COLUMBIA, Mo. – It’s official. Through two games, no team in the country has struggled to run the football more than West Virginia.
The Mountaineers are dead last in the United States at running the football with an average of 1.14 yards per carry.
Perhaps no one can put it better than junior offensive lineman Josh Sills.
“Two weeks in a row, we’ve had a piss-poor run game,” Sills said after Saturday’s 38-7 loss to Missouri.
Measured by total yards and yards per game, West Virginia is better than just one team – Texas State, which is coached by former WVU offensive coordinator Jake Spavital. The Bobcats have 58 yards in two games compared to West Virginia’s 64.
The Mountaineers remain the only team in the country that has yet to run for at least one 10-yard gain this season, and that total includes several teams who had a bye in Week 2. The next-worst teams in that department – UCLA, Temple and Liberty – are tied with three apiece.
WVU’s longest two rushes actually came from wide receivers – a 9-yard gain by Tevin Bush on a jet sweep, and an 8-yard gain for Sam James on an end around. Alec Sinkfield has the longest rush for a West Virginia running back – a 6-yarder.
A lack of holes to run through is an obvious issue.
West Virginia is 126th in the country in allowing tackles for loss at an average of 10.5 per game. The only teams faring worse in that category are Georgia Tech, Miami, Akron and Florida Atlantic. It is likely no coincidence that outside of FAU, all of those programs are in the first year of a new coaching staff.
With the coaching staff uncomfortable making personnel changes due to a lack of game-ready depth on the already struggling offensive line, the Mountaineers must hit on deep passing plays to unclog the box. That too has been an area in which West Virginia is lacking this season.
WVU is 127th nationally in overall plays of more than 10 yards with 14. In terms of plays of at least 20 yards, West Virginia ranks 111th with five.
All of these issues bleed over into one more area in which the offense has struggled – third-down conversions. The Mountaineers are 82nd nationally, converting 38.2 percent of their third downs. Last year WVU was 28th in that department at 43.6 percent.
Daunting third-down distances have been the primary factor contributing to the issue. Against Missouri, WVU was an average of 7.2 yards away from the chains on third down. Unbelievably, that marked a significant improvement from the James Madison game, where WVU faced an average of 8.8 yards to go on third down.