The West Virginia Mountaineers scored a touchdown one minute into their game against the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs and never trailed at home in Milan Puskar Stadium. The Mountaineers improve to 6-0 for the first time since 2006 and are in complete control of their own destiny in every respect.
This ball game was not the an elegant offensive shootout. WVU held the Horned Frogs to 300 yards of total offense, but only managed to gain 389 themselves. TCU was able to pressure Skyler Howard and produced five sacks for a total loss of 51 yards, but WVU won the turnover battle 3 takeaways to none. This game was won with defense and ball control.
At first glance, the Mountaineers only averaged 3.3 yards per carry. If you adjust for the sack yardage, the story becomes a bit different. The Mountaineer running backs carried the ball 32 times for 153 yards. That works out to a far more respectable 4.8 yards per carry. Rushel Shell accounted for 120 yards on 24 carries. When the offensive line creates space for the very talented corps of backs, opposing defenses have no choice but to crowd the line of scrimmage. WVU’s group of WR’s is too fast and deep to try to guard man to man.
Skyler threw for only 231 yards, but he did so by going 16/23 (70%). He threw four touchdown passes, and most importantly did not turn the ball over. Jovon Durante made a miraculous diving catch. Shelton Gibson, Ka’Raun White, Gary Jennings, and Daikiel Shorts each caught a touchdown pass.
The Mountaineers finished the game with a distinct advantage in time of possession, at nearly 34 minutes. What is even more incredible, is that after taking a 21-10 lead into the locker room at halftime, the Mountaineers came out and held the ball for almost 14 minutes in the third quarter. The Horned Frogs never had a chance because they never had the ball.
The strength of this team is the defense. They held TCU to 2/11 on third down. It is scary to think about how efficient they could be if the offense is able to keep them off the field as much as they did in the second half of yesterday’s ball game. It may not be quite the look you have come to expect from a Dana Holgorsen football team, but this team is a balanced, disciplined, and complete football team.
Where do the Mountaineers go from here?
Well, literally, they go to Stillwater next Saturday to face Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are 5-2 and will provide the next hurdle that WVU will have to get over to remain undefeated. Figuratively, where the Mountaineers need to go is pretty much right where they are.
There is undoubtedly room for improvement in all three phases of the game. But this team has shown that it can stop opposing offenses, turn them over, and protect the football. They have shown that they are comfortable spreading it out and playing pretty quickly, but that they are also happy to slow it down, huddle up and run the dang ball.
In recent seasons, it has felt most of the time that no WVU lead was safe. The defense has notoriously been exposed by big plays and the offense was always capable of a momentum devastating three and out. Those concerns are not nearly as prominent as of late. A potent rushing attack, and an offense that has shown a proclivity for holding onto the football mean that the Mountaineers are good at taking the air out of the ball, moving the sticks, and bleeding the clock.
I said it last week, and I hope to say it every week through the rest of the season. If this team can remain focused, play hard and fast, disciplined football, they are fully capable of winning every game on the schedule. Unfortunately, this is a weird and random sport far too often, and consistency is easier said than done. For one more week, WVU has done every thing they can and will land in Oklahoma an undefeated, top 10 football team.