In a segment that usually provides silver linings and positive narratives, you’ll find none of that here this week.
The offensive issues West Virginia suffered through over the past two weeks came to a head Saturday night against Iowa State, ultimately providing the Mountaineers its first loss of the season.
Here’s what we’ve learned after week seven.
Play Calling is Now an Issue
Dana Holgorsen called Saturday night’s offensive performance “the worst he’s seen in 30 years of coaching.” That’s bound to happen when your program’s offense musters its lowest output (152 total yards) since 1995. Will Grier completed 11-of-15 attempts for 100 yards and was sacked eight times for a loss 55 yards against Iowa State, bringing his Heisman campaign to a screeching halt. And when the going got tough, Holgorsen and company elected to run the ball (17 times) more than they allowed Grier to put the ball in the air. Holgorsen placed the blame of the loss entirely on himself, somewhat protecting offensive coordinator Jake Spavital from any scrutiny. I’ll buy that for now. But if Holgorsen plans on righting the ship during the bye week, he’ll need to be more involved in the play-calling moving forward.
Defense Can’t Rely on its Speed Anymore
Iowa State running back David Montgomery will play on Sundays in the near future. The junior rusher tallied 189 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries against a West Virginia defense that normally allows only 143. Being undersized, the Mountaineers rely on its speed to defend the Big 12’s plethora of potent offenses. That doesn’t work when a bruiser like Montgomery is carrying the rock. And it won’t work against the likes of Texas and Oklahoma. The defense can’t “grow” overnight and the string of injuries that has plagued the linebacker corps doesn’t help matters either. The underlying issue, however, has been tackling or the lack thereof, really. You could fill up a stat sheet with the amount of missed tackles the Mountaineers tallied on Saturday night and if you think things will get any easier, think again. . .
It only gets Tougher from here
The second half of the season for West Virginia is the third toughest in all of college football and Iowa State has provided the blueprint for the rest of the conference on how to dismantle the Mountaineers. The Cyclones proved that a dominant running game can and will prove effective against the Mountaineers and every one of West Virginia’s remaining opponents average over 160 yards rushing per game while Oklahoma and Oklahoma State average over 200. If the offense can’t find a way to regain its composure and put points on the board, we might be witnessing a repeat of what transpired in 2012.