It is better to receive
by Jim Buzzerd
The West Virginia University football team is six games into the 2022 season and it’s still difficult to handicap this team. Last Thursday night the Mountaineers got past visiting Baylor by a 43-40 count. The win leaves West Virginia 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the Big 12 conference. Some might say the Mountaineers were lucky to win the game because WVU scored a second quarter touchdown on a scoop and score fumble by Baylor quarterback Blake Shapen.
Baylor was up 17-10 late in the second quarter and looked like they were heading for another score with a first down at the WVU 26 yard line. The West Virginia secondary was helping Shapen look like a Heisman candidate up to this point, but on this play Shapen rolled out and WVU defensive end Sean Martin was able to knock the ball loose and defensive back Jasir Cox scooped it up and outran several Bears 65 yards for a touchdown to tie the game.
Another key moment in the game came midway in the third quarter when Shapen was knocked out of the game because of targeting by WVU’s Andrew Wilson-Lamp. The ramifications of targeting in college football are severe. It does not matter whether the illegal hit was intentional or not, the player is ejected and must miss the second half of the game, or the first half of the next game if the foul was in the second half.
Unfortunately for Baylor the loss of Shapen hurt them, even though Kron Drones initially came in and picked up where Shapen left off. Drones finished the drive with a two yard pass to go up 31-24. WVU responded with a 75 yard touchdown drive to tie the game at 31.
Baylor came right back with yet another touchdown drive to take a 37-31 lead, but then a rare occurrence in college football happened. WVU’s Dante Stills blocked the extra point and Jacolby Spells gathered the ball and went 87 yards to get West Virginia two points making it a 37-33 score. So, yeah, the Mountaineers were fortunate to win by some measure, but let’s not cast aspersions on how the Mountaineers won the game. They have lost more this way than they have won in recent years.
Looking at the stats might be uncomfortable for WVU fans. On the good side is the balanced offensive attack that rushed for 217, more than double what Baylor was allowing entering the game. Quarterback JT Daniels was 24-37 for 283 yards and a touchdown. That gave West Virginia a very respectable 500 yards of total offense.
Conversely, Baylor piled up 590 yards of offense, 421 through the air. The inability of the West Virginia secondary is the reason the Mountaineers will find it difficult to find three more wins to become bowl eligible. The offense is good enough to help WVU stay in touch with opponents, but there will need to be improvement in the secondary to salvage the season.
West Virginia still must face the top four statistical leading quarterbacks in the Big 12. WVU’s Daniels is fifth and this Saturday will face off against Texas Tech’s Donovan Smith, the league’s sixth rated passer. Saturday’s game is in Lubbock and can be seen at 3 p.m. on FS1.