MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s quarterbacks combined to throw only 27 passes Saturday, which is fewer than Geno Smith threw four times last season … in a half.
The temporary grounding of West Virginia’s Air Raid attack was designed partly to deflect pressure from WVU’s unsettled quarterbacks, partly to utilize the new subsidy of running backs, and partly because William & Mary frequently dropped eight defenders into coverage.
“We’ve got to run the ball when they’re playing off like that,” said offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson after West Virginia turned in an SEC-like run-pass ratio of 44-27. “We weren’t going to sit there and throw the ball 70 times when they had an eight-man coverage every time.
“They were really taking the top off the coverage, playing sort of an umbrella coverage.”
In the case of Charles Sims piling up 120 yards on 23 carries, the plan worked—though West Virginia averaged only 3.9 yards per rush as a team.
“We ran the ball probably more than at any time in the history of my coaching career,” said Holgorsen, who added that “it’s disappointing we didn’t get loose” for more long runs.
After a sluggish output of 165 first-half yards, West Virginia responded with 244 in the second half.
“Going in down at halftime there were a lot of question marks,” Dawson said. “But I think our guys showed some resilience.
“Obviously our game plan was pretty simple today—and it was for a reason. We had a lot of guys we were breaking in and we wanted to see how they would respond.”
Asked if this was a one-game anomaly or a full philosophical shift toward power football, Holgorsen let Paul Millard’s 19-of-25 passing day deliver the answer: “Hey, we still had a quarterback compete almost 80 percent of his passes.”