by AT&T Sportsnet. WVU reportedly beat Purdue 95-89 in a closed scrimmage last week without Sagaba Konate and Beetle Bolden in the lineup.