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WVU Football: Five “Must Improve” Areas On Offense - Red Zone Efficiency

As fall camp opens, the Mountaineers look to overcome the program’s worst season since 2001. Red zone opportunities and efficiency must improve for a successful season.

Squandered red zone opportunities happened way too many times last season.
Squandered red zone opportunities happened way too many times last season.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

This is the fourth in a series of five articles that discuss WVU's offense.  This article discusses red zone efficiency.

Red Zone Ineptitude, Part One:  2013 Compared To Recent History

As pointed out in yesterday's article, Coach Holgorsen's offense really lacked efficiency last season.

This was especially true in the red zone.

The Mountaineer's ineptitude can plainly be seen in the following three statistics:  first, the number of trips to the red zone; second, the percentage of drives that resulted in putting points on the scoreboard; and third, the percentage of drives that resulted in touchdowns.

WVU Red Zone Opportunities Over The Last Thirteen Seasons

Year

Opportunities

Scores

Percentage

Touchdowns

Percentage

Record

2013

40

32

80%

20

50%

4-8

2012

59

49

83%

41

69%

7-6

2011

61

54

89%

41

67%

10-3

2010

53

40

75%

31

58%

9-4

2009

43

37

86%

30

70%

9-4

2008

41

29

71%

20

49%

9-4

2007

63

55

87%

43

75%

11-2

2006

59

53

90%

40

68%

11-2

2005

54

46

85%

37

69%

11-1

2004

46

39

85%

31

67%

8-4

2003

43

37

86%

27

63%

8-5

2002

57

46

81%

39

68%

9-4

2001

41

30

71%

10

24%

3-8

Last season, WVU's offense struggled mightily just getting to the red zone.  40 trips is the lowest number in the last 13 seasons - even worse than Rich Rodriquez' first season and the dreaded days of offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen.

Consider this fact:  out of 163 offensive possessions (19 of WVU's 182 possessions resulted in touchdowns from outside of the red zone), WVU could only manage to get into the red zone 40 times.  In other words, the Mountaineers got to the red zone less than 25% of the time last season.

Once WVU made it into the red zone last season, they were not very successful.

The number of red zone scores (32) was the third lowest total since 2001.

The number of touchdowns scored (20) was tied for the second lowest total since 2001.

The percentage of touchdowns scored relative to red zone opportunities (50%) was the third lowest since 2001.

It was difficult to win games when the Mountaineers struggled to move the football deep into their opponent's territory and then failed to take advantage of the few opportunities that the offense gave themselves.

Red Zone Ineptitude, Part Two:  2013 Compared To The Big 12

How did last year's red zone stats compare to the rest of the Big 12 Conference?

2013 Big 12 Conference Red Zone Statistics (conference rank in parentheses)

Team

Opportunities

Scores

Percentage

Touchdowns

Percentage

Record

Baylor

67    (2)

55    (3)

82%     (8)

43    (2)

64%    (3)

11-2

Oklahoma

55    (4)

48    (4)

87%     (7)

29    (5)

53%    (8)

11-2

Oklahoma St

64    (3)

56    (2)

88%     (3)

48    (1)

75%    (1)

10-3

Kansas St

48    (5)

42    (5)

88%     (3)

31    (4)

65%    (2)

8-5

Texas

42    (6)

37    (6)

88%     (3)

24    (7)

57%    (6)

8-5

Texas Tech

70    (1)

62    (1)

89%     (2)

40    (3)

57%    (6)

8-5

TCU

41    (7)

36    (7)

88%     (3)

26    (6)

63%    (4)

4-8

Kansas

33  (10)

23  (10)

70%   (10)

14  (10)

42%  (10)

3-9

Iowa St

39    (9)

35    (8)

90%     (1)

24    (7)

62%    (5)

3-9

WVU

40    (8)

32    (9)

80%     (9)

20    (9)

50%    (9)

4-8

The Mountaineers ranked at the bottom of every red zone statistical category:  eighth in opportunities and ninth in scores, touchdowns and percentages.  Only lowly Kansas failed more in the red zone than WVU.

Diagnosis

2013 was a bad year for Dana Holgorsen, his staff and the Mountaineer offense.  Simply put, the offense couldn't stay on the field.  Efficiency in general and red zone efficiency in particular suffered for numerous reasons.

Inexperience and lack of confidence overwhelmed WVU.  The offensive line couldn't push forward the line of scrimmage in short yardage situations.  Accuracy issues plagued all three quarterbacks, who often lacked the time needed to find open receivers.  Receivers dropped numerous passes.  Turnovers killed drives.

Thank goodness the past is in the past.

Prognosis

Dana Holgorsen sounds confident with the progression of his offense this season.

On a June radio show appearance with Fox Sports college football correspondent Bruce Feldman, Holgorsen was asked how he intends to get his team's offensive swagger back.

Holgorsen's answer was interesting, for he called upon both coaches and players to develop a winning attitude.  Holgorsen said:


"It depends on these guys developing into real players.  It's coaching, too. We have to feel good about who we have. We have to have confidence in our guys. We have to believe in them and call plays that we feel will work and get our guys to believe in it ... and I think we're on our way with that."

At the Big 12's Media Days in Dallas last week, Holgorsen said that "he has never been more excited about going into a season than he is right now."

Holgorsen believes that Clint Trickett possesses a better understanding of the offense, that he continues to develop rapport with his receivers, and that he can be an effective leader. Holgorsen stated that his running backs have the versatility needed to make this year's offense an effective one.  He also says that this year's squad has more depth and experience.

The offense returns six starters and plenty of experience across the line and skill positions.

Time will tell if added depth, more experience and a better understanding of the offense translates into more red zone opportunities and efficiency in 2014.

Tomorrow's article addresses WVU's turnover issues.

As always,

Let's Go, Mountaineers!

Series Links:

1.       Offensive Line Play

2.       Quarterback Play

3.       Efficiency

4.       Red Zone Efficiency

5.       Turnovers

*Information/stats for this article come from the following sources:  wvusports.com, cfbstats.com, ncaa.com, WVUStats.com, philsteele.com, espn.go.com, the Times West Virginian, Phil Steele's 2014 College Football Preview, Lindy's Sports College Football 2014 Preview, Athlon Sports College Football 2014 National Edition, and USA Today Sports 2014 College Football Preview.