MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After a scoreless first half Saturday in which West Virginia dug itself a 13-point hole, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen evaluated himself as much as his players.
He recognized out-of-whack play-calling — 23 pass plays vs. only 12 runs — which exposed his offensive tackles to Kansas State’s pass rush.
Platooning right tackles Marcell Lazard and Colton McKivitz weren’t slowing down K-State defensive end Jordan Willis, which made for a weak pocket and sped up quarterback Skyler Howard’s internal clock. Though West Virginia desperately needed better execution, Holgorsen also had to restrain himself from panicking into catch-up mode.
“I probably got a little impatient in the second quarter, probably got away from the run a little too much,” Holgorsen conceded. “I called just pure drop-back passes probably a little too much, and (the tackles) struggled with that.”
Fifth-year center Tyler Orlosky, ever the source for on-field feedback, advised coaches to try more inside zone runs, a package of plays he called “our bread-and-butter.”
The second-half results revealed more balance (21 designed passes and 20 runs), with Justin Crawford gaining 75 of his 104 rushing yards. Successful on just 1-of-7 possession downs in the opening half, West Virginia converted 5-of-10 on the back end.
Most importantly, West Virginia produced all the points necessary for a 17-16 victory.
“Our game plan is to keep (defenses) off-balance,” Holgorsen said. “Do things in the run game and play-action. Do some motion and movements to help those (offensive linemen) out. We got back to that in the second half.”
Running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider, part of the offensive consortium who welcomed Orlosky’s halftime recommendation, said coaches realized the 13-0 deficit wasn’t as wide as it seemed. Even with K-State’s offense limiting possessions by chewing clock on every snap, West Virginia would have its shot.
“The game was not so out-of-hand that we had to keep dropping back so many times and putting that much pressure on those tackles,” Seider said. “They don’t need to go three downs in a row dropping back where (pass rushers) can pin their ears. So we settled in and started running the ball.”
Despite propping up the run game, Howard threw for more yards in the second half (167) than he did in the first (131).
Said Orlosky: “We showed Skyler that he could start trusting us.”