FanPost

Recipe For Frustration: WVU's 4th Quarter Offense

During a Pitt game a few years back, I put my fist through a hallway door in our house.  I turned and saw the fear in my oldest son's eyes, and it really clicked at that moment that, one day, he might model this behavior.  Since then, I have changed my approach to teams I support with a couple of simple sentences:  "I didn't play in this game.  I didn't coach this game.  It's not a religion.  It is just a game.  So, I don't have the right to act like an ass about it."  That said, last night's loss to LSU bothers me.  All the doors in the house are still intact, though.

I tossed and turned all night last night after the game, beer-addled and pissed that we lost this game, but still somehow proud.  Clearly, this was a game featuring two great defenses.  We were down by 17 pretty damn quick, and could have packed it in in a hostile environment.  But we didn't.  In fact, I think most of us would agree that we should have won the game, but for this problem:  average WVU field position for the game: its own 25.  WVU's average field position in the fourth quarter, when it had the ball three times:  its own 13.  Which leads me to the question I want to pose: could our play-calling have been any more unimaginative in those last two possessions?  And, if it is not the play-calling, is it the whole offensive system?

Consider that our first possession of the quarter consisted of 10 plays, in which run and pass were pretty evenly split, and we moved the ball 44 yards only to have Bitancurt miss a second field goal.  It was no gimme, but what are the odds of making it on 4th-and-11?  I know...slim, and hindsight is 20/20 since it became a miss that gave LSU the ball at the 31, anyway, but I really wanted Stew to go for it there.

Then come our last two possessions, which start at our 7 and our 9, respectively.  The one that really irritates me, was the first, which began with 8:49 left.  Noel into the middle for 1.  Noel into the middle for 2.  5-yard substitution infraction on LSU gives us 3rd and 2, and we burn a timeout.  And the play we come out of the timeout with?  A Geno rush for no gain.  Punt.  Now, I know, with our backs against our own goal line, and a young quarterback on the road, maybe Mullen didn't want to be brave, but can we all agree that this was a horrible sequence?  I mean, after this series, I got to thinking, what exactly is it that we do on offense?  What is our identity?  Is it bad playcalling in this instance, or bad execution, or just that LSU's defense is pretty damned good?  I asked these questions of a knowledgeable friend via text, and his reply was: "I'm not sure it's as simple as just play-calling, though.  The only playcall I would question I think would be the Geno option on 3rd and 2."  The one I just mentioned.  He continued: "I think WVU's problem is a system thing.  The whole thing is predicated on one guy beating another guy one-on-one.  And if their guys just beat your guys in space, what do you do?"

Our final possession, of course, was no great shakes:  Three-and-out with Geno off target on two passes, which is a shame because I really believe we should be shifting toward a pass-first offense.  I think we should have been throwing on that next-to-last possession.

Ugh.  On the upside, I don't think we are going to see a defense as good as this one the rest of the way.  The way the Big East has been under-performing, I think we should not lose another game.  I hope that is how it plays out, because this feeling of frustration sucks.  I generally hate this kind of second-guessing, but I really believe that if we play this LSU team 10 times, we win 7.  Alas, we didn't win the one that actually counts, and I am left agitated about it and having to say: "I didn't play.  I didn't coach.  Let it go."

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