If Jeff Mullen were an animal, what kind of animal would he be?
It sounds like a silly question -- and it is -- but think about it for a moment. As best I can tell, he would be an opossum. You see, an opossum has the ability to get across the road very quickly. They're truly fast little buggers. If they get scared, however, they get conservative and run back to where they came from. That's why you see so many of them splattered along the road, guts everywhere, when all they had to do was keep moving forward. Mullen is inherently conservative, just like the opossum, but when you get a head of steam behind him, he can do some really fantastic things. Unfortunately, a lot of things have to go right to first build that momentum.
Take last night for example: save for the ultimate ending of the first, the first two drives were things of beauty. If you could bottle one play and save it for later, it was the precise play-action TD pass to Brad Starks that put the Mountaineers up 10-0. It was vintage Jeff Mullen: a powerful drive, diversity throughout, which culminated in a beautiful setup of said pass that left South Florida defenders in the dust.
Unfortunately, there are two different versions of Jeff Mullen.
There's the imaginative, almost-gambling sort that gave us those two first drives and the hook-and-lateral TD late in the second quarter. But there's also the conservative Mullen, the one we see all too often. This version doesn't take to adversity well, as play-calling often shrinks when barriers are put up to success. Instead of trying to knock down those barriers with superior talent, we're often left with listless drives that go nowhere quickly.
It's a shame, too, considering the potential we see from this offense at times. And nothing is more impressive than our track record of capitalizing on turnovers. Mullen is the king of calling a trick play or taking a shot downfield after we get a turnover. This "killer instinct" is great but it is not consistent enough to make our offense great. It's also seen much too little. Again, it goes back to needing momentum before the inventive play-calling begin.
Somehow, Jeff Mullen needs to build the ability to take those risks -- those play calls that we love so much -- at different points in the game, without needing the requisite build up beforehand. If that happens, WVU's offense will look like the 800 pound, quick strike gorilla of old. Just with passing involved.