MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A Saturday off couldn’t have come at a better time for West Virginia.
The Mountaineers (3-4, 1-3 Big 12) have dropped three straight and have more problems than known solutions that will need to be fixed before the team travels to unbeaten No. 14 Baylor (7-0, 4-0) on Halloween night.
“I’m treating this as a reset button,” West Virginia coach Neal Brown said on Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference. “We have got get some things figured out on our end and make sure we’ve got our best personnel on the field at all times. We have to try different things with different personnel, different schematics, different presentation run-game wise.”
That issue is most noticeable in West Virginia’s running game, which is in the bottom 10 nationally in yards per carry, yards per game and runs over 10 yards. Some of the schools in the same company are to be expected — Washington State and Purdue are both fully dedicated Air Raid offenses that treat the running game as a diversion. The Mountaineers aren’t structured like those offenses.
“We’ve got to be able to run the football,” Brown said. “This team isn’t built to throw it 50-plus times. We’ve got to get ahead of the chains.”
With the team primarily using single-back sets, could increasing playing time for H-back Logan Thimons as an extra blocker be a potential solution?
“He played 12-15 snaps [against Oklahoma] and was probably productive on about half of those,” Brown said. “The problem is we’re not snapping the ball as much as we’d like. We’re going to evaluate all things. We’re doing a bunch of self-scout as we speak.”
The problems aren’t all contained to the offensive side of the ball. With so much focus spent on West Virginia’s offensive woes, the fact that the Mountaineers have allowed 132 points in their past three games gets a bit lost in the shuffle.
Against conference opponents, West Virginia has allowed 14 touchdowns on 17 red zone trips (82.4 percent). By percentage, only TCU is faring worse in the Big 12. Measured by total red zone touchdowns allowed, only Kansas is faring worse.
“We’ve got to get our red zone defense improved,” Brown said. “We’ve got to get some answers there. For the first part of this week for sure we’re going to focus on ourselves.”
Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, the Bears are playing well enough that they’ve already skipped over self-improvement. Baylor coach Matt Rhule said his team turned its full focus to West Virginia on Monday morning.
“We’re full-bore ahead on West Virginia,” Rhule said.
The Mountaineers should expect an unpleasant welcome when they get to Waco, as well.
“The good thing about playing West Virginia, they beat us so badly last year that it’s a vivid memory for a lot of our guys,” Rhule said.